“I feel like finally Disney’s recognizing that I can work for them, seeing as how they wouldn’t hire me when I was 17 to clean the streets on Main Street,” Ventimiglia told Variety on the red carpet. “My mom worked at Disneyland at the Mad Hatter. My sister worked at the Candy Palace and I went to go get a job when I was 17 at Disneyland and it didn’t happen. They wouldn’t hire me.”
“So now…the years of wearing mouse ears and all that are finally paying off,” the star laughed, adding, “Disney picked up 20th Century Fox [which produces his Emmy-nominated series ‘This Is Us’] and they produced this, so I’m kind of like Disney through and through…They own me.”
Ventimiglia stars as racecar driver Denny Swift in the adaptation of Garth Stein‘s best-selling novel about a man, his dog Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) and the twists and turns they experience throughout their life together. Ventimiglia and Costner met for the first time at the premiere.
“The man’s been a hero of mine in front of the camera and behind the camera for so many years. For him to be a part of this was one big victory,” Ventimiglia said. “To shake the man’s hand, it’s just, it’s a big moment, you know. For me, I feel like personally I’m collecting these memories of people that I’ve worked with, that I’ve admired and he is absolutely one of them.”
For Costner, the evening was exciting because he was seeing the finished film for the first time alongside his wife, Christine, and their children, telling Variety, “We’re gonna get popcorn and we’re gonna go [enjoy].” But when it came to playing the introspective Enzo, Costner said, “I didn’t know that it was such a beloved book and…I started feeling that level of pressure. I just had to kind of figure it out for myself that he was a dog with his eyes wide open, and just like all of us, wanting to be chosen when he was a puppy. We all want to be chosen.”
But just a fair warning: the film — directed by Simon Curtis and co-starring Amanda Seyfried, Gary Cole, Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan — is absolutely a tear-jerker. Ventimiglia suggests bringing some tissues: “I don’t want to say quite a few, but definitely I hope you have a couple and, if not, you got a friend who’s got a sleeve handy or a shoulder or something. But at the end of it, of course is hope. There’s always hope,” he said. “And I think the ending of this movie really rounds out those tears. You’re going to cry, that emotion you’re going to feel makes you understand, really lean into the idea that there’s something bigger beyond the struggles we go through.”
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is in theaters on Aug 9.