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'A Dog's Purpose' premiere canceled amid video controversy

The premiere of “A Dog’s Purpose,” planned for this weekend, has been canceled amid controversy over a video that appears to show a German shepherd struggling against a trainer during filming of the movie.

Citing its ongoing review, Amblin Entertainment said in a joint statement Thursday that distributor Universal Pictures had nixed the premiere as well as a press junket because both companies did not want anything “to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”

The movie is still set to open nationwide Jan. 27.

The video clip, which appears to show a German shepherd named Hercules struggling frantically to stay out of a tank of rushing water while a trainer struggles to throw him in, was released Wednesday by TMZ

Amblin said it has been in contact with safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of its review.

“There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts,” the company had explained Wednesday in a statement. “On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot.”

Soon after the video went public, director Lasse Hallstrom and actor Josh Gad — the voice of the dog —  separately expressed their dismay. Both said they didn’t know all the details of the situation.

“To all who saw the upsetting clip from the making of a dog's purpose: I DID NOT SEE WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE CAMERAS ROLLED!” tweeted Hallstrom, who also said that animal safety “was of utmost priority” during production. 

“While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress,” Amblin said Thursday, “everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking.”

cdz@latimes.com

@theCDZ

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