Tessa Thompson & Justin Theroux’s Lady & The Tramp Is More Than Just Puppy Love

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson may be the famous actors leading the upcoming Disney+ Lady And The Tramp live-action adaptation, but Rose and Monte are the film’s true stars. Rose, an American Cocker Spaniel, and Monte, a mix of Schnauzer and German Shepherd, are both rescues, making their Hollywood debut by way of Texas and Arizona, respectfully. Theroux would like to think he and Monte connected over their shared role of Tramp, and Thompson, who voices Lady in the movie, says there was something about Rose’s “expressive” eyes that drew her to the creature. It’s the dogs that bring the love story so convincingly to life on screen, and when I sit down with Theroux and Thompson at the Four Seasons in New York City, all the canine antics appear to have rubbed off on them. 
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I’m the last of a long day of press, and when I enter the room, Thompson is draped over the couch with Theroux’s rescue Pitbull Kuma wrapped around her. Theroux still manages to perk up, his metaphorical tail wagging as he obediently answers my questions, ranging from silly (On if he’s tried the Lady And The Tramp kiss with Kuma: yes) to serious (On the diversity in the movie: “If you're gonna remake it, you better have a reason to remake it. You can't ignore the fact that we are in a different time that is more inclusive and more representative of the world.”)
The Lady And The Tramp of 2019 gives the original 1955 animated classic a fresh coat of paint without straying too far from the tried-and-true love story. It’s less winky than summer’s star-studded live-action The Lion King, but both share the heightened terror of watching CGI-enhanced animals be put in perilous situations. Thankfully, there’s also heightened cuteness. 
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Getting into the heads of Rose and Monte also gave Theroux and Thompson further insight into relationships with their own dogs. Thompson tells me she adopted a dog during the process of making the movie after “literally staring at these beautiful, sweet dogs” all day. She sits up from lounging for a brief moment to show me a picture of her Border Collie. Then there’s Theroux who famously loves, and maybe even worships, Kuma. If his Instagram wasn’t enough evidence of his Kuma adoration, then consider the fact that he landed his fur baby a cameo on the film (the only pitbull in the movie, he would like to add — who said nepotism was a human sport?) As an extra, Kuma acted alongside dozens of other pups, like Trusty (voiced by Sam Elliot) and Peg (voiced by Janelle Monae). 
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“Any time one of these dogs does three or more behaviors in a scene, it’s this amazing miracle of their own sort of ability and attention,” producer Brigham Taylor told the New York Post of the four-legged cast’s acting skills. In fact, the Post continues, it took three days to shoot the iconic spaghetti scene, aided by bacon and undyed licorice that had been soaked in chicken broth. They even managed to get the dogs to “kiss,” but the iconic smooch you see in the movie, along with other logistically difficult choreography, was CGI. At the end of filming, the dogs who were rescued for the film found homes, many with the trainers and other crew members. 
Both on and off screen, the love stories are so heartwarming that they make the case for more all-dog movies, something Thompson and Theroux are ready to cast should the time come for a canine adaptation of their own lives.
“I really liked Goldendoodles,” Thompson said when asked what kind of dog would play her. “I've always had an affinity, and have curly hair.”
Theroux got sentimental.
“I would like, this is way too revealing, a Greyhound that's been rescued from a track. They’re kind of shy but they present maybe more confident than they are. Or,” he adds, shooting a loving glance at Kuma: “A pitbull.”
Lady And The Tramp comes to Disney+ November 12.
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