Behind the Scenes With the Dog Starring in the New "Annie" Movie

Quvenzhane Wallis with Marti DF-00338_r 335lc121514.jpg
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Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie) instantly bonded with Marti, the 6-year-old rescue dog who plays Sandy in the new Annie movie.

The modern reboot of Annie is here, and the star we’re most excited to see on the big screen is Marti, the 6-year-old Golden Retriever- Chow mix who plays Sandy. After living at a no-kill shelter for a year and a half, Marti was discovered and adopted by renowned trainer Bill Berloni.

Berloni isn’t new to finding Sandys for Annie. He also trained Sandy for the recent Broadway production of Annie, and he has discovered and trained rescue dogs for dozens of national and anniversary productions of the musical. We caught up with Berloni to find out how he prepared Marti for her starring role and how the pup got along with her co-stars, Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx.

Q: How did you know Marti was right for the part of Sandy?

A: The director knew he didn’t want a shaggy dog like the one I trained for the Broadway show. I had a script, so I knew what behaviors to look for. So I would go to shelters and temperament-test a big brown dog, and when I found one I thought would work for the film, I’d show the director, Will Gluck, a picture. I literally showed him 15 different dogs, and he kept saying, “No, I don’t like that. No, it’s too hairy.” Marti was No. 16.

Q: What temperament and behaviors were you looking for?

A: In the same way it takes a certain dog to be a police dog or a Guiding Eyes dog, dogs who work in entertainment have to be very well-rounded. They have to be in a lot of different situations and be happy and willing to go anywhere and do anything, and that’s not every dog. So, No. 1, they have to be outgoing and friendly. Two, they have to have a very low threshold for aggression, because you never know when on a set something’s going to drop or someone’s going to step on [the dog’s] foot. You can’t have a dog who’s reactive, especially around children. And then, you need them to be able to do the behavior that’s being asked of them.

In Annie, the director wanted the dog to chase its tail every time she got nervous, and I reminded him that [can be] an abnormal behavior for dogs. And he said, “Well, that’s what I want.”

Q: Was Marti trained when you got her from the shelter?

A: She pulled; she barked; she jumped on people. And the shelter felt she needed someone who was a really good trainer, because they thought these are bad behaviors. But when I met her, I quickly realized she wasn’t a bad dog, she was just bored. She was so smart that she was acting out. We had to sort of teach her everything.

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