Among the many perks of being an actor is that sometimes you might get to work with adorable animals. The winning combination of human and beast has led to many a great movie – and some touching friendships. Indeed, these 20 actors all found themselves totally falling in love with the creatures they worked alongside. And in some cases they even adopted their co-star and gave them a forever home!
20. Ed O’Neill
Poor Brigitte the dog started life as a rescue pup. Her adoptive family abandoned her and she was left all alone. Luckily, animal acting agency Good Dog Animals came along – and then so too did TV show Modern Family. Brigitte was given the role of Stella in the series and she also gained a new best friend.
Actor Ed O’Neill adored the little bulldog. “He and Brigitte love each other,” Brigitte’s trainer Guin Dill told People magazine in 2011. “He is very concerned about her all the time and he looks out for her. She’s really Ed’s dog. I couldn’t have asked for a better actor to work with.” Awww.
19. Robert Downey Jr.
In 2010 Robert Downey Jr. starred in the movie Due Date alongside a cute dog. And although the film’s script had it that Downey Jr. and the pupper were constantly at odds, in real life it was the exact opposite. Downey Jr. loved Sunny the dog so much that he actually tried to adopt her.
However, Sunny’s breeder Mark Harden wanted to keep the dog. “To [Downey’s] credit, even though he could afford it, he didn’t try to name a price,” Harden told People in 2010. “He said that maybe when he was more settled he would give me a call to see about finding him another dog.”
18. Brendan Fraser
On the set of the 2015 series Texas Rising, Brendan Fraser met a silver horse that his heart went out to. Its name was Pecas and the other horses seemed to be picking on it. “He looked like he needed help. Like, ‘Get me out of here, man,’” Brendan told GQ in 2018. So he took Pecas – the horse he rode in the show – back home with him.
Fraser hoped that Pecas would bond with his son Griffin, who is autistic. And they did. “There’s something good that happens between the two of them,” Fraser told GQ. “And even if he doesn’t ride him, just give him a brush. The horse loves it, the repetitive motion that kids on the spectrum have that they love.” So it seems that horses actually make great support animals!
17. Tiffany Haddish
For the 2016 comedy Keanu, seven cats were needed to play the titular kitty. And one lucky feline from the group was adopted by none other than Tiffany Haddish, who starred in the movie. “It was named Clementine, but I think she changed it to Catatonic. That was a really cute kitten,” animal trainer Larry Payne told People.
Now, Catatonic lives with Haddish and sometimes pops up on her Instagram. Not bad at all for a kitty who started in a rescue center! And all the other Keanu cats had happy endings as well. Two went to live on a ranch and four were adopted by the movie’s animal trainers Larry Payne and April Mackin.
16. Bradley Cooper
In the hit film A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper’s character Jackson gets a dog with Lady Gaga’s Ally. That dog is actually Cooper’s own pet pooch, Charlie. “There was no nepotism – I wanted this relationship with the dog,” Cooper told People magazine at the movie’s premiere in October 2018.
“[Jackson and Ally] don’t have a child together but they have a dog together and I wanted it to be part of their story. I love dogs,” Cooper went on. However, his beloved Charlie might have let fame go to his head. “I don’t talk to him much anymore. He doesn’t return my calls. He always walks away from me unless I have food,” Cooper quipped.
15. Kim Novak
In 1958 actress Kim Novak reunited with her Vertigo co-star James Stewart for Bell Book and Candle, a romantic comedy with a magical twist. Novak played a witch who is often accompanied by a Siamese cat called Pyewacket. In the movie Pyewacket eventually leaves the side of Novak’s character, but in real life the actress decided to adopt him.
Pyewacket remained with Novak and became famous for appearing in photographs with her. Reportedly he nearly died in a fire at Novak’s home at one point – yet cats have nine lives, after all. But alas, Novak is 86 years old now. The average lifespan of a cat is reportedly 15 years, so it seems more than likely that Pyewacket has passed on. But there’ll always be pictures of him.
14. The Guardians of the Galaxy cast
When Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014 it was notable for featuring a talking raccoon named Rocket. But although Rocket was created via motion capture and CGI, he was based on a real animal called Oreo. Oreo was even allowed to visit the set of the movie and the cast adored him.
