“I love Koko but his pro­fes­sional at­ti­tude was ‘I did it once. If you didn’t get it on cam­era that’s your prob­lem’. ”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

EVEN BE­FORE he tells us about his love of throw­ing ten­nis balls for a spe­cial furry some­one, Josh Lu­cas gives him­self away as a dog per­son. “I have an in­cred­i­ble re­la­tion­ship with my dog,” gushes the boy­ish 40-year-old. “I got him in a res­cue cen­tre in Har­lem a long time ago and he’s been my best, best friend for many years.” Al­ready a con­firmed ca­nine fancier, Lu­cas couldn’t be­lieve his luck when the screen­play for Red Dog came his way. The fa­mous kelpie-cat­tle dog cross is not a house­hold name on this side of the planet but he’s well known Down Un­der as the real life hobo pup who jour­neyed across the for­bid­ding western Pil­bara re­gion dur­ing the 1970s.

There is a statue in his mem­ory in Dampier, one of his favourite wa­ter­ing holes, and favourite Red Dog anec­dotes have been col­lected by var­i­ous au­thors in­clud­ing Nancy Gille­spie and Louis de Bernières.

Lu­cas, proud Husky com­pan­ion and the star of Stealth, The Lin­coln Lawyer and in­com­ing TV block­buster The Firm, did not re­quire much per­suad­ing to sign on for Red Dog, the bi­o­graph­i­cal mo­tion picture.

“Some­times you have to go out and talk about a movie and it’s not at all fun be­cause you don’t love the fin­ished film,” ad­mits the ac­tor. “It’s just part of your job. But I got 20 pages into Red Dog and thought it was the most fan­tas­tic script I’d ever read. I’m thrilled with the fin­ished film.” The shoot was, he says, a boy’s own story in its own right.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work in Australia three times. And I’ve trav­elled around pretty much the en­tire coun­try. But where Red Dog was shot is ba­si­cally in­hos­pitable. There’s no rea­son for peo­ple to be there be­cause there’s no water. There are re­ally sad mo­ments out there. You see kan­ga­roos off in the dis­tance dy­ing from thirst. The land is just ore, like walk­ing on me­tal. It’s red and hard and for­bid­ding. It’s beau­ti­ful but it’s one of the most in­tense en­vi­ron­ments in the world. Even the min­ers who work there come for two weeks then go back to Perth about 2,000 miles south.”

Un­sur­pris­ingly, given the ter­rain, the min­ers, some sur­viv­ing Red Dog ac­quain­tances, were drafted in as ex­tras. “You’d con­stantly meet these min­ers who had amaz­ing sto­ries about Red Dog. They’d show you pho­tos of Red Dog liv­ing in one of their lit­tle min­ers’ tents passed out with a cig­a­rette in his mouth. They were usu­ally com­plain­ing that Koko, our dog, wasn’t as cool as real Red Dog.”

Lu­cas, of course, is no stranger to rough­ing it. Born in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas to doc­tor Don and mid­wife Michele, the young Joshua Lu­cas Easy Dent Maurer moved early and of­ten. By 13 he had lived in 30 dif­fer­ent towns with his nu­clear ac­tivist par­ents.

“We moved ev­ery six months be­cause my par­ents were very ac­tive against nu­clear power and nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion,” re­calls Lu­cas. “They put them­selves for­ward and they moved from city to city or­gan­is­ing protests. It was an un­usual way to grow up but I’m so proud of what they did.

“When they had me there was a lot of talk about the Dooms­day Clock and they felt some­one had to as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity for their kids’ fu­ture. My fa­ther ac­tu­ally chained him­self to rail­road track at one time to try to stop a mil­i­tary train car­ry­ing plu­to­nium. It was beau­ti­ful ac­tivism.”

They might have been hip­pies but his par­ents were still con­cerned when the teenager an­nounced his in­ten­tion to give Hol­ly­wood a whirl right out of high school. Early Lu­cas TV ap­pear­ances in Life Goes On and Jake and the Fat­man did lit­tle to bring them around.

“For many years they were very skep­ti­cal,” says the ac­tor. “My fa­ther sat me down at 16 to talk me out of it. It wasn’t that he thought what I was do­ing was a joke by any means. It was to­tally the op­po­site.

“They loved cinema. They were wor­ried I wasn’t go­ing to take it se­ri­ously enough to make a ca­reer out of it. He gave me this speech that I al­ways re­mem­ber: ‘If you’re go­ing to do this then you need to ap­proach it the way I ap­proach be­ing a doc­tor’.”

Lu­cas landed his first prom­i­nent movie role on the 1993 can­ni­bal sur­vival drama, Alive. He’s scored plenty of main­stream brown­ies since – in Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Wither­spoon, in Ang Lee’s Hulk, in Wolf­gang Petersen’s Po­sei­don – but has point­edly plumped for qual­ity, char­ac­ter driven cinema when given the choice. It has to be this way, he says: “Projects not done for love or per­sonal in­ter­est never work out for me.

“The longer I do this the more I think I have to have some kind of per­sonal con­nec­tion with the ma­te­rial. I wanted to do Lind­bergh in J. Edgar be­cause my grand­mother was one of the first fe­male pi­lots in Amer­ica with

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