World: My Portfolio - Boone Narr

"There is a saying that actors should not work with children or animals because it's difficult. But it's because they steal the scene from the actors." So says Boone Narr, and he should know. The 56-year-old Californian has been training animals for more than 30 years and he runs Boone's Animals for Hollywood (www.boonesanimals.com). His credentials are legendary, with 95 per cent of his work coming from repeat business or referrals. Narr is painstakingly humane about how the animals in his ranch are treated and takes months, if required, to prepare an animal for a scene. And he is a meticulous planner.

"When things don't go well, you back off and bring in your back-up animal. If you have enough planning time, you do not have those bad days. You make a plan for the worst-case scenario and work back from there."

Among the most famous and astonishing of his achievements is making the Esso tiger look like a purring pussycat. "We must have done those Esso ads for ten years, filming all over the US." The tiger became a long-lasting symbol for the brand all over the world.

More recently, he worked wonders with a smaller feline - Tom, Bacardi Breezer's silver tabby chick-magnet. "McCann Erickson saw our cat, Magoo, and said 'he's awesome!' There were three cats in total," Narr reveals.

"He was the main one, then there was a stunt cat and a stand-in cat. That particular team of cats loves to perform."

It's just as well. The cats were strutting on the dancefloor and being pawed by models from Prague, where the ads were shot. For the Budweiser Super Bowl spot in 2002, Narr persuaded a mouse to sit on the head of a Clydesdale shire horse. "At first, it was a bit intimidating for the mouse because mice are flight animals. But we practised for months with a fake horse's head to build up the mouse's confidence," he says.

Most of his animals are from shelters so building their confidence is vital. Each animal receives one-on-one attention from a trainer who assesses its personality. "Anyone can walk out there with a dog; we like to get into the character," Narr says.

Narr has worked on films such as Catwoman, Pirates of the Caribbean and Stuart Little. He has just returned from Prague where he worked on Everything is Illuminated, a novel adaptation about a young Jewish American seeking the woman who saved his grandfather in a Ukrainian village in the Second World War. Due for release in 2005, the film stars Elijah Wood and, as Narr describes him, "an alley-looking mutt dog".

- Boone Narr was talking to Lucy Aitken.

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