Meet Wiley: Our Newest and Youngest Cast Member!

by Sean Gates

May 12th, 2012 - Nearly a week ago I drove an hour to Garrisonville, Virginia, to meet face-to-face with Glenda Lewis and her dog, Wiley. I'd never met either of them before, but Glenda and I had been exchanging e-mails for a little while and we were close to bringing Wiley onboard as Toto. Little remained but a verification of Wiley's bag of tricks, and a handshake with Glenda. Yeah, her name's almost Glinda. Her e-mail address is Oz-centric, too. It's that correct, somehow.

Wiley is a six year old Cairn Terrier, brindle-coated and bright-eyed with a very distinctive red moustache. His owner Glenda is auburn-haired and compact, and has a surprisingly authoritative presence --less surprising when I learn that she is a teacher, an Army brat and an Army wife. Perhaps ideal traits in the owner of a dog you're thinking of putting in your movie: Wiley is a well-trained and healthy little dog.

I'm not going to lie. It was sort of a surprise how many people asked about Toto's lack of presence on our website and Facebook. Not that we didn't want to have him there, but nobody asked about the other non-represented cast members. It was mildly perplexing, is the point I'm making. But I get it...dogs are good. Everybody knows that. It's one of those universal truths like "fire burns" and "grocery stores are awful."

There's an epic tale behind the search for Toto. It begins way back in 2009. As you all know by now, we found Mariellen Kemp mostly by not looking, and headed into a summer shoot for which we were largely unprepared in order to film with her while she was still the appropriate age for the role. So we had not had time to locate a Toto, or indeed even start looking for one. A week into filming, we received an e-mail from an interested party in Texas, who asked if we were the Oz film set to star Anne Hathaway as Dorothy. I'm guessing they didn't look at our website beyond the "contact" button. Even stranger, to date no such film exists or has ever theoretically existed. We tried to work something out with them, but they seemed not to understand exactly how indie we are, and "negotiations" broke down quickly.

Flash forward to 2010. I began communications with a local organization called the Potomac Cairn Terrier Club. After my initial e-mail I got a couple of responses, one from a man whom I shall not name, but who promised to help me find a Toto for our film. After a few e-mails and a couple of phone conversations, all I could get out of him was a vague promise to help "when the time is right."

2011. Clayton and I were gearing up for a summer shoot involving the Wicked Witch of the West, the Good Witch of the North and Glinda's Royal Guard. We hoped to do as much filming as we could that summer, and as such one of the things I did in preparation was to talk to my Cairn Terrier contact. The same vague promises were offered, and when I told him what the timeline was, he quickly backed out, said he didn't know anybody who could help me, and just like that I was back to square one.

WoofDenslow was a good artist, but Wiley is much more handsome than the drawing...

And this brings us to 2012. I went back to the PCTC website and contacted Roberta Perry, a Virginia-based Cairn breeder with whom I had made brief e-mail contact in 2010. Roberta was kind and extremely helpful, and after a few back and forth discussions, she managed to open up a dialogue between me and a couple of different Cairn owners, including a lovely woman named Mary with a playful little Cairn called Max. But in the end Toto would come from one of Roberta's friends, Glenda Lewis. Roberta is the owner of Glenayr Kennels in Locust Grove, VA, and six years ago one of her dogs, a brindle pup, was destined for the show ring. But due to circumstances beyond her control, she was unable to devote the time to campaigning him and at nine months old that pup, Wiley, went to live with Glenda Lewis and her family.

As soon as I began communicating with Glenda I had a good feeling. I mean, her name is almost Glinda, and she's got that Ozzy e-mail address. If you're the kind of person who looks for signs, that's a pretty clear one. Her interest in, and enthusiasm for the project was the real selling point, though: the idea of her dog in an Oz film seems to genuinely appeal to her. Then there's Wiley himself: lighter in color than Toto is normally portrayed, but with his face being a different color from his body, he recalls W.W. Denslow's illustrations, which is obviously a selling point for us. His personality is a fit for Toto, as well, and that character shows clearly in his eyes. So the three of us -- Glenda, Wiley, and I -- agreed to meet in Garrisonville; and that, friends, is how we came to cast Wiley as Toto in our film.

For more on Wiley, you can view his bio on our cast page.

Skritch his fuzzy face on our forums.

How would that even work?