The new Predator prequel Prey is getting the best reviews of the franchise, and no wonder: It’s the kind of resourceful, stripped-down entertainment that rarely gets made these days. There’s a lot to recommend about it: the confident, assured direction from Dan Trachtenberg; the tough-but-vulnerable lead performance from Amber Midthunder; the bloody kills; the inclusion of a Wilhelm Scream. There’s also this: It’s got a great dog performance from Coco, a canine making her screen debut as Sarii, the companion of Midthunder’s Naru. But she also wasn’t the easiest mutt to work with, even if all the headaches she wrought were worth it.
“She was a little bit of a hot mess — but in a sweet way,” Midthunder said of Coco, a Carolina dog believed to have been bred by indigenous people centuries ago. “She was not a movie dog, she was literally adopted to be in this movie, and she just happened to be very high-energy.” Coco was, she said, a “delight to have around,” if not always when the cameras were rolling. “And then it would be time to do stuff… sometimes she’d do it, sometimes she wouldn’t. But obviously, it all ended up fine, because she was great, and everybody loves her.”
Trachtenberg confirmed Midthunder’s descriptions. “Super rambunctious. Very energetic,” he said. “Always a nail-biting moment for us on set, ‘Is Coco gonna like, make her mark and do what she needs to do?’ It was sometimes a journey to get there, but eventually she always did. It was very exciting, lots of cheers would happen when we finally got a great take with Coco.”
Sarii originally wasn’t in Prey that much, but even though she could be a pill during takes, they didn’t wind up cutting down her scenes. “We were trying to get Coco out of scenes but the opposite ended up being true,” Trachtenberg explained, “and we ended up including her more – even in some of the action set-pieces, because I just thought it’d be so fun.”
And so, in the middle of a movie that features loads of CGI animals (like bears and wolves), that’s why you’ve got a real dog giving a performance for the ages, up there with Asta from the Thin Man movies, Toto from The Wizard of Oz, the various Lassies and Benjis, Brandy from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and, of course, its main inspiration: Mad Max’s Australian cattle dog chum from The Road Warrior.