Interview: David DeLuise of “Pup Star”

Posted on November 5, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Copyright 2016 Air Bud Entertainment

Pup Star is available on Netflix today! It is a cute family movie from the “Air Bud” filmmakers, inspired by “American Idol” and “The Voice” singing competitions.

David DeLuise talked to me about appearing in “Pup Star” and about what he learned from his dad, comedy legend Dom DeLuise.

What is your role in “Pup Star?”

I’m playing the dad. Because I was on Wizards of Waverly Place with Selena Gomez, all the kids see me as the dad. I have two daughters, Riley who is 23 and Dylan who is 18, so that makes sense. It’s not so much a stretch because I know how to do it already. And it’s fun! I like doing that because there’s a lot of heartfelt moments in this movie. It is a big, loving, fun joyride with the kids. And my connection and my interaction with Makenzie Moss, who plays my daughter, makes this part so interesting to me, that connection with my daughter and wanting just anything for your kids.

How do you work with a child actor to create comfort and chemistry on screen?

You want to try to have as much time off set so that you can be familiar and comfortable with each other. And so Makenzie and her mom and Carla Jimenez who was playing the nanny/housekeeper/friend who is the kind of mother energy in the film, we all went out to dinner and we hung out, we went for a walk, we got to know each other. I wanted to know what she likes, what she doesn’t like, how her relationship is with her parents.

I was very lucky, we did get to walk around the neighborhood for a photo shoot that shows our house in the movie and so me and her just got to go play in the park. I’d ask her about her dad. “Oh, he makes movies. He likes movies? Do you like movies with your friends? What do you do? What are your favorite things?” I do this with anybody. It doesn’t have to be a kid. I love getting to know people. I just get in there and I find out as many details as I can so that ultimately she can feel comfortable with me so that she can express her true emotion. I will say I’ve worked with him a lot kids in this business and she is spot on right there, professional, really brings it. Jed Rees who plays the dogcatcher bad guy? We just looked at each other like “Wow! She’s good!” Like, “Oh she nailed that.” She really does know her stuff and it is also very encouraging as a grown-up actor to see someone younger not so much working very hard because it seemed to come very natural to her but working and doing a good job like she wanted to be there.

What was the first acting job you ever get paid for?

Being Dom DeLuise’s son. It’s like I was born into an acting improv class. At the dinner table it was, “Who can make me cry the fastest? Who can make me laugh the fastest?” My godparents were Ann Bancroft and Mel Brooks. We had Carl Reiner coming over and Gene Wilder was there. These are my dad and mom’s friends but they are also these heavy hitters in the entertainment business.

So to answer your question, the first thing that I got paid for was a Dean Martin special. My dad was doing a Dean Martin thing and I think I was in 4th or 5th grade. I had had to be a kid on the golf course. And then a producer said, “Does your son want to get paid $600 or does he want a Go-Kart and of course I said Go-Kart and that was my first paid job. I also did a Disney movie with my dad.

My dad always said to me and my brothers, “You can be this business anytime you want, but you can only have one childhood.” We all went to public school, and had a normal childhood. But we did plays and we also had a video camera when I was younger. That was like a hard thing to have back then. Now the kids have studios with their phones and laptops. They can score it, cut it, everything. We had to do like reel to reel VHS tape and try to put music on it but it was a good education.

And I did this TV movie called “Happy.” It was about a clown who witnessed a murder. I played my dad’s son in the movie and also my dad directed a movie this is a long time ago called “Hot Stuff” with Jerry Reed, Suzanne Pleshette, and Ossie Davis. Then in high school I started auditioning. My first real job was an episode of “Hunter.” That was my first real job on my own acting and I was like, “Oh okay, I’m going to do this.” I did some acting classes but I would go over my auditions with my dad and he always enjoyed it so much. He would always say, “Make it a problem, make something happen, don’t make it easy.” He would say, “Does this guy juggle?” And I would say, “He’s a lawyer; he doesn’t juggle.”

Did your dad give you advice about comedy?

What I learned from my dad is you’ve always got to be thinking, thinking fast. My dad, Jonathan Winters, Rob Williams, all these comics thought very fast on their feet. And you have to trust yourself. You have to trust your instincts and your intuition as to what’s happening. I think there’s something about comedy that you can learn but there is also something just whether comedy is in you or not. You either have it or you don’t and I did get a little piece from my dad. There is a little bit of the comedy gene inside of me, so I’m very happy about that. It’s not so much talking about comedy as it is talking about acting and the feelings so you can do funny and you can do dramatic. It’s all about listening and reacting to what the other person is doing and having a point of view. So it can be a very funny off-the-wall point of view or a dramatic one for that matter.

What do you think families will learn when they watch “Pup Star?”

Family is the most important thing. This movie has a journey to a realization that family is everything. There’s our family, our immediate family, my daughter and our dog Tiny but also Tiny finds her own family on her adventure with Charlie and everyone else. I think the idea is unconditional love will always be there no matter what. You don’t need a house, you don’t need a recording contract, you don’t need things; you just need the relationships that you have in your life, your kids, your parents, your brothers and sisters.

W.C. Fields famously said actors should never work with children or dogs. In this film, you have both plus lots of special effects. How do you hold your concentration with all of that?

We had a three split screen, we’ve got two dogs on the left, the humans are on the middle of the shot, and then we have the dogs running through on the right side. So there is a lot of technical stuff, I could be wrong but I think it was something like 2500 or more special effects shots. They have been doing this so long. Actually, they were editing on set while we were shooting. They could see what was happening so they would not move on until they made sure they did not miss anything. That is really smart because then I can focus on acting; I can focus on the moment and all that stuff because they are not going to move on until it’s right. Everybody on this crew was just so funny. When you make a movie like this you become a family. They are a well-oiled machine and everybody loves the dogs, everybody loves their jobs. But when you’re working with dogs, you can’t connect with them right away; their attention has to be on the trainer. And so over time I was allowed to get to know the dogs but you don’t want them to get to really like you because then you distract them while they are acting.

And the kids were great, so professional and easy to work with.

What’s next for you?

I did a movie called “Believe,” a faith-based film with my friend Danielle Nicolet who was just in the “Central intelligence” movie. We were in “3rd Rock from the Sun” together 21 years ago. I get to do a southern accent. It was really fun to work with my friend and play the bad guy. So in Pupstar I’m like this sweet dad and then in “Believe” I am this southern politician guy with a smile who will steal your candy.

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