DOG Channing Tatum Reid Carolin
Channing Tatum in DOG

Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum’s new feature film DOG was inspired by a time in their lives when both of their beloved companions got sick at the same time.

DOG, out in theaters on Feb. 18, is both Carolin and Tatum’s first time directing. It tells the story of Briggs (Tatum), a former Army Ranger whose quest to bring an ill-tempered military dog to his master’s funeral turns into a chance to find happiness again.

Tatum and Carolin have worked together on several films in the past, with Carolin producing and Tatum starring, including Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL, Logan Lucky, 22 Jump Street, and White House Down. They also both served as executive producers on the HBO documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend.

Carolin told MovieMaker how an emotionally challenging series of events lead them to their latest project together.

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“We’d done about a couple years of development in this movie called Gambit. It was a big studio thing we were going to direct, and then it fell apart and we didn’t know what the hell we were going to do,” Carolin said. “That was right around the time that both of our dogs got cancer right at the same time. They were both the same age. And we were just like, Oh, God, life is really dealing us kind of some not so great cards right now, and [Tatum] went on a road trip to say goodbye to his dog because he knew it wasn’t going to turn out well.”

When Tatum came back from the road trip, he told Carolin and his writing partner Brett Rodriguez about an idea for a movie about dogs. But don’t worry — Carolin’s dog made it through and is currently alive and well.

“We were all sitting on the couch in our office and we just went, you know what? I don’t know what the movie is going to be, but we all sort of had tears in our eyes. We were just like, let’s just make a story about this because it’s making us feel something really deep.”

That idea led them back to the soldiers they’d met while producing the 2017 HBO documentary War Dog.

“We kind of just fell in love with that culture of guys, because they’re typically so inaccessible in the ways that they relate to the outside world. So the access you get to them, if you’re not in that little club, is you either think they’re kind of like crazy super-soldier hero guys that have no emotions, or they’re these kind of broken soldiers who’ve been through war and been traumatized and are trying to figure out their lives,” Carolin said. “The space in between that they actually occupy is really interesting to us, and what opened us to that world was their relationships with their dogs. They became much more emotionally open to telling their stories and to showing parts of them that didn’t usually show or that were guarded. And that aspect of those characters just made us want to tell a story about them.”

He and Tatum wanted DOG to be a fun road movie that would be “a good time at the movie theater.” But more than that, Carolin hopes it will remind people who don’t often encounter veterans that they still exist.

“I think we used to see a lot more veteran stories because everybody either had served because of drafts,” he said. “As a society and the military became a volunteer army, we saw most people becoming in certain circles of our culture become more and more distant from those who had served. So it’s like, you sort of play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game with veterans… for me, it wasn’t about changing a narrative or anything. It was about just saying these are real experiences of people who are still doing this, and whether or not you’re connected to them or you know somebody like them, it’s important to try to empathize with those experiences and for us to try to render them as authentically as we possibly can.”

DOG hits theaters Friday, Feb. 18.  Main Image: Channing Tatum in DOG

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Carolin’s dog had died. She did have cancer at the same time as Tatum’s dog, who ultimately pass away, but Carolin’s dog survived and is currently alive and well.