Gil Junger was inspired to write and direct the uplifting film after a small and heartfelt gesture from his dog.
Posted in , Jun 25, 2020
Gil Junger's marriage was on the brink, and he was wrestling with how the divorce would affect his sons, when he sat on the edge of his bed and began to cry. He was overwhelmed with emotion about everything going on.
"At that time I had a golden retriever named Moki. He was asleep on the floor about 15 feet away, and I started to cry, but I didn't make any noise," the director told Guideposts.org. "And all of a sudden, my dog who was asleep, wakes up, looks at me, walks over to the bed, hops up on the bed and licked the tears off my face."
The small gesture got Junker, who is best known for directing the iconic teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You, thinking about why his dogs always seemed so happy. His conclusion? They approached life from a place of pure gratitude.
That place of gratitude and hope, he said, became the heart of his new movie. Think Like a Dog is a big-hearted romp, packed with humor, jokes and an optimistic outlook that will be a welcome bright spot after months of sheltering at home and physically distancing.
"When writing the movie, I realized it was my love letter to my kids and my dogs," Junker said. "I've had six or seven dogs in my lifetime, and have always been a person who wondered what the heck they're thinking. That genuine childlike curiosity created the voice of the dog, Henry, in the film."
The film follows a young boy named Oliver (played by Gabriel Bateman) whose science experiment gives him the ability to communicate telepathically with his dog, Henry. Meanwhile, his parents (played by Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox) are struggling to keep their marriage afloat, and unsure how to do what is best for their son.
"I wanted to make the parents’ emotional journey a 100 percent real because it would be relatable to adults," Junker said. "I also wanted kids to be entertained and for the message to them be handled in a lighter way."
As the pandemic continues to make life uncertain, and society is grappling with the reality of racial injustice, Junker hopes his movie can be a heartfelt, uplifting message for families.
"I truly believe that if you have gratitude for the simplest of things like a dog does, that your life journey is going to be more joyful," Junker said.