Video footage (below) has surfaced of a German Shepherd being forced into turbulent water during the filming of "A Dog's Purpose."
According to TMZ, which published the video on Jan. 18, the scene was filmed in a pool near Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015.
An unidentified trainer is seen on the video trying to force the German Shepherd into the swirling water, which was reportedly stirred up by outboard motors to simulate a river.
At one point, the dog is forced into the pool, but appears to grab onto the trainer's clothing and pulls itself out.
In another leaked clip, the dog is submerged for a few seconds in the wild water, but before someone yells, "Cut!"
In response to the video, Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures, the production company and studio behind the film, told TMZ: "Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video."
The video has stirred outrage and a boycott call by PETA.
W. Bruce Cameron the film's writer, and author of the original book, told The Christian Post that he is working to forgive some of the harsher critics:
I wouldn't say that I have overcome opposition so much as I have tried to understand it. The lash of judgment carries a wounding sting, and there's a deeply instinctual tendency to want to respond in kind. I am not proud that my thoughts were blackened with vile opinions about the nature of those who were attacking me.
After some time, though, I realized that if I am being tested, it must be for a reason. The caustic invective hurled at me, even the death threats, come from people who must be deeply scarred from some occurrence in their lives.
Feeling so unjustly judged just reminds me of the admonition never to judge our brothers and sisters. Whatever caused these individuals to launch such ugly missives my way, they are, in the end, fellow humans, and I need to find it in my heart to forgive them.
Cameron defended the film in an op-ed in USA TODAY on Jan. 23:
I wasn’t there for this particular shoot, but I promise the edited video doesn’t depict the ethic of the people filming "A Dog’s Purpose." At all times, the safety and comfort of the animal actors was absolutely the top priority ...
What you don’t see in the edited video is that after he was dipped in the water, Hercules was allowed to jump in from the correct side, and did so with joy.
Hercules was never thrown in the water. He did go under for four upsetting seconds later that day. A scuba driver and a trainer were in the pool with him, and several more people were all focused on protecting him. After he surfaced, he was later seen wagging and unperturbed.
Cameron said that he and his kids have received death threats, mentioned other people's "berserk rage," and noted calls for boycotts.
The film's producer Gavin Polone wrote that he was not present for the incident, dated as October 2015 in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter on Jan. 23:
The dog did the scene in rehearsal without problem, though it was from the left side of the pool, not the right side, which is where the dog is in the TMZ video.
Also, in the rehearsal footage, it’s clear that there is a safety diver and a trainer in the pool to protect the dog in case of a problem, as well as two trainers, a stunt coordinator and a safety officer on the deck, and that there are platforms built into the pool where the dog can swim to and stand, if need be. The pool was heated to between 80 and 85 degrees, causing it to steam.
Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially, is what caused him to be spooked. When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position.
The dog was comfortable and went in on his own and they shot the scene. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.
From a front angle, when they shot the scene, you can see that there is a calmer path in the artificial water turbulence for the dog to move through. This is not visible in the TMZ video. You can also see, at the end of the scene, the dog going underwater for four seconds, which never should have happened, and then the diver and handlers lifting the dog out of the pool. The dog then shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed.
Neither Cameron or Polone mentioned the film's director, Lasse Hallstrom. A source told TMZ that Hallstrom was present during the entire scene.