Director James Gunn especially bonded with Oreo and actually took the raccoon to the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere. Sadly, Oreo died in 2019 at the age of 10, but his official website memorializes his adventures. “Our little man was an angel as he worked with the Guardians team, helping them to bring Rocket to life,” it says.
13. Ewan McGregor
In the movie Beginners, Ewan McGregor befriends a dog named Arthur. In real life, Arthur was a doggie actor called Cosmo and McGregor ended up utterly adoring him. “I fell for Cosmo and so loved being around him and working with him that it was hard to know I’d have to say goodbye to him,” he told The Bark in 2011.
McGregor’s wife, however, is allergic to dogs and he had to leave his new furry friend behind. But he’d been so taken with Cosmo that he still wanted a pet of his own. He looked up hypoallergenic dogs and just as the Beginners shoot came to an end, he found one called Sid. So he adopted the dog – and it was ultimately all thanks to Cosmo.
12. Robert Redford
Actor and horse lover Robert Redford met an equine companion called Let’s Merge on the set of 1979’s The Electric Horseman. Let’s Merge was playing the main horse in the movie, Rising Star. Redford was so taken by the animal that once the movie was wrapped he brought him home to his ranch.
Let’s Merge lived for 18 years before passing on. But Redford continued to be kind to horses for long after that. During the filming of 2016’s Pete’s Dragon, he discovered an abandoned horse tied up close to the movie set. He then worked with local authorities to get it rescued and cared for.
11. Will Smith
At the core of I Am Legend was the relationship between Will Smith’s character and his German Shepherd Sam. Sam’s real name is Abbey and Smith formed a deep bond with her. He even asked if he could keep her. “I was like, ‘Please let me have Abbey. Please, please, please let me have her,’” Smith told Access Hollywood in 2007. “But you know, she has her own family now so it was just another one of those fleeting Hollywood romances.”
As of 2018 Abbey was still alive and well, living with her trainer Steve Berens. And Berens himself reminisced about I Am Legend to LADbible. “[Smith] understood that this was his co-star and he really dug it and really got into it. He was a fabulous guy to work with,” he said. “I think that [Abbey] really liked him and that made a difference… The relationship was really solid.”
10. Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor’s horse in the movie National Velvet was a thoroughbred named King Charles. Although he didn’t belong to Taylor, she knew him as he was stabled at the country club she belonged to. And it was the young actress who suggested King Charles play her horse named The Pie in the film.
King Charles, alas, wasn’t the best animal actor in the world. He was difficult, wouldn’t respond to commands and even injured members of the crew. However, he got along just fine with Taylor and took orders from her. At the end of filming – as Taylor turned 13 – she was given the horse by the studio. It’s possible they were glad to get rid of him, but Taylor gained a lifelong friend.
9. The Transformers: The Last Knight cast
Poor doggie Freya had a humble start in life. The pitbull and Staffy cross was labelled “the loneliest dog in the world” by her animal rescue center, as nobody seemed to want to adopt her. Then Hollywood came calling. Transformers director Michael Bay saw a Facebook post about Freya and cast her in Transformers: The Last Knight.
Freya played the dog of Sir Edmund Burton, a character portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Sadly though, she died in 2018 after a battle with epilepsy. Her eventual owner, Ray Collins, spoke to the Manchester Evening News about how much Hopkins and the rest of the cast had bonded with her. “She was in five or six scenes with Sir Anthony Hopkins and they got on fantastically,” he said. “They all loved her.”
8. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon’s co-star in Legally Blonde was a little dog called Moonie, who played Bruiser. And he became a friend of the actress in real life – he was even there when Witherspoon was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sadly, though, the beloved pooch passed away in March 2016.
Witherspoon shared her sorrow in an Instagram post. “With a sad heart, I have to let all the #LegallyBlonde fans know that Bruiser Woods (also known as Moonie) passed away yesterday,” she wrote. “He was a sweet little Chihuahua who was very loved. I will never forget all the days we spent together… I’m sure his tail is wagging in the sky.”
