What Just Happened?

Based on true tales of bitter Hollywood moguls, powerful film producer Ben (Robert De Niro) has to deal with ruthless studio executives and stubborn actors in order to get his next big picture deal approved, all while finishing the editing stages of his most recent film, which is heading for disaster.

  • Starring: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn
  • Director(s): Barry Levinson
  • Producer(s): Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal
  • Screenwriter(s): Art Linson
  • Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
  • Animal Coordinator: Birds and Animals Unlimited
  • Release Date: Friday, October 17, 2008

Featured Animal Action


In the film that Ben (Robert De Niro) is editing and market-testing, Sean Penn’s character has an American bulldog. The dog gets out of a car and walks with Sean as the car pulls away. A trainer hid on the floor in the back seat of the stationary car, released the dog and cued it to exit the car. The dog was then cued to “go with” the actor while the well-rehearsed driver drove in the opposite direction. The actor had been instructed on the dog’s proper handling and had given the dog treats moments before filming to entice the dog to follow him.


The dog stares at a gunman right before  he appears to shoot the dog in the head. A trainer made eye contact with the dog and cued him to stay. The trainer stood on a ladder to give the dog the eye line of the gunman.


Later, the dog licks the bloody wounds on Sean’s face and neck. Trainers placed baby food on the actor’s face and neck and cued the dog to lick it while the actor played dead. For the take in which the actor laughed and petted the dog, trainers allowed the animal to react naturally to the actor playing around and petting him. Trainers cued the dog to bark a few times.


During the film premiere at Cannes, the dog from the Sean Penn film hangs out on the red carpet. Before filming, a costumed trainer placed the leashed dog on its mark and stood by it, allowing it time to familiarize itself with the actors milling about on the red carpet. Once the dog was accustomed to the people, the costumed trainer held the dog’s leash and walked around near the other actors. The trainer stayed right next to the leashed dog while reporters and photographers interviewed and took pictures of the dog. The dog was on a leash and with a trainer during the entire scene.


Due to late notification or limited resources, American Humane did not monitor some of the dog action.



The birds flying in the sky during the gravel factory scenes just happened to enter the scene and were filmed in their natural habitat.


What Just Happened? does not carry the American Humane disclaimer at the end of the film because the production did not give American Humane a pre-release screening of the film, which is one of the requirements for issuing the disclaimer