When she was just 8 months old, Anubis the Basenji starred in her first short movie. Titled The Tomb Raider, the eerie black and white horror flick introduced her as “the Barkless Dog” and detailed her exploits in a graveyard. Since then, Anubis has continued to earn acting credits, with a turn in 2013’s haunted-cottage tale Soulmate and a role in the just-released Tales of Halloween, which was written and directed by her owner, Axelle Carolyn.
I recently spoke to Axelle about training pups for the silver screen, on-set etiquette, and this little Basenji’s obsession with a certain cartoon canine.
Dogster: So, how exactly do you go about training a dog to act?
Axelle Carolyn: We started training when Anubis was a tiny puppy — it was a steep learning curve for both of us! — but she loves food and she loves solving puzzles and figuring out new tricks to get a reward. I keep our training fun for both of us, usually in five-minute sessions throughout the day. It needs to feel like a game and end on a high — this way she gets very excited when she sees me pick up the clicker!
What role does Anubis play in Tales of Halloween?
She plays the dog who senses the ghost. The part is a bit similar to the one she played in her first feature, Soulmate (which is out on Netflix), although she uses a different set of skills. She has this curious, inquisitive little face that’s just perfect for these spooky roles. It’s what they call a small but significant part. We’ve screened the movie in festivals around the world, and she always gets a big reaction.
How good of a doggie actress is she? How many takes does she normally require to do a scene?
For Tales of Halloween, she was pretty focused, despite the presence of a rather arrogant cat in the house we were shooting in. She somehow understands when there’s a camera around, and she focuses quickly. We usually do a few tricks for fun to get her in the spirit, then try to keep takes as short as possible. It’s all about making sure she doesn’t need to work too long and that it never feels like work to her.
How does Anubis behave on set? Has she ever attempted to steal any props as toys
She’s usually very cool and professional. She does however insist on getting paid in treats after each take, which is fortunately uncommon among her human counterparts. She seems to feel very at home around fake blood and monster makeup; on Soulmate she attempted to lick clean anyone who got covered in fake blood syrup.
Has Anubis ever shown any reaction to seeing footage of herself in a movie?
She has! I have a photo of her staring at herself on TV. However, she got a chance to see herself on the big screen at a festival in L.A. a couple of months ago — and walk the red carpet — but I’m afraid she slept through her appearance on screen.
Which classic horror movie would you love to re-create with Anubis?
I’d say The Mummy — the original Universal classic — would be a perfect fit! She’d be a great Boris Karloff. Although I think her dream is to play Scooby-Doo some day, as she’s a big fan. Somehow any time it’s on TV, she’s fascinated!
Thanks for the interview, Axelle. Now check out Anubis’ screen debut as a young pup in The Tomb Raider:
Read more interviews on Dogster:
- We Chat With Roy Varga, the Dog-Loving Pinup Photographer
- We Chat With Emmylou Harris About Her “Shelter Me” Episode on PBS
- We Talk to “DWTS” Judge Carrie Ann Inaba About Remember Me Thursday
About the author: Phillip Mlynar writes about cats, music, food, and sometimes a mix of all three. He considers himself the world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats.