First Look: Robert De Niro's 'Family' Mob dog

05:00 AM, Aug 01, 2013

Canine pal Malavita takes centerstage in one poster for 'The Family,' in theaters Sept. 13, 2013 Relativity Media/


Written By by Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY

As if Robert De Niro returning to the Mob weren’t intimidating enough, he now has canine help.

Meet Malavita, De Niro’s Mob dog sidekick in The Family’ (due out Sept. 13).

The German shepherd is very much part of the former Mob family in the dark comedy starring De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. The two are the head of a Brooklyn household relocated to France as part of the witness protection program.

The family is not complete without the dog,” says director Luc Besson. “He is just like them. He’s a hard-ass. You don’t fool around with this dog.”

Malavita, which means “bad life,” is such a trusted member of the family that De Niro’s character takes his dog everywhere he goes. He often explains his mob-like plans and there’s no fear that Malavita will sing like a canary.

He knows all the secrets, but the dog is the only one in the Mob that will never talk,” says first assistant director Ludovic Bernard. “He is very much the boss after the boss.”

While he’s menacing on film, Malavita was played by a dog named Emeron who was beloved on the set and who sat next to De Niro for most shooting days.

The dog trainer said Robert should be the only one to spend time with him because they wanted them to bond,” says producer Virginie Besson-Silla. “Everyone would stay away and let them have their moment.”

Emeron was also a pro on set, perfectly trained to hit his mark. Bernard says one scene required the dog to walk up to a bunch of logs and urinate on them. The tricky task required weeks of pre-training.

But when we turned on the camera he went straight to the logs where we wanted him and he did his little thing,” says Bernard. “And that was it. One take.”

The gentle dog was also fantastic at looking intimidating on film.

He was very good at that,” says Bernard. “As Malavita he could show some teeth and look very mean.”