Rusper writer’s tale of a charming pug hits the big screen

Beattie Edmondson (left) and  Emily Atack in Patrick
Beattie Edmondson (left) and Emily Atack in Patrick

Disney’s new film Patrick – the tale of a lovable pug who transforms a young woman’s life – is sure to charm millions when it opens in cinemas on Friday, June 29 (released by Buena Vista International UK).

It all comes from the pen of Vanessa Davies who lives in Rusper.

Vanessa Davies

Vanessa Davies

“I have worked in the film industry for 25 years, but on the publicity side. I was in charge of all eight Harry Potters, but I had been interested in writing for a long time and I was wanting to make that move,” says Vanessa who moved to West Sussex last year.

“It was just a question of what and when, and actually the inspiration for Patrick came from my own pug called Patrick. I didn’t have to look too far! How it came about was that I was living in Richmond where the film is based, and I had just split up with my partner.

“I was walking around the local park, thinking: ‘Where is my life going to take me?’ And I was there with my two dogs, one of whom is Patrick. And I just started talking to people. It occurred to me that if you have got a dog, you are never alone. You just meet people. People talk to you.

“I suppose it could be any pet, but particularly with a dog because you just feel a natural affinity with somebody else who has got a dog. The reserve is down. You don’t have that British thing of not wanting to make eye contact. It is socially acceptable, if you have got dogs, just to start talking.

“And so I was walking around and complete strangers were talking to me, and so I starting thinking about how a dog could come into your life and change it and what might happen if it was actually somebody who didn’t actually want a dog. I started imaging this girl in her early 30s who is bequeathed this dog that she doesn’t want and doesn’t like, and yet somehow through having the dog she starts to find her feet. It gives her back a sense of purpose and a sense of identity. I wrote it and Disney came on board very early. You think of Disney, and you will think of the kind of warm family comedy that this is.

“I am the producer. I wrote the original screen story and worked on the screenplay. I was involved right from the moment of having the idea through to the moment of the film coming out.”

It was director Mandie Fletcher who found the ideal Sarah Francis, the woman whose life is a mess – Beattie Edmondson, daughter of Jennifer Saunders and Ade Edmondson.

“They are the industry’s most brilliant comedy duo, and Beattie really has got the comedy bones. She really has inherited her parents’ timing. She has got that great ability to be funny without dialogue. She has the most wonderful mannerisms that just make you laugh and that are so endearing. That’s a very rare thing for somebody to have to that extent.”

Beattie has done TV and stage work, but this will be her big breakthrough role: “We were trying to find somebody who was naturally funny and Mandie said: ‘Beattie is our girl!’ And we all fell in love with her. You have got to have that likeability. Audiences need to root for her and want things to come good for her. And you have to have that relatability, and she really has.”

As for Patrick, he doesn’t get to play Patrick in the film. That would have required an awful lot of animal training and Vanessa wasn’t prepared to lose him for that amount of time. He’s also a black pug, which wouldn’t have been so easy on film.

But he will certainly be going to the premiere…

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