The divas on display at Tuesday’s special screening of “Lady and the Tramp” were of the four-legged variety. It was a night that brought out A-listers such as Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux, but those stars were outshone by Rose and Monte, the two canine actors who portray the title characters in the live-action remake of the animated classic. Both walked the red carpet, accompanied by trainers, posing for pictures and barking when the klieg lights grew tiresome. Hosted at the iPic in Manhattan, it was an evening that was tailor-made for dog lovers.
“I just adopted a dog recently and he’s taught me so much about commitment, about compassion, about being patient,” said Thompson, who provides the voice of Lady. “This is a film about love, about family, about loyalty, about commitment, about the ways in which love allows us the capacity to challenge our own world views.”
It’s also a film that is helping to usher in a new form of distribution. “Lady and the Tramp” is one of the first original movies to premiere on Disney Plus, the Mouse House’s Netflix challenger, which launches next month. The subscription service will also boast “The Mandalorian,” a Star Wars inspired series, and a series based on “High School Musical,” among other exclusive shows and movies.
“It’s cool to be first,” said director Charlie Bean. “I think the service is going to be incredible. There’s so much unbelievable content that’s on there.”
The animated version of “Lady and the Tramp” came out in 1955 and remains one of the most beloved family films of all time. The creative team behind the live action version said they wanted to retain much of the original story, while also modernizing parts of the movie for contemporary audiences. In particular, they dove deeper into Tramp, a stray dog’s backstory.
“We wanted to explore the emotional subtext of what Tramp’s journey was,” said producer Brigham Taylor. “I think we understand better today the perilous journey that some of these animals are on and the responsibility we feel to give them a loving home.”
On set, cast and crew were encouraged to spend quality time with the dogs. Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays the villainous Aunt Sarah, became so smitten with one of the rescues in the cast that she adopted Harley, one of Lady’s doubles.
“I got to be with the babies every single day,” said Brown. “I got to pet them. I got to hang with them in between takes. You could go and sit and just pick a dog and pet it. If you love dogs it was the best experience.”
F. Murray Abraham, who plays Tony, the restaurant owner who arranges a spaghetti and meatball heavy date night for Lady and the Tramp, believes the film has an important message for modern viewers.
“They will be reminded of the joy of going to a movie instead of putting up with all the violence and horror that the world is full of,” said Abraham. “That is one of the main objectives for a piece of work like this. It reminds you that there is good in the world.”
Abraham’s scene was one of the most difficult to shoot. When it came time for Lady to sit across from Tramp at a hastily constructed table, Rose had other ideas.
“She went over and just got on top of the table and sat down,” remembers Brigham.