Author W. Bruce Cameron—whose movie adaptation of his own book, A Dog’s Purpose, has been buried in controversy after video emerged that seemed to show a dog being forced to attempt a water-based stunt against its will—has said that the video doesn’t accurately depict the situation that was actually happening on the film’s set that day. Cameron, who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay, and who says he’s been shown extensive footage from shooting on the day in question, says the German Shepherd Hercules “joyfully” jumped in and out of the water throughout the day, and was only uncomfortable on being asked to enter the pool from a different side than the one he was used to: “When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked,” Cameron writes. “The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay—the water wasn’t his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot.”
After showing the dog’s refusal to enter the water, the original video immediately jumps to Hercules in the water; his head slips underneath, and cries of “Cut” are heard. According to Cameron, “I also didn’t like it when Hercules’s head briefly went under water, but there was a scuba diver and a trainer in the pool to protect him. He loves the water, wasn’t in danger, and wasn’t upset.” According to Cameron, he was repeatedly assured that the dog was happy and unharmed after the day’s filming.
Cameron questioned the editing of the video and the timing of its release, just two weeks before the movie was set to open in theaters. (Universal has since canceled the movie’s press junket and premiere.) “If the people who shot and edited the video thought something was wrong, why did they wait fifteen months to do anything about it, instead of immediately going to the authorities?” Groups, including the People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, have already begun protesting the movie and calling for boycotts. Meanwhile, multiple bodies, including the film’s studio, Amblin Entertainment, and the American Humane Association, are investigating the footage.
You can read Cameron’s full statement over at The Hollywood Reporter.