John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


And that's a wrap

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thursday night, the cast and crew of the Marley & Me movie filmed its final scene (John outside the vet's office, calling home to Jenny to tell her Marley's stomach had twisted again). Owen Wilson nailed the scene in four quick, heartfelt takes. And then the ensemble broke out into a huge cheer as director David Frankel lifted a megaphone to his mouth and pronounced, "Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the principal photography." It was a wrap. Jenny and I, with our (very sleepy) daughter Colleen, were on hand to witness the end of shooting, at about 1 a.m., and it was something to behold.
The set had a festive, yet bittersweet, vibe to it. It felt like the last day of summer camp with everyone knowing a really special time was coming to an end and everyone would be going their separate ways. It's so clear these professionals, many of whom worked together on Frankel's previous movie, The Devil Wears Prada, have real respect and admiration for each other. The entire time I was present on the set -- several days since filming began in March -- not once did I observe a raised voice, bad attitude or tense exchange. Even Jennifer Aniston, whose scenes wrapped up last week and was not present Thursday night, commented on it; she told me last week that she had never worked on a movie with such great positive energy nor with a cast and crew that felt so much like a family. Marley's infectiously good karma, which has blessed my book from the day I submitted it for publication way back in 2004, apparently has continued to bless the film version of this story, as well. Good dog, Marley!

In impromptu farewell comments, Frankel acknowledged the same thing. He called the experience of filming Marley & Me the highlight of his career and said words could not express the affection he felt for everyone who worked on it. It was a very sweet moment. And then Owen Wilson fanned through the crew shaking hands and giving hugs. When he came to me, he said something that meant a lot to me, something close to this: "I keep thinking that all of this began with a single thought inside your head. It all came from you, and the words that came out of you and onto paper, and look what it's become." That has not been lost on me, and sometimes I can only stand and shake my head, wondering if it is all real.

The movie has a release date of Christmas Day.

Here's a story that ran in the local paper in West Chester:

‘Marley & Me’ filming wraps up
WEST CHESTER — “Marley & Me” wrapped up shooting in the borough Thursday night.
About 1 a.m., after shooting Owen Wilson all evening outside a makeshift veterinarian’s office on North Church Street, the director yelled, “Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the principal photography,” and the crew erupted in spontaneous cheers.
Spectators standing behind the yellow crowd-control tape strung across Church Street at Chestnut Street looked on silently as crew members
who usually are serious whistled and hugged each other.

A crew member watching over the spectators said the three-month shoot that had started in Miami was over.
A black Suburban SUV pulled up to the curb, and the Wilson-watching spectators speculated that it was his car.
But moments after the director said, “Everybody, that is a wrap,” Wilson hurried across Chestnut Street in the direction of his trailer with his bodyguards trailing behind him.
Aggressive Wilson-watchers seemed to emerge from the shadows and pursued him, yelling his name.
Most of the spectators stayed behind the tape and frantically snapped his picture with their camera phones. It was completely dark, and Wilson was about 20 feet away.
The 20th Century Fox production has been shooting in Chester County for most of May. The film stars Wilson and Jennifer Aniston and is based on the best-selling novel by John Grogan about his family and their goofy Labrador retriever.
On May 20, hundreds of spectators stood in the cold for hours trying to get a glimpse of the two stars who were shooting a scene on West Gay Street.
On Thursday the crew was back to shoot a scene in which Wilson walks out of a veterinarian’s office after presumably leaving Marley.
Mireya Rengert, who lives on Church Street, started watching the shoot at 6:45 p.m. At midnight she was still there shivering in a short sleeve T-shirt.
“It’s cold, but it’s worth it. I love Owen. I got some good shots,” Rengert said.
At 1 a.m. nearly 100 people were still watching the shoot.
Three hours earlier, said Adrianne Senior, a real estate agent with ERA Excellence in West Chester, twice as many people were there. She was with her 9-year-old daughter, Rianna.
“She won’t let me leave,” said Senior, who had three cameras with her but the batteries had run down on each of them.
Senior said some girls had pursued Wilson earlier in the evening and the bodyguards and police had to chase them away.
At midnight, when Wilson emerged from his trailer to shoot the final scene, spectators yelled, “Hey, Owen, welcome to Philadelphia,” and others yelled, “Hey, Owen, do something.”
Presumably, they wanted the star to wave or better yet, come over and sign autographs or just get closer so they could get better shots. But Wilson was all business and ignored his screaming fans.
To contact staff writer Anne Pickering, send an e-mail to

posted by John Grogan at 6:07 AM 10 comments

A Mid-May Snow Scene

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shooting of the Marley & Me movie, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, has been taking place around suburban Philadelphia for the past couple weeks, and I have taken my family a few times to observe on set. On one visit, the set designers had the family home looking like autumn with dried leaves swirling around the yard. On another day, the entire property was covered in a fresh snowfall with more white stuff falling from the sky. Only when I reached down to touch it could I tell this "snow" was really a fluffy paper product, and what was falling was soap suds blown down from fans on cranes hovering over the set. I don't know who got stuck cleaning it all up, but someone owes them a big round of beers.

More snow of the artificial type fell in downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania -- a lovely, charming town if ever there was one -- last week for the John and Jenny wedding scene. (To keep my sanity, I'm now referring to ourselves, or at least our movie alter-egos, in the third person.) Marley & Me the book opens a little over a year into our marriage with us already in our first home on Churchill Road in Florida, but the film takes a slightly different tack, opening with John and Jenny's wedding in Michigan (where we were really married). And last week, onlookers in West Chester were able to glimpse Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston running joyfully hand-in-hand down a snow-filled street after tying the knot. As you can imagine, Jenny doesn't think it's too shabby to be portrayed by J.A. (Nor I by O.W.) Her big joke with Aniston is to say, "Can you rough yourself up a little? You're looking way too good to be playing Jenny." And the actress graciously and gamely answers: "It's all makeup and hairspray. That's all it is." Yeah, right, Jen. You keep saying that.