7. Quvenzhané Wallis
There’s a showbiz adage that you should never work with children or animals. But what if you have children and animals working together? Well, then everything is just adorable. Rescue dog Marti was cast in the role of Sandy for the updated Annie after she bonded with the little girl playing the lead, Quvenzhané Wallis.
“The reason Marti got the job is that Quvenzhané happened to come into the office the day I was there and she sat on the floor and Marti started licking her face,” trainer Bill Berloni told Vet Street in 2014. “So we continued to facilitate Quvenzhané’s natural instincts with Marti and they just became friends… And even a year later, whenever Quvenzhané comes to New York, we’ll bring Marti over to her hotel room and they’ll play.”
6. Tom Hardy
Sorry ladies, but Tom Hardy’s affections have been stolen – by dogs. “I love dogs. Like, a lot. They’re my favorite animal. Ever,” he told Vulture in 2014. In fact, it was that adoration for man’s best friend which led him to take a role in the movie The Drop. His character in the film adopts an abandoned pit bull named Rocco.
Hardy absolutely loved the dogs who played Rocco. “It was hard. I was getting favorites,” he told Vulture. And he took his favorite one everywhere with him, even letting the puppy sit in his jacket hood. But maybe there’s a good reason why. “You know, I see myself very similar to a dog,” he told the magazine.
5. Chris Evans
Chris Evans, aka Captain America, starred in the drama Gifted in 2017. While filming the movie he met Jenny Slate, who he dated on and off before the couple split in 2018. But he also formed an on-set relationship that would ultimately last even longer. He befriended and bonded with Dodger the dog, whom he met while filming a scene in a pound.
The internet loves Dodger as much as Evans does. In 2017 Evans posted a picture of himself and the dog with the caption, “Really missing this guy right now.” But his social media followers got entirely the wrong idea. After messages from horrorstruck fans assuming Dodger was dead, Evans had to quickly confirm his pet was “alive and well.”
4. Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen loved working with horses on Lord of the Rings. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he decided to purchase a pair. One of them was named Eurayus. “He kind of came into the movie similar to the way I did. You know, didn’t have much preparation and was just thrown in and had to swim, basically,” Mortensen told IGN in 2004. “We got through it together and became friends.”
The second horse was called Kenny and can be seen ferrying Aragorn about in The Two Towers. “He was very easy and relaxed and I just wanted Eurayus to have a buddy,” Mortensen reminisced. Oh, and if two horses wasn’t enough already, the actor also bought and kept T.J., the horse he rode in Hidalgo.
3. Sophie Turner
In the first season of Game of Thrones, a so-called “direwolf” named Lady – which belongs to Sophie Turner’s Sansa Stark – meets a rather upsetting fate. Indeed, its seems that not even cute animals are spared in the famously death-heavy fantasy series. But the actual Lady – a Mahlek Northern Inuit named Zunni – got a happy ending. Turner adopted her.
“Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one. We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set,” Turner told the Coventry Telegraph in 2013. “We knew Lady died [onscreen] and they wanted to re-home her. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her.”
2. Judy Garland
One of the most famous human-dog pairings in all moviedom is Dorothy and Toto from The Wizard of Oz. It’s good to know, then, that Judy Garland actually got on well with the dog who played her onscreen pet. The real Toto was an animal actor named Terry. And though Toto is depicted as a male dog, Terry was actually female.
Terry almost died during Wizard of Oz filming – and so Garland let the dog recover at her own home. During this time she grew very fond of the creature and asked Terry’s trainer if she could adopt her. But unfortunately for her, she was turned down. Terry passed away at the age of 11 and there’s a memorial in her honor at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
1. Jennifer Aniston
Marley & Me is known as one of the saddest dog movies ever made. At the end of the movie – spoiler alert – Marley becomes too old and sick and has to be put down. Jennifer Aniston, who starred in the movie, cried at that part too. And because she was participating in the movie – rather than simply watching it – she seemingly had an extra connection to Marley.
Many dogs played Marley in the movie and Aniston got close to some of them. “Clyde was the main one and he was there a lot, so we became very close to him. He was at the premiere in Amsterdam,” she told Indie London. And during a press conference for the movie, she further revealed that she’d almost adopted one of the puppies.