Why Phoenix was the per­fect pooch to play the new Red Dog.

Be­fore the Pil­bara’s fa­mous wan­der­ing kelpie there was Phoenix

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME // INSIDE TODAY - With Seanna Cronin

THE new Red Dog film True Blue is a pre­quel with a fresh spirit thanks to its two young stars.

This fol­low-up to 2011’s hit out­back ad­ven­ture imag­ines the ori­gin story of the Pil­bara’s in­fa­mous wan­der­ing kelpie that is now part of ur­ban leg­end.

The film be­gins in the near present day when the Red Dog film is in cin­e­mas. Michael Carter (Ja­son Isaacs with an im­pres­sive Aussie ac­cent) takes his two young sons to see the film, which brings mem­o­ries of his pet dog Blue flood­ing back.

The story flashes back to Mick’s child­hood, when he is sent to live on a cat­tle sta­tion with his stoic grand­fa­ther (Bryan Brown), who re­luc­tantly lets him keep a puppy found after a cy­clone blows through the area.

The boy and pup form a close bond and get up to all sorts of mis­chief while Mick is sup­posed to be fo­cus­ing on his school work by cor­re­spon­dence.

“It’s com­pletely stand alone in an orig­i­nal con­cept and part of the rea­son we wanted to do that is we have young chil­dren,” pro­ducer Nel­son Woss tells Week­end.

“Kriv (Sten­ders, the di­rec­tor) has a young son and I have three chil­dren un­der the age of eight. We love Amer­i­can films and grew up pas­sion­ately watch­ing them but we think it’s im­por­tant for our own kids to have a bal­ance and to see some of their own sto­ries on the big screen. Red Dog is about find­ing your home.”

Red Dog was the first col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Sten­ders, best known for Box­ing Day and Kill Me Three Times, and Woss, who also pro­duced the film Ned Kelly star­ring Heath Ledger.

The men bonded over their child­hood mem­o­ries of go­ing to the cinema to see films like Stand By Me, Em­pire of the Sun and Storm Boy.

“As a kid I could go to the cinema and for 90 min­utes I could lose my­self and go on a jour­ney,” Woss says.

“Some of the films I watched dur­ing that time in­spired me to be in­volved in films and have a ca­reer in films.

“Kriv and I had the same ex­po­sure to films (grow­ing up), even though he was on the east coast and I was on the west coast.”

Woss says Red Dog’s creative team, also in­clud­ing writer Daniel Taplitz, wanted to keep the DNA of the orig­i­nal film and that’s lit­er­ally the case with True Blue’s new four-legged star Phoenix.

“He is a dis­tant rel­a­tive of Koko (the orig­i­nal Red Dog), and like Koko he has that same star-like qual­ity where he can change the tem­per­a­ture of a room when he walks into it,” Woss says. “Koko had this rogu­ish qual­ity where he was giv­ing the or­ders, but Phoenix is much more a mem­ber of the team and gives a more nuanced per­for­mance.”

To thank the Pil­bara com­mu­nity that hosted the film, Red Dog: True Blue had its world pre­miere in Kar­ratha.

“Most peo­ple see the Pil­bara as just a place where they dig up iron ore, but we feel it’s rich with leg­end and myth that is just as valu­able as those re­sources,” Woss says.

“At the pre­miere they were chant­ing ‘no red car­pet just red dust’... we love when peo­ple from the re­gions say it’s au­then­tic.

“We also worked re­ally closely with the tra­di­tional land hold­ers. Ev­ery line of Abo­rig­i­nal di­a­logue is done in the Nya­mal di­alect. In the se­quence with Tay­lor Pete when he draws the story out on the sand, we had tra­di­tional land­hold­ers next to the cam­era to make sure we got it right. It would not be an Aus­tralian film for every­body if it wasn’t their story too.”

De­spite the orig­i­nal film’s suc­cess and Red Dog: True Blue’s re­cent in­vi­ta­tion to screen in the kids sec­tion of the 2017 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, Woss be­lieves True Blue will be the un­der­dog at the box of­fice on Box­ing Day. “We’re go­ing up against Star Wars and Dis­ney,” he says. “We don’t have the mar­ket­ing bud­get they do, but what we have is heart and soul.”

Red Dog: True Blue opens na­tion­ally on Mon­day.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Levi Miller and the dog Phoenix in a scene from Red Dog: True Blue.

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