Meanwhile, without exception, every guy friend I know has had only one question about this entire movie odyssey: "So what's she like in person?" Well, that's easy. She's great in person. So is Owen. They're both warm and funny and self-deprecating. And both were really sweet to my kids, making a point to chat with them and make a fuss over them. Colleen, my 11 year old, even got to kick a soccer ball around with Owen for a few minutes during a shooting break, high-fiving as they walked off the field, a moment I can only imagine will give her schoolyard bragging rights that should last her through graduate school.

Shooting is scheduled to wrap up soon, which I anticipate with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'll be able to get my life back to normal, which I've found is almost impossible to do when someone is making a movie about your life right down the road. It's just too damn exciting. On the other, I'm going to miss everyone associated with this production, from director David Frankel to the Fox 2000 executives and producers, the assistant directors, cameramen, grips, set designers, dog trainers and wranglers, publicists, security guards, makeup artists, and various other workers who have all been exceptionally kind and gracious to my whole family. What fun it has been to be able to be a fly on the set, taking it all in. I guess my kids aren't the only ones who will be talking about this for some time to come.

I'll close for now. Or as we movie-biz wannabes like to say, "That's a wrap."

posted by John Grogan at 7:58 PM 13 comments

Shooting Moves to Pennsylvania

Friday, May 16, 2008

Since early March, Fox 2000 Pictures has been filming Marley & Me the movie in and around Miami. This past week shooting moved to my home state of Pennsylvania. On Thursday, Jenny and I spent the day back in my old newsroom at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where I worked as a columnist from 2002 to February 2007. The scene being shot there that day had Owen Wilson, who is playing me, settling in for his first day on the job. Actor Clarke Peters, who played Detective Lester Freamon on 'The Wire,' plays my editor at the Inquirer. Way cooler than my real editor, but then again, Owen's way cooler than me, too.

It was a fun day.

During a break, the Inquirer's Michael Klein interviewed both director David Frankel and me on video for the Inquirer's website. I really liked what David had to say about the Marley story and why he was attracted to it.

In part, he said: "It's a story of a family and their dog, which makes it sound much simpler than it really is. It's really a story of growing up and maturing and coming to terms with all the obligations and burdens and joys of life and confronting your own mortality. It's the story of a marriage as seen through the prism of life with a family dog." He added: "It's the mundane parts of life that make up most of the hours of the day, and what the book is about is savoring the everydayness of life, appreciating the present."

I like that description.

Here are the links to both our video interviews:



One warning: you'll have to sit through 15 seconds or so of obnoxious car-dealership advertising before the clips begin.

posted by John Grogan at 7:57 PM 22 comments

A Major League Upset

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Filming continues in Miami of the Marley & Me movie, and director David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada) is making the most of the colorful locale. The latest was a Florida Marlins game last week. This item ran in the Miami Herald. Check out the YouTube clip of Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston with a hard-to-control Marley clone!


Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson were in the stands at Dolphin Stadium during the Marlins vs. San Diego Padres game Friday night shooting a scene for Marley & Me.

In one scene, Aniston ran down the steps chasing the lovable lab who ''plays'' Marley. In another -- during an inning break -- he ran onto the field.

He wasn't the only dog in the bleachers; the annual Bark in the Park brought out more than 700 pooches, said Sean Flynn, VP of marketing for the Marlins. ''It kind of worked perfectly,'' Flynn said. ``They blended in.''

The celebs brought the fish some luck -- they beat the Padres 6-4. The clip's at
-- Miami Herald

And this report from

MIAMI -- An otherwise regular Major League baseball game will eventually make its way to Hollywood.
A backdrop to the Marlins beating the Padres, 6-4, on Friday night was the shooting of a scene for the upcoming movie "Marley & Me," starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson.

Friday was a "Bark at the Park" night for the Marlins, a promotion through which fans can bring their dogs to the stadium. And as it happened, a dog running on the field is part of a scene in the movie, which is set to be released on Christmas Day.

Aniston and Wilson were at the ballpark, filming a few scenes. The first took place in the stands, with a dog racing down the aisles, Wilson and then Aniston in pursuit.

And after Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins was thrown out trying to steal third base, ending the eighth inning, Wilson and Aniston surfaced again, chasing after a dog in left field.

Players were leaving and entering the field but momentarily stopped as the two actors finally grabbed the dog and were whisked away. The segment lasted about a minute and didn't interrupt the game.

"It's kind of weird to see a movie going on," said Marlins left fielder Luis Gonzalez, formerly with the Dodgers and someone who has met his share of A-list stars.

Trying to push the entertainment aspect of the game, the Marlins this season have featured a disc jockey in right field during weekend games, plus a heavy-set male dance team called the Manatees.

"We have big guys on the field, a disc jockey in right field, we've got all kind of stuff going on here," Gonzalez laughed. "This is Marlins baseball.

"I didn't really know it was going to happen then. If I did, I probably would have run out there a little faster and jumped in front of Owen Wilson, and handed it off to her. That would have made me a real hero, right? I should have messed that whole scene up. What were they going to do, kick me off the field? I belonged there more than they did."

Initially, the scene was set to be shot at Dolphin Stadium on April 18, when the Marlins were playing the Nationals, but the filming was postponed because the crew was shooting late in South Beach.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

posted by John Grogan at 8:25 PM 34 comments

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