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A Christmas Gift From Bob is the feel-good film of the festive season, seeing The Big Issue’s favourite feline, Street Cat Bob, returning to the silver screen.
The movie sees Bob and his pet human James Bowen, played by British actor Luke Treadaway, in London at Christmas time. Without giving too much away, we know the story revolves around the authorities becoming concerned about Bob’s well-being on the streets and attempting to remove him from his famous perch on James’s shoulder.
It is based on the real-life story of James and Bob, who met when James was busking and selling the Big Issue in London before writing a string of best-selling books and being the subject of 2016’s family film A Street Cat Named Bob.
Bob sadly died over the summer but not before the makers of A Christmas Gift From Bob could reflect on working with the real star of the show.
Here’s what James, Luke and director Charles Martin Smith had to say.
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Seven cats are involved in the filming – but there’s only one Bob
Every star has their stand-ins and stunt doubles, someone to finish the final shots at the end of a long day while the top cat relaxes in their (litter) trailer. Bob is no different.
“We have a group of seven cats who are playing the role of Bob,” said director Charles Martin Smith, “and they all have different abilities and personalities.
“So if you want Bob to be a little more playful in the scene you use one of the more playful and energetic cats. That’s kind of the trick to making films with animals.”
“The other cats will be used mainly for running, jumping, playing dead, things like that,” said James. “But Bob will always be doing his own beauty shots.”
Bob does all his own close-up work
There’s no one else quite like the big ginger tom, so the film-makers wouldn’t dream of having another cat take his place for the closer shots.
“Bob does all his own close-up work,” said James, “and he’s going to be doing a lot of the outdoor location stuff because he’s more comfortable riding on the shoulders and sitting by someone’s feet while busking and stuff like that.”
Besides, Bob’s naturally relaxed demeanour meant he was never going to be fazed by the fuss and bother of a film set.
“Bob is an amazing and remarkable cat,” said Charles. “There’s a reason why he’s such a well-known and famous cat and I think it’s because he’s very mellow and he’s very chill.”
Street Cat Bob is a natural in front of the camera
We’ve all heard the showbiz saying “never work with children or animals”. But unlike the catty divas of the Hollywood hills, Bob never got his claws out.
“He’s a very self-composed, dignified cat,” said Charles. “He’s got a real personality and it’s great to have him on set.
“I’ve done a number of films with animals and one of the things you have to be aware of is that they’re not actors, they don’t know they’re in a film they can’t understand those things. Having a cat on set, or any animal on set, the main thing you have to consider is the safety and wellbeing of the animal.
“Bob really is a very natural cat,” he added.
Luke Treadaway spends the most time with Bob on screen but said there was no need for extra training.
“Bob is trained by his own life experiences,” he said. “He is very used to being up on the shoulders through his past with James. He’s just used to those things, so he’s very good at being on a shoulder and jumping on and jumping off.
“Some of the other cats have been more traditionally trained to go to a buzzer to get a bit of food but for the walking around on shoulders, Bob is the man.“
Bob has his own groupies – called Bobbites
Bob has earned an international fanbase since the first film, A Street Cat Named Bob, hit cinemas in 2016. Since then he’s toured the world with James to make sure his adoring fans all get to meet him.
“Whether it be a book signing, or a premier in Tokyo, or a trip around Lisbon to meet fans, or going to a cat sanctuary. Wherever we are in the world, Bob knows that when he’s with me he’s safe, and he knows he’s always the centre of attention because everybody loves Bob.”
Some people love Bob so much, in fact, that they’ve formed their own group, called Bobbites, who send presents, treats, drawings and fan mail.
“Lots of treats always come for Bob,” said James. “People always knit scarves. We get some lovely drawings and paintings. Lots of wonderful gifts come from all over, some of them strange and some of them bizarre.
“There’s a group of fans called the ‘Bobbites’ and one of them knits these little James and Bob dolls… They are very creative, some of the fans.”
The story of Street Cat Bob is so popular because it’s relatable
What’s the secret to Bob’s success? The best-selling books and films are adored around the world because people see their own lives and struggles in the story, and the positivity pets can bring, said the stars.
“It’s a funny thing about the popularity of James and Bob,” said Charles. “I think it comes from everybody being able to really recognise that bond between man and animal, and so many people who have pets really understand it.
“They get it that the bond is such an important part of your life and an emotional part of your life. The emotional bond between the two of them is so strong, and so poignant, and so pure, I think that’s what gives these characters their appeal. “
“It’s the story of two beings that are both down on their luck and struggling,” said Luke. “They find each other, and through that relationship, they both find a better future for themselves.
“It’s a very classic story of two people coming together and helping each other. Bob is not a person obviously, he’s a cat, but that story is familiar and one which shows how we can find strength in those around us to better our situation.”
A Christmas Gift From Bob is scheduled for release in UK cinemas and online on November 6 2020.
Image credit: Lionsgate UK