EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - The true life story of Marshall, an abused and neglected yellow Labrador, is something out of a Hollywood movie. And, stars like Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie, Scary Movie), Matthew Settle (Gossip Girl, Band of Brothers), Lauren Holly (NCIS, Dumb and Dumber), and Sinbad, are helping to bring his story to the big screen.
Shooting began this week in Edwardsville, Illinois.
NewsChannel 5 has been following Marshall's story for four years when the Humane Society of Missouri rescued him and 60 other animals from an animal hoarder.
Marshall arrived at the St. Louis facility near death. In fact, veterinarian Dr. Steven Schwartz said it was the worst case of neglect he had ever seen. Bite marks left a hole in Marshall's cheek the size of a tennis ball. His front leg was so mangled doctors had to amputate. His injuries were so severe, Marshall's heart stopped three times on the operating table. His will to live is why those at the Humane Society started calling him the miracle dog.
Fast forward to Tuesday in Edwardsville where production of the Marshall movie is underway.
"This is the best day of my life," shouted Cynthia Willenbrock. She adopted Marshall, cared for him after the amputation, then quit her job to write a children's book on his life's story.
The movie, now being shot in the metro east, is based on that book.
"It's about that whole message of kindness to animals, kindness to each other, kindness in general," said Willenbrock.
It's why big stars like Shannon Elizabeth signed on.
"I read the script and I fell in love. I was crying all through the script," said Elizabeth.
Most of the movie will be filmed in the Metro East. According to director Jay Kanzler, Illinois not only has beautiful locations, but it makes better financial sense.
"Unfortunately, Missouri has somewhat turned its back on film making and has made it much more difficult to secure tax credits and Illinois is much more film friendly in that respect," said Kanzler.
NewsChannel 5 reached out to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's office to comment but were told no comment would be coming on the film tax credit issue.
Back on location, our cameras rolled as Marshall met Max, the 1-year-old Lab who will play him in the movie. Let's just say there were lots of tails wagging!
Paws for Effect, from Los Angeles trained Max and Spartacus, a 165 pound bull mastiff. Spartacus plays the canine bully, but was so gentle, they had to train him to growl.
Max has learned how to limp and lower his head to look sad, just like Marshall did before he was rescued.
Between providing treats, his trainer said while this is his first movie, Max is already a pro.
The book and now the movie are just the beginning. A Character Education Curriculum has been designed based on Marshall's story. Its goal is to empower high school juniors and seniors to serve as peer-to-peer mentors; they share Marshall's 5 Cornerstones—Empathy, Strength, Courage, Kindness, Forgiveness—with middle and elementary school classrooms.