Red Dog a homage to Pilbara's legend

Red Dog a homage to Pilbara's legend


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KOKO ACTION: Red Dog producer Nelson Woss (right) with Koko the kelpie and cast members Josh Lucas and Rachael Taylor.

KOKO ACTION: Red Dog producer Nelson Woss (right) with Koko the kelpie and cast members Josh Lucas and Rachael Taylor.

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EVER heard tales of a dusty red kelpie hitchhiking its way around outback Australia? Perhaps a dog that will stand in the middle of the road until a car stops to pick him up and take him to his chosen destination?

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Then you've heard of Red Dog, one of Australia's most endearing legends, and one that has now been immortalised in a new film based on his home life in Dampier, Western Australia.

Australian producer Nelson Woss (Venus & Mars, Ned Kelly) had been living and working in Hollywood when he heard that British writer Louis de Bernières (author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin) had written a book about Red Dog after visiting WA's Pilbara region.

Louis had collected and compiled local stories about the legendary canine that would take no master until he chose one for himself and whose endearing qualities were often attributed to helping unite the region's transient mining population in the 1970s into the strong community it boasts today.

At the time, Nelson wanted to return to his home country and was looking for an Australian project to sink his teeth into.

"When I heard that Louis had actually travelled to WA and written a story based on the fabulous Pilbara region, I decided there couldn't be a better opportunity for me to do a film," Nelson said.

Nelson had a personal interest in the story as he had grown up in Perth hearing about the legendary dog who was out there "hitchhiking about the country".

"We'd meet these people who would tell amazing stories about this red dog that somehow stopped their car, jumped into it, and stayed with them for a week before moving on," Nelson said.

"One of the best stories I've heard was about this truck driver who picked Red Dog up in Pilbara and drove him all the way to Perth only to lose him at a beach in the city.

"He searched for hours before giving up but knew people back in Dampier's Mermaid Hotel would not forgive him when they found out he'd lost Red Dog.

"When the driver finally pulled up to The Mermaid, Red Dog was already there. Somebody had picked him up. The dog had beaten him home!"

Nelson secured the rights to the film on the promise to Louis that it would be set and filmed in WA, going one up on big names such as Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks.

He then set about pulling together a team of experienced people including director Kriv Stenders (Boxing Day, Lucky Country), screen writer Dan Taplitz (The Squeeze, Breakin' All the Rules), production designer Ian Gracie (The Sum of U?s, The Thin Red Line, Moulin Rouge, Ned Kelly, Australia, Star Wars Episodes 11 and 111) and casting director Christine King (Two Hands, Ned Kelly, Rabbit Proof Fence, Wolverine, Chronicles of Narnia), and began to produce the film.

"Everyone in this movie was very passionate about it," Nelson said.

"They didn't do it for the money."

Red Dog received willing support from major mining companies such as Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum and an organisation called Royalties for Regions which helped with funding and logistics.

"The mining companies allowed us to shoot their trains, operations and conveyor belts and that was a really important part of the story. That's where Red Dog used to hang out," Nelson said.

Although much of the film was set on location, some scenes were recreated in and around Adelaide including those set in the town of Dampier itself as it no longer resembled the small mining outpost it did in the 1970s.

The interior of the Mermaid Hotel was also reconstructed inside an industrial warehouse in Adelaide using reference photos, stories, documentary footage and still images from the WA library.

The film's cast include well-known Australian actors Rachael Taylor, John Batchelor, Arthur Angel, Rohan Nichol, Noah Taylor and popular American actor Josh Lucas.

The real star of the show, however, is Koko, a well-trained red kelpie given the big task of representing the great dog.

"I've worked on a lot of films ... you always find good actors but occasionally, you find stars," Nelson said.

"I think this dog is a star. People will love his performance.

"If you like dogs, you'll love this movie."

*Full report in Stock Journal, August 4 issue, 2011.

The story Red Dog a homage to Pilbara's legend first appeared on Farm Online.

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