Caleb Landry Jones on DogMan and Becoming an Octopus


Caleb Landry Jones will never forget his experience in DogMan. In writer/director Luc Besson’s trippy new thriller, the X-Men: First Class and Get Out star survived his fair share of creative chaos. For starters, he had to become an octopus. Best to expound upon later, so let’s start with some facts.




There were more than 120 trained (ish) dogs prancing around in Besson’s twisted revenge drama. Plus, canine handlers and the crew, of course. Meanwhile, the unconventional storyline gave Jones plenty to nosh on creatively, losing himself in a transformative performance as Douglas, a mysterious and crafty performer who uses a wheelchair and has a troubling past. Douglas works in drag for a living, and his deep connection to a pack of loyal canines is downright surreal.

“Dogs are dogs,” Jones told us about working with his four-legged companions. “Dogs would do whatever they want, no matter how you train them. The ones who had the least amount of training sometimes did better. But it was neat. Most of them came from shelters. Very early on, a few people [on set said], ‘This is impossible… You need at least six months [to train dogs], at least three… One? This is crazy!’ You know… all that kind of stuff.”


“But it’s a testament to [Luc Besson] as a director and knowing what he needs, and knowing when he’s got it, and when he doesn’t have it yet,” Jones added. “I think so many people spend forever getting something … or how it can be cut together or should be cut together. So, it was easy for me, but it didn’t look easy.”

The film, which tracks Douglas’ story following his traumatic childhood and how he found salvation and justice through his connection with dogs, hits theaters Mar. 29. In excerpts from this exclusive MovieWeb interview, Caleb Landry Jones waxes ethereal as he unpacks his experience, also sharing why he loves acting, and chats up yet another collaboration with Besson, this time, playing Dracula in 2025’s highly anticipated Dracula: A Love Tale, also starring Christoph Waltz. Read on.



Unpacking DogMan

DogMan

4/5

Release Date
April 5, 2024

Runtime
114 Minutes

Studio
Luc Besson Production, EuropaCorp, TF1 Films Production

Read Our Review

In DogMan, Douglas survives a cruel childhood with an abusive father, but his deep connection to the stray dogs he was forced to live with in a cage becomes his saving grace. As an adult, Douglas is unable to walk due to a gunshot wound. He runs a shelter for his canine companions and other strays, but when he and his dogs find themselves in jeopardy, Douglas becomes an unlikely guardian angel for his Boston neighborhood, fending off bullies and crime lords. Meanwhile, for cash, he performs in drag at a nearby club. JoJo T. Gibbs costars, playing a court-appointed psychologist interviewing Douglas. The film uses flashbacks to tell Douglas’s story.


Jones, who disappears into the role in DogMan, admitted that the character required preparation. Early on, the actor spoke to director Luc Besson about how to approach Douglas, referencing Robert De Niro’s layered performance as Travis in 1976’s Taxi Driver. He had heard De Niro was told to emulate a “crab” in various scenes, walking from the side as he approached somebody. “I worked with another director who would always… say an animal,” Jones shared about past acting direction. “He’d say, ‘You’re this or whatever.’ And there would be something about it that would help in one way or another way in the back of the head.” He went on:


“I asked Luc, ‘So it’s a dog [for Douglas], right?’ And he’s like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I was like, ‘No? So, what would it be?’ And he was like, ‘An octopus…’ Okay. An octopus. And we’re in the middle of France at a hotel where we’re trying to get me skinnier, and it’s a bunch of water activities, and you’re bobbing with other folks, you know, in their 70s and 80s… for aerobics. So, I was thinking more about that octopus thing.”

Related

The 15 Saddest Movies Where the Dog Dies

If you are looking to feel closer to your pet and shed a few tears, these are 15 perfect movies to watch next.

