In theaters nationwide on June 26
Family Action Adventure. A precision-trained military dog, Max serves on the frontlines in Afghanistan alongside his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott. But when things go terribly wrong on maneuvers, Kyle is mortally wounded and Max, traumatized by the loss of his best friend, is unable to remain in service. Sent stateside, the only human he seems willing to connect with is Kyle’s teenage brother, Justin, so Max is saved when he is adopted by Kyle’s family. But Justin has issues of his own, including living up to his father’s expectations, and he isn’t interested in taking responsibility for his brother’s troubled dog. However, Max may be Justin’s only chance to discover what really happened to his brother that day on the front, and with the help of Carmen, a tough-talking young teen who has a way with dogs, Justin begins to appreciate his canine companion. Justin’s growing trust in Max helps the four-legged veteran revert back to his heroic self, and as the pair race to unravel the mystery, they find more excitement—and danger—than they bargained for. But they each might also find an unlikely new best friend…in each other.
Interview with writer/director Boaz Yakin (“Remember the Titans,” “Now You See Me”).
What inspired you to write/tell this story?
To make a movie that explored the relationship between humans and animals, especially dogs, I wanted to make an adventurous movie that was also a family movie that doesn’t speak down to kids and I also wanted it to be engaging to adults. Also, my partner and co-writer, Sheldon Lettich, is a Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran who has worked with dogs in this capacity and wanted to tell the story of how these dogs risk their lives.
Is MAX based on a true story?
The story is fictional but based on real life in the way that the dogs are used in the military.
What kind of dog is Max?
Max is a Belgian Malinois breed of choice to serve as Military Working Dogs for military forces and law enforcement agencies across the United States and throughout the world. They are different than a German Shepard in that they are built much leaner and have a severe work drive and intensity. They are all about working, and are not meant to be a pet as they are not for the faint of heart. (He doesn’t want people to see the movie and think they want to have one because MAX is so cute).
Side Note: Before writing, Yakin and Lettich observed the dogs in action at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base K9 Unit in California. Driven to hunt and capture prey, the Malinois has a 270-degree field of vision and the force of its bite equals 1,400 pounds per square inch. It can run 30 miles per hour and withstand the heat of the desert.
I love how you portrayed the connection between Max and Justin in the movie. Have you experienced that same connection with a pet?
As a writer I base my experience with people since the two are very similar. Our connection to animals though are more pure and more simplified. That connection you see in the movie is more told through Justin, as we relied on him to relay Max’s feelings and to ultimately tell his story.
How often do Military animals that lose their handler get to live with their handler’s family? Or does that even happen?
The sad truth about these animals is that they often get left behind or euthanized when a handler dies. Thanks to Robby’s Law (H.R.5314), which went into effect in 2000, Military Working Dogs are no longer euthanized, they can be adopted out either to their handlers or other former and qualified handlers. This bill has passed Congress but now need to pass the Senate. I am hoping that this movie helps get this bill passed. It is very much needed.
How was it working with Max?
Carlos aka Max, was handled by his trainer Marc Forbes. He would be trained to do certain scenes and then when the camera would roll he would do something completely different, which was funny to watch.
Animals were provided by Birds & Animals Unlimited, Inc. Forbes’ team included Raymond Beal, Mathilde DeCagny, OJ Knighten, April Mackin and Larry Payne, all of whom helped train and handle the dogs.
What Genre would you classify MAX?
A Family Film. I wanted to make a film that didn’t talk down to kids and one that the parents wouldn’t feel like that had to sit through but enjoyed. They don’t make family films like this any more. Think of Old Yeller, I wanted to make a film that exposes kids and provokes discussion in the end.
BOAZ YAKIN (Director/Writer/Executive Producer) made his first directorial effort with “Fresh,” which was based on his own screenplay. It attracted talent such as Samuel L. Jackson and Giancarlo Esposito to star in it, and the film earned the Filmmakers Trophy at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, as well as prizes in the Tokyo film festival and other festivals throughout Europe.
Yakin’s experiences with the Chassidic community informed his next directorial effort, “A Price Above Rubies.” Yakin next took on “Remember the Titans,” starring Denzel Washington, for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The film was a box office success, and a perennial audience favorite. He then made a foray into comedy with “Uptown Girls,” starring Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning. Yakin wrote, produced and directed “Death in Love,” a controversial film that had its premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
He has also written several graphic novels, including The Remarkable Worlds of Phineas B. Fuddle, illustrated by his brother Erez Yakin and released by Paradox Press. He wrote two other graphic novels published by 1st Second Books: Marathon, illustrated by Joe Infurnari, came out in June, 2012, and Jerusalem, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi, was released in April 2013.
Yakin most recently wrote and directed “Safe,” an action film starring Jason Statham, released in April of 2012, and wrote and served as an executive producer on Louis Letterrier’s 2013 box office success “Now You See Me.”
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