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Last Updated: Friday December 16 2005 08:25 GMT

Newsround chats to the young stars of Lassie

Jonathan Mason plays Joe in Lassie
Jonathan Mason is just nine and has already won an award for a film. Now he's about to hit the big screen in Lassie.

Jonathan plays Joe, a boy whose family is forced to sell its beloved dog, Lassie, when his dad loses his job as a miner.

He talked to Newsround Online about the film.

How did you get the role?

I did an audition at drama school then got called back and the next thing I knew I had got the part. I was dead excited about it.

Have you acted in anything else?

I was in a short film called Nits which won the Turner Classic Movies' Classic Shorts award last year and I was presented with an award at the London Film Festival by Lord Puttnam.

What was it like doing the film with so many famous people like Peter O'Toole, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Samantha Morton?

It was really great because I got to meet them and work with them. I watched them acting and copied the things they did when they were acting which was good. They were all really friendly.

What was it like working with Lassie and the other animals?

They were really well behaved and good to act with. They could do all sorts of things from hand signals, like bark or lift their paw. It was great. I didn't really like dogs before. I was frightened of them but before filming started I went over to my uncle's house and saw his dogs. He has Weimaraners and I got used to dogs. Now I really like them.

Did it take a long time to get the animals to do things or are they really well trained?

No most of them could do the tricks after just about three tries. Mason was the main dog who played Lassie - he was lighter than the other two. They were his stunt doubles, Carter and Dakota. I liked working with them, they were really well behaved.

What was your favourite part of filming?

I did a scene where I had to climb out of a window and go to the train station and that was great because I got to climb out of a window. But it was cut from the film. My favourite bit that's in the film was when we were with all the puppies. There were seven of them and they were really small and jumping all over each other.

You had to do some really emotional acting. How did you go about that?

When I had to cry in the film, they put this stuff in my eyes and it made my eyes water. It did sting a bit too.

What was the worst thing about filming?

I enjoyed it all. There wasn't any part of it I didn't like.

Have you seen the 1943 original Lassie Come Home and what did you think of it?

When I got the part we bought the DVD. I didn't think it was as good as our new version because it's old fashioned.

Have you seen the new film - what did you think of it?

I thought it was really good, better than I thought it was going to be. I didn't cry though as I knew what was going to happen.

Have you missed much school?

We had a tutor and worked quite hard during the six weeks' filming. We travelled to Ireland and the Isle of Man with my mum and dad taking it in turns to be with me.

You've had some health problems. Tell me more about them.

When I was born I had to have the arteries leading to my heart swapped around, as they were the wrong way round. Because of this and a leak in one of my heart valves I'll have to be monitored for the rest of my life. I also have something wrong with my eyes - optic atrophy - which can make it difficult for me to see. When I did Nits I had to learn the lines off by heart as I couldn't read them, but it wasn't so bad for Lassie. At school I use large print and I have a closed circuit camera device, which lets me see around the classroom. Quite often I have it pointed at the clock to see when it's going to be lunchtime!

Do you want to do more acting?

I'd like to try to carry on acting then I'd like to try and get a job. I want to be a chef because I like making food and eating it. Gordon Ramsey is my favourite chef and my best dish is spaghetti bolognaise.

What else do you like doing?

I like cooking and I like playing cricket.


Hester Odgers plays Cilla in Lassie
Hester Odgers landed a key role in Lassie despite being really scared of dogs!

She plays the part of Cilla - a young girl sent to live in the country because of the war and whose rich grandfather, Lord Carraclough, buys the clever pooch for her.

The 10-year-old told Newsround Online about the experience of making the film.

How did you get the part of Cilla?

Some people came to my school and we had some auditions and I got down to the final three. Then I was called back and down to the final two, with another girl from my school, Laura. Then I was finally chosen and when my mum told me I was really, really excited and I didn't even go to drama school or anything!

What was it like doing the film with so many famous actors like Peter O'Toole, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Samantha Morton?

It was a little bit frightening to begin with. I was scared. But I read the script and thought about how Cilla's character would be so I could imagine how to act. The director also gave me tips to help me. He gave me extra words when people were going to interrupt me to help me and talked through the emotions Cilla might be feeling. It was also hard trying to get your head at the right angle. They'd say: 'Move your head left!' and I'd move and they'd say: 'No, the other left!'

What was it like working with Lassie and the other animals?

Before I did Lassie I was quite scared of all dogs. I was terrified when I first saw Lassie - they are quite big dogs. But it was really nice and interesting working with all the animals in the film. I had to have lessons to learn how to get on and off a horse too as I'd never really been on a horse properly. My favourite animal was Lassie, who's played by three dogs. Mason was my favourite - he's darker - then Carter is lighter and Dakota has kind of droopy eyes. You can't notice the difference in the film but after a while I could tell the difference. I really like dogs now although I am still a bit scared of bulldogs at the park and would like to have a Shetland Sheepdog, which are like Rough Collies like Lassie but smaller.

Did it take a long time to get the animals to do things or are they really well trained?

It depended on the trick that they were trying to get the dog to do. Lassie has to climb over a tall wire kennel fence and that took an age, with the fence leaning over, and a ledge put in, and the trainer being on a stepladder waving food at the dog to make it jump. If the dog just needed to look one way or another or move its head, the trainer would move a bit of chicken - they used lots of bits of food!

What was your favourite part of filming?

My favourite part was the bit with loads of puppies - not when they were really tiny, as we had to just pretend that they were there in that bit, but at the end when we were running across the fields with them. They were really cute. The whole thing was a really good experience too.

Have you seen the 1943 original Lassie Come Home and what did you think of it?

I've seen the film and thought it was really good but the Scottish landscape was a little funny - it was filmed in California!

Have you seen the new film - what did you think of it?

I've seen the film and I felt really excited. I cried even though I knew the story completely.

Have you missed much school?

I missed three weeks of school but we did have a tutor and did enough work to get by.

Your role, Cilla, was originally played by Elizabeth Taylor who's really famous now. What's your next step?

I would like to do one or two more acting things in the future but I don't want it to be my job. I want to be a zookeeper, as I love working with animals. I've always loved animals and I loved working with them in Lassie.



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