Besson’s vision of Douglas makes sense. As an adult, Douglas works mysteriously behind the scenes, moving about cryptically as he plots to keep his neighborhood safe. “It does feel very nautical,” Jones added, referencing certain scenes in the film that found him transforming into Edith Piaf to perform on stage at a club or drinking champagne in a bathtub. “At some point, I felt like some octopus. It felt like all the tentacles were going and meeting the doctor one day [in a scene] and hanging out with wolves another day.” Jones went on to praise Besson, who seemed a bit like an octopus himself:


For Luc, the film camera was an appendage, you know, it was just an arm. He’s slinging it all over the place, and it’s easy [for him], or at least he made it look like this. Meanwhile, it’s mass chaos because you got 120-something dogs and 10 trainers and a crew on top of that.

On Becoming an Actor

Jones hails from Texas. Creativity was key in his formative years. After catching the eye of shrewd talent agents who understood the depth he possessed — there are shades of Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, and James Dean in the man — Landry’s career took off. He’s also a musician and enjoyed a turn in Friday Night Lights. Other roles stood out, particularly Banshee in X-Men: First Class, Jeremy in Get Out, and Red in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Then there’s Nitram. Jones won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance. MovieWeb asked him about why he chose to be an actor:


First, probably just attention. Probably thinking it’s a good way to get some kind of respect or what I would think love is or some s**t. But it’s kind of the first place where I was allowed to scream, was allowed to cry, was allowed to have the emotions that wasn’t otherwise eating me up in a bad way.

“Acting became a very good thing to explore,” continued Jones. “Then once you start getting into jobs, and you get a little more to do, you realize how much more you can put into it, and that it can be this thing that you kind of shut off from everything and go into. It’s a very selfish thing but worth it sometimes… most of the time.”

Working with Luc Besson Again in 2025’s Dracula


Buzz is building about 2025’s Dracula: A Love Tale. Jones plays Dracula in the origin story thriller, also starring Christoph Waltz, who happens to be starring in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming Frankenstein film. Luc Besson is on board as writer and director. The official description of the film reads: “After his wife dies, a 15th-century prince renounces God and becomes a vampire. Centuries later, in 19th century London, he sees a woman resembling his late wife and pursues her, sealing his own fate.” Deep. Of working with Besson again, Jones said:

“Well, every time you work on something, you only hope that you’ve worked with people that want to work with you again, especially if you really liked working with them. I’ve been real fortunate. Most of the time, I’m always hoping that they want to work again.”


“So, it feels like a really special thing when someone wants you back or they want to try something else. That’s kind of why I got into it, you know,” added Jones, “wanting to meet folks that would also take you further, and maybe you’re taking them further, too, because you’re giving them space to do something. Hopefully it’s a communal thing. So, it’s a real dream come true. And as an actor, you just don’t know when you’ll work again, or if, and you just hope. So, it feels extra good.”

Caleb Landry Jones Connects to Older Generations

Jonnica T. Gibbs as Evelyn and Caleb Landry Jones as Douglas being interrogated while smoking a cigarette in Dogman
Briarcliff Entertainment

We also asked Caleb Landry Jones to tell us who would be his ideal costar, to which he smiled and shared: “I don’t know, Gene Wilder is dead, Gene Hackman I heard retired. Jack Nicholson is probably out to lunch or probably was out to lunch. I don’t know, there’s not… Everybody I like… Robert Mitchum is gone.”


2:00

Related

15 Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time, Ranked

Analyzing the catalogs of some of the industry’s most visionary directors, we break down the 15 best psychological thriller movies.

When asked what it was about those iconic actors and those film eras that appealed to him, he added:

“I think there was a different kind of actor in the ’70s and before. And I think they treated it more like work and probably worked harder, some of them, and I don’t know, maybe I’m just romanticizing, but I just like those movies more, too. There’s a lot of good actors today. I just… Last time I tried to mention some [actors], I was lying, so I’m not going to even try. Well, they’re nice people, but they… you don’t think much of them.”


Well, we think much of Jones and DogMan. A Luc Besson Production from EuropaCorp and TF1 Films, which is in theaters on Mar. 29 from Briarcliff Entertainment before expanding to more theaters on Apr. 5, 2024.



.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *