In the 2002 romantic comedy, Maid in Manhattan, a single mom and hotel staffer played by Jennifer Lopez finds true love in a dog-loving politician, played by Ralph Fiennes. And what brings these two together? A 90-pound Weimaraner named Rufus. That’s just on screen though. Off screen, Rufus, who acts under his actual name, would contend that Jennifer’s heart belongs to him (Ben Shmen!). While their off-screen chemistry was fantastic, what actually landed Rufus the role was knowing who to sleep with. He belongs to the film’s producer, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and her husband Daniel Thomas. Maid in Manhattan was Rufus’ first film, and he’s certainly making an A-list debut.
“No marriages have ever been initiated by Rufus,” Thomas admits, “that’s just in the movies.” When asked about the life of a Hollywood dog, Thomas says, “It’s a rigorous schedule. He shot 26 days, participating in 1/3 of the film, but he loves to work!” To prepare for this feat, Rufus’ trainer, Neta Eres, an animal behaviorist, helped him find his acting range.
He learned to bark on cue amongst many commands signaled by unique waves of the hand (although I witnessed Rufus planting an off-camera unrequited lick on Stanley Tucci, who played the assemblyman’s (Fiennes’) campaign manager and dog-skeptic in the film).
Filet Mignon from Campagna is Rufus’ great motivator – like a carrot for a rabbit, Rufus will do anything for a high-priced steak. Recently deceased Natasha Richardson, who had co-starred in the movie, knew of his food passion firsthand. When the script called for some un-gentlemanly sniffing (something Thomas assured me that Rufus “just does not do”), they coaxed out the improper in the dog by making Richardson’s dress strategically ‘au jus.’
Despite all the attention Rufus got throughout the filming from the cast and crew, he has decided that a change in career is on the horizon. “What he really wants to do,” explains Elaine, “is direct!”
Check out Rufus, his Dalmatian friend Oakley, and the older Golden lab in his life, Fluff (it’s a May/December thing), along with Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins, Stanley Tucci, and Natasha Richardson in Maid in Manhattan on DVD.