Nick Nolte and Paul Mazursky Reminisce About Mike the Dog
The Two Talk About the Scene Stealing Scottish Border Collie from ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills‘
By Ben Kenber
September 1, 2011
As great as Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bette Midler were in Paul Mazursky’s “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” they were almost completely upstaged by Mike the Dog. If there was ever an animal in movie history that deserved an Oscar, it was Mike. Forget Benji, Rin Tin Tin, and Lassie, Mike had them all beat in portraying the nasty and incredibly neurotic Scottish border collie Matisse. His reactions to his owners the Whiteman family and his affection for Jerry Baskin made him as much a character as anyone else in this classic comedy. Mazursky and Nolte were enthusiastic in telling stories about Mike when they appeared at the Aero Theatre on August 14, 2011 for the movie’s 25th anniversary screening.
One memorable scene had Nolte on his knees trying to get Matisse to eat his dog food by eating it with him. Determined to see this through, Nolte said he went to a nearby grocery store and bought all different kinds of dog food mostly of the meat variety. When he started dispensing it into different bowls however, he noticed to the side that there were other dog bowls filled with peas and corn. Nolte went up to Mike’s trainer Clint Rowe and asked why these bowls were out. Rowe replied:
“Mike’s a vegetarian.”
Mazursky had even more stories to tell about Mike and the big star that he was. Reminiscing about an Air France jet he flew on to Europe, he saw Mike sitting in first class and reading a magazine (he didn’t remember which one). People ended up making their way up to first class just to see him. Things got even more bizarre when Mazursky got off the plane. There were photographers out in full force at the gate. Mazursky said he greeted them kindly, but they went right past him to shoot pictures of Mike.
Things reached a final straw when Mazursky went up to his hotel room and found that he was not in room 704 but 804. Guess who was there to greet him when he opened the door? That’s right, Mike. At that point, Mazursky looked him dead in the eye and said:
Mike complied and ran off.
Mike went on to play Matisse in the short-lived TV version of “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and appeared in various commercials. He has since passed away and is hanging out with Spuds McKenzie and that Taco Bell Chihuahua in doggie heaven. But his talent has never been lost on anyone who watched him in the 1986 comedy let alone those who helped make it. Even during dallies, film editor Richard Halsey kept telling Mazursky:
“That f***ing dog is stealing the movie!”