With the new film Beginners, director Mike Mills creates a delightful and very personal love story. Ewan McGregor stars as Oliver, who navigates not only his father’s final years (Hal, played by Christopher Plummer) but also a burgeoning love affair (with the effervescent Mélanie Laurent) in the company of his father’s Jack Russell Terrier, Arthur—portrayed by the charming Cosmo. You’ve heard of on-set romances where the stars fall madly in love … well, such was the case with McGregor and Cosmo. Though Cosmo was destined to return to his companion, animal trainer and guardian Mathilde De Cagny, this story has a happy ending: McGregor finds his own canine soul mate.
Bark editors sat down with the McGregor and Mills to talk about their new film, and dogs.
Bark: Ewan, we understand that after you finished filming, you got a dog. Was that something you’d been planning, or did the role create the desire for one? Ewan McGregor: I grew up with dogs but hadn’t had one since I left home. On the set, I fell for Cosmo and so loved being around him and working with him that it was hard to know I’d have to say goodbye to him. My wife’s allergic to dogs and cats, but when she came to visit on set and saw us together, she could tell that there was something missing for me and that maybe it would be nice for me to have a dog. Toward the end of the shoot, she said, “If you can find one who won’t make me sneeze, then go for it.” And I did. Mike Mills: I just remembered something that happened when we first met. You sent me an email saying, “Maybe we should rescue a Jack Russell, and I could keep him!” And I thought to myself, “I love this man!” McGregor: Anyway, after my wife’s comment, I started thinking, Well, okay, hypoallergenic dogs. On one of the last mornings — it may have been the last morning of our shoot — I googled “dog rescue” near my post code and this little place came up, the Lange Foundation, on Sepulveda and Santa Monica. The first face I saw was Sid’s. Bark: Did you name him? McGregor: Yeah. He was called Ziggy in the rescue center, but they had no idea what his real name was. I like short British names — Bob and Fred, Will, Sid: short, British- sounding names. It’s Sidney when he’s naughty.