ABOUT THE CANINE CAST
The canine stars of EIGHT BELOW had to be able to do much more than sit and stay - they had to demonstrate the indomitable will to survive. To cast the furry actors who would face unusual challenges for animal stars, head animal trainer Mike Alexander of Birds & Animals searched far and wide for a team of both unusually intelligent and charismatic huskies, compiling his cast through a series of spontaneous auditions with animal who ranged from sleek show dogs to homeless strays whose fates were turned around by the film. Says Alexander: "We were looking for dogs with unique looks, great personalities and a love of learning and we didn't really care very much about conformation, so we ended up using a lot of rescue dogs who turned out to be just wonderful. In a story about survival, they worked tremendously well."
The dogs include:
As MAYA, the strong and maternal Alpha leader of the pack, seven-year-old, silver beauty Koda Bear stars. One of the cast's most veteran performers, Koda Bear has been seen in such films as "Snow Dogs" and on television in "Malcolm in the Middle." Almost passed up for the part because the filmmakers initially wanted a white dog, she won over the filmmakers, becoming one of director Frank Marshall's favorite members of the cast. On the set, she was known to her trainers as "The Princess" due to the fact that she wouldn't go anywhere without her special blanket. Also starring as Maya is the equally beautiful, seven-year-old Jasmine, who was thrilled to have been rescued from a refuge for abandoned dogs in Colorado and whisked away to stardom by Mike Alexander in order to take on the role. Finding her true joy in life, Jasmine now conducts sled dog tours at a popular Bed & Breakfast joint in British Columbia. Their sledding double was Kalista, herself an experienced Alpha sled dog and veteran of many long treks, who much like her character, always helped to keep the other dogs out of trouble during the filming.
As MAX, the young sled-dog who starts out in the back of the pack but becomes a heroic leader in the course of the incredible adventures of EIGHT BELOW is six-year-old D.J., a playful, happy-go-lucky, natural-born movie star who previously starred in the canine hit "Snow Dogs." D.J. impressed his trainers, and director Frank Marshall, with his uncanny improvisational skills and always brought an extra dash of drama and emotion to his scenes as Max. Now living the high life in Los Angeles, D.J. has become one of Birds & Animals biggest stars and can usually be found at flaunting his fur at a film or television audition. Also playing Max is D.J.'s sledding double, Timba. A veritable pup at only a year old, Timba was just starting to learn how to a pull a sled when she joined the cast of EIGHT BELOW, impressing the trainers with her fast, graceful moves and cuddly nature. Since then, she's become a member of a real-life sled dog team, leading tours for intrepid travelers in Canada.
The all-brawns-and-a-few-too-brains rebel dog, SHORTY, is played by equally playful, all-white, three-year-old Jasper - another rescued stray who was especially excited to get the chance star in EIGHT BELOW because he quickly discovered that snow is his favorite thing in the world. Jasper's sledding double was the tenacious Yukon, a professional sled puller and impressive canine athlete who never seemed to tire of pulling the sled.
DEWEY, one of the close-knit twins in the pack, is portrayed by four-year-old Floyd, one of the canine cast's most experienced actors who, when not starring in movies such as "Snow Dogs," can now be seen on stage as one of the regulars at the Universal Animal Show in sunny Florida. His sledding double was two-year-old Ryan, a former frou-frou show dog from Texas who had never even seen snow before beginning his training for EIGHT BELOW! Falling instantly in love with the ice and cold, Ryan was always ready to take off with the sled, even when it wasn't his turn.
As TRUMAN, Dewey's identical brother, is three-year-old Sitka, another pound puppy from Colorado who led trainer Mike Alexander on her own hair-raising adventure when she escaped from her crate on their initial journey to California. Luckily, she decided to return and was able to make her film debut in style, discovering that she had a yen for yummy slices of Canadian duck. Her sledding and action double was 5 year-old Chase, a California native known to the trainers as "the big goof ball." Chase graciously underwent a regular non-toxic dye job in the production's "Canine Day Spa" to look more like Sitka.
Starring as the silvery, sleek SHADOW are Noble, a three-year-old canine actor known for really getting into character and four-year-old Troika, a rescue found emaciated on the streets of Tennessee only to be transformed into a canine star. Troika demonstrated a beautiful howling voice on the set of EIGHT BELOW and has since become a full-time actor, living in Los Angeles and regularly auditioning for parts. Both Noble and Troika were double threats: doing both the acting and the sledding for their roles.
The spirited, redheaded BUCK comes to life through the expertise of Conan and Flapjack. Conan, known on the set for his keen canine smarts, began life as a show dog in Montreal but has since journeyed to the far warmer climate of Florida to star in the Universal Animal Show with fellow EIGHT BELOW cast-mate Floyd. An Alaskan native, Flapjack is a true working endurance sled dog who has continued to do his job in the frozen wilds following the film. Flapjack also holds the distinction of being the biggest dog on the movie -- weighing in at over 120 pounds. Conan and Flapjack performed both the acting and sledding for Buck.
Finally, the oldest dog in the pack, renown for his well-honed poker-playing skills, OLD JACK is played by relative youngster Suli, a beautiful four-year-old Pinto (black and white) husky who hails from the British Columbian outback and by Buck, an all-white dog previously seen in "Snow Dogs," who had a daily non-toxic dye job to match Suli's dark spots.
About the Filmmakers
FRANK MARSHALL (Director/Executive Producer)
Frank Marshall's credits as a director include the true life survival drama "Alive," the thriller "Arachnophobia," "Congo", based on Michael Crichton's best-selling novel and the Apollo 11 episode of the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries, "From the Earth to the Moon."
Marshall is also one of Hollywood's most successful producers. While at Amblin,' Entertainment, the company he founded with Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy in 1981, some of the movies Marshall produced were "Poltergeist," "Gremlins," "The Goonies," "The Color Purple," "An American Tail," "Empire of the Sun," "Hook," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "The Land Before Time," the "Back to the Future" trilogy and the "Indiana Jones" trilogy.
In 1991 he left Amblin' to pursue his directing career, and together with Kathleen Kennedy formed The Kennedy/Marshall Company. The company has produced a remarkably diverse group of films, including "The Indian in the Cupboard," directed by Frank Oz; "Snow Falling on Cedars," directed by Scott Hicks; "A Map of the World," starring Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore; M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense," starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment and "Signs," starring Mel Gibson; "Olympic Glory," the first official large format film of the Olympic Games; "The Bourne Identity," starring Matt Damon; "Seabiscuit," the dramatic true story based on Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book, directed by Gary Ross; and the box office success, "The Bourne Supremacy," directed by Paul Greengrass, with Matt Damon returning as Jason Bourne.
Marshall has received four Academy Award® nominations in the Best Picture category for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1982), "The Color Purple" (1985), with co-producers Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Kathleen Kennedy, "The Sixth Sense," (1999) with Kathleen Kennedy and Barry Mendel and "Seabiscuit" (2004), with Kathleen Kennedy and Gary Ross.
DAVID DiGILIO (Screenplay)
David DiGilio's screenplay "One Single Victory" won him a 2001 Disney Screenwriting Fellowship. He was then hired by Disney for its Writer-in-Residence program, where he met Mandeville Films' David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. They began to collaborate on "Antarctica" in 2003. DiGilio is currently working on an adaptation of the Australian kid's adventure "Hover Car Racer" for Disney and Beacon Pictures.