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Lauren Graham, Josh Wiggins Celebrate Military Dog Heroes at ‘Max’ Premiere

Puppy love reigned at Tuesday night’s premiere of Warner Bros.-MGM’s “Max” with one of the star canines — a Belgian Malinois named Jagger — drawing most of the attention on the red carpet.

The tale of a military dog returning to the U.S. and dealing with the loss of his handler, “Max” evoked strong emotions at the Egyptian screening and the after-party at Sadie’s.

Jonathan Glickman, president of MGM’s motion picture group, noted the film is particularly timely, given the recent introduction of a bill by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to ensure military working dogs come home to the United States after they have been relieved from their service in combat roles overseas. He said handlers who wish to reunite with their dogs generally have to cover the costs themselves of bringing them back to the U.S. The bill would require the Department of Defense to cover those costs.

(An amendment to the bill, now awaiting President Obama’s signature, mandates that first right of adoption will be given to the dogs’ handlers and families.)

The cast and crew acknowledged the bond between canines and their owners. “I love dogs; I have three of my own,” said human star Josh Wiggins. “A Rottweiler, a black Lab, and a Chiweenie.”

Director Boaz Yakin, who has credits going back to 1989’s “The Punisher,” said that he and writer Sheldon Lettich had wanted to do a hero dog movie for many years. Lettich recalled the seed of the idea came more than a decade ago when he adopted what he thought were a pair of German shepherd puppies — named Charlie and Tia — and realized that they were actually Belgian Malinois after reading about the bomb-sniffing dogs at LAX.

“The photo in the L.A. Times looked exactly like my dogs,” Lettich recalled. “It turned out that the military had started changing to the Belgian Malinois, so that gave us the basis for our movie.”

Lettich began researching the U.S. Marine dogs at Camp Pendleton and adopted a third Belgian Malinois named Zoe a few years ago after Charlie and Tia passed on.

Lauren Graham, who plays the mother of Wiggins’ character,  said she had a personal connection to the film in that the choir in the film comes from a church her grandfather attended.

“Many of them knew my grandfather,” she added. “I have a Southern family and felt very connected to the film.”

Among those at the after-party were MGM’s Gary Barber, cast members Dejon LaQuake and Mia Xitlali.

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