Chihuahua's rags-to-riches road to Hollywood

Fri Oct 3, 2008 12:16pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood is always looking for fresh faces -- even if they belong to dogs -- and the tiny four-legged star of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" has a rags-to-riches story to match any new arrival on silver screens.

Popularized by the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Chihuahuas are the most popular pooches in Los Angeles. But the makers of family film "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," which opens on Friday, wanted some undiscovered talent for their whimsical tale of romance and adventure -- doggy style.

Papi, the part Chihuahua, part mutt male lead of the movie, was rescued from a Los Angeles animal shelter after trainers held months of fruitless auditions with breeders and veteran movie furry friends.

Head animal trainer Mike Alexander told Reuters it was Papi's big ears and great expression that got the dog noticed.

"We saw his picture on the Internet and when we got to meet him at the shelter, he had a great bouncy personality that went with it," said Alexander, of Birds & Animals Unlimited.

As a complete ingenue, Papi was given six months of training for his role as the street-wise pet of a gardener who falls head over heels for a pampered, diamond-clad Beverly Hills pooch named Chloe.

When Chloe gets lost in Mexico, Papi heads south of the border to rescue his love in what the filmmakers say is ultimately a story about finding yourself.

"Chihuahuas are a great breed but they take a little more finesse (to train). A lot of them have big attitudes but they are also very small dogs, so you don't want to intimidate them," Alexander said.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Jamie Lee Curtis (R), holding Chihuahuas Angel, and comedian George Lopez holding Rusco, pose at the world premiere of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" at El Capitan theatre in Hollywood, California September 18, 2008. The movie opens in the U.S. on October 3. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>