'The Theory of Everything' costars and their 'Aeronauts' director Tom Harper recall working with a fake dog on the set of their thrilling hot air balloon adventure movie

By Joey Nolfi
September 08, 2019 at 11:45 AM EDT

At first glance, The Theory of Everything costars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones‘ onscreen reunion in the hot air balloon-centered thriller The Aeronauts seems like a picturesque journey into the sun-kissed skies — that is until, several minutes into the film, Jones flings an adorable dog out of the aircraft’s basket as a shocked crowd gasps in horror several hundred feet below.

Luckily, the script called for the dog to be saved by a small parachute attached to its rump. Even more fortunate for the Oscar-nominated actress, it wasn’t a real dog at all, as the actors and director Tom Harper tell EW at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“We had three dogs: a real dog, who was lovely, then we had a stunt dog, which was actually very expensive,” Harper says, adding that a CGI dog was used to complete the scene as well, while Redmayne — who won an Academy Award for playing Stephen Hawking opposite Jones in The Theory of Everything — clarifies: “A stunt dog, just to be clear, is not a real dog trained in stunts, it’s a stuffed dog that is made literally hair by hair to look like the star dog.”

Amazon Studios

With a laugh, Jones likens the stuffed animal to “a huge teddy bear,” while Redmayne fondly recalls training himself to act opposite an inanimate object for the scene: “I had to do quite a lot of drama school acting with the stunt dog pretending it was running in and out!”

The tense moment captures the dynamic between the film’s central characters in a reality-based tale chronicle of famed meteorologist James Glaisher’s (Redmayne) aerial research throughout the late 1800s alongside Amelia Wren (Jones), his fiercely loyal copilot (and fictional character created specifically for the film) who harbors a penchant for science as much as she does being a showgirl (hence the canine antics).

Inspired by several of Glashier’s aerial excursions — particularly with fellow aeronaut Henry Coxwell (whom Wren replaces in the film) — Aeronauts examines the pair’s precarious airborne quest to study the earth’s natural patterns from the sky as they attempt to travel higher than any human before them in a massive balloon — an event Wren clearly wants to publicize as a meeting of science and spectacle to generate interest their work, while the no-nonsense Glaishier anchors his approach in curmudgeonly determination.

Following The Aeronauts‘ Toronto Film Festival debut tonight, the film soars into theaters on Dec. 6 via Amazon Studios. Watch a portion of EW’s TIFF interview with Redmayne, Jones, and Harper above, and stay tuned to EW.com for more coverage on the film closer to its theatrical bow.

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