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Endal set to hit the big screen


Endal, Allen and SandraTHE LIFE of the world’s most famous Labrador, Endal, is to be made into a blockbuster movie, following the recent phenomenal success of a bestselling book, written by Allen Parton and his devoted wife Sandra.

The story of Allen and Endal first appeared in OUR DOGS over seven years ago, when Endal was a youngster who was helping Allen to slowly rebuild his life following an horrific accident during the Gulf War which left Allen with serious head injuries and a loss of memory so severe that he didn’t even recognise his wife Sandra or his children.

His injuries also left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to do even the most everyday chore. In fact Allen has stated that Endal's ability to comprehend his wishes and needs showed when they first met, and that was responsible for helping him recover from the initial deep depression and trauma caused by his disability. Allen told us at the time: ‘When I couldn’t talk, he learned sign language – if I touched my head I wanted my hat, if I touched my face it was for the razor. He learned hundreds of commands in signing. Eventually one day, in this very silent world we lived in, I grunted. That was like an electric shock going through him, he was so excited. They said I’d never speak again, but Endal just dragged the speech out of me.’

Endal came to national attention in a 2001 incident, when Allen was knocked out of his wheelchair by a passing car. Endal pulled Parton, who was unconscious, into the recovery position, retrieved his mobile phone from beneath the car, fetched a blanket and covered him, barked at nearby dwellings for assistance, and then ran to a nearby hotel to obtain help. He also caught the eye of a passing photo journalist around the same time, withdrawing cash from a dispenser for Allen!

Channel hopping

In March 2009 Sky aired a programme entitled The Dog That Saved Our Marriage, which appeared at the same time as Endal: How One Extraordinary Dog Brought a Family Back from the Brink, a book written by Allen and Sandra about their lives. The book became an overnight bestseller, and the programme caused ripples around the country with many people who had previously missed out on the Allen and Endal partnership.

One person who saw the programme was film producer Simon Brooks from London. OUR DOGS this week spoke exclusively to Simon on how The Dog That Saved Our Marriage spurred him into action. ‘I was tv channel-hopping that night, and I just caught the last 10 minutes or so where Allen had taken Endal to the vet’s. As a dog owner myself I just felt empathy for Endal, Allen and Sandra and the situation. After the programme I went straight onto the internet and read everything I could about the Parton family and Endal. Then suddenly I thought, this would make a great movie!’

Simon has already had major success in his career, as an Executive Producer of the film White Noise (2005). Simon’s next move was to contact HarperCollins, publishers of Endal:How One Extraordinary Dog Brought a Family Back from the Brink. ‘I have a few contacts at HarperCollins and I basically went to them, had a cup of tea and, with a bit of persuasion, I got the deal agreed! Also I went to meet Allen and his family, including EJ and Ikea, and I was just really taken with them all’

So, does that fact that he has his own dogs - Bernese Mountain Dogs - make a difference to how he sees the story? ‘Yes, I know the very special bond we get from dogs is so strong and the Allen/Endal tale is an exceptional story of devotion, love and caring.

Happiness

Simon has now commissioned a script from Juliette Towhidi, writer of Calendar Girls, and hopes to start filming next summer. So, how’s it going? ‘Well, it’s very early days yet, but we hope to have the first draft ready just before Christmas, and I hope to go into production next summer.’ And what of rumours that Colin Firth and Kate Winslet have been lined up to play Allen and Sandra? ‘Absolutely nothing has been confirmed, they would not even be aware of this project yet,’ Simon told OUR DOGS. ‘I would say I do have them in mind, but nothing has been confirmed at all.’ And the £5million budget, as reported? ‘Again, nothing has been confirmed yet. It could be that, it could be less, it could be more.’

The film will deal with the tragedy and the highlights of the Parton household in equal measure. Simon says, ‘You can’t make a mushy-slushy movie out of something like this. It has a dark side and a light side, and it will be a film which is both dark in parts and light in parts. It’s one of the most human stories, but with a dog as its central character, and the most amazing dog at that. It’s a story of the happiness that can come when you least expect it.’

Allen is, understandably, thrilled about the whole thing and told us: ‘I am absolutely delighted. When I came back from the Gulf war, I had lost my memory, I couldn't read, write or walk, and our marriage went through hard times. Then Endal bounded into our lives and the rest is history. I’d have liked Brad Pitt to play the part of me...but you can’t have it all!’

OUR DOGS hopes to follow the production of the film over the next few months.

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