Tom Flynn Interview: ‘Togo’ writer
“I was struck by the fact that the story was wrong,” exclaims writer Tom Flynn of his new Disney+ film “Togo.” The thrilling movie details the true story of the 1925 Great Race of Mercy in Alaska, and the heroic dog Togo who led the journey. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Many people incorrectly believe that the sled dog who saved the day was Balto. After all, that husky has plenty of accolades, statues, and an animated feature of his own. “Balto is not to be diminished” admits Flynn, but he only completed the final leg of the serum run. Musher Leonhard Seppala (portrayed in the film by Oscar nominee Willam Dafoe), and his dog team led by Togo, ran the majority of the trek through dangerous conditions. Flynn’s film sets out to tell the true tale of this brave canine.
While researching for the script, Flynn explains that Alaskans are eager to set the story straight and give Togo his due. If you ask an Alaskan who the greatest sled dog is, “you can’t get the question completed before someone says Togo,” explains Flynn.
At the center of the story is the emotional connection between stern Seppala and trouble-making Togo. Though the story of the serum run is the main thread, the script frequently cuts back to earlier days when these two opposites formed an unlikely connection. Flynn was able to pull on his own experiences to give that connection real weight. “I had a border collie, half husky rescue dog named Molly,” he describes. While Molly was a “delight,” she was also an expert escape artist just like Togo. When he realized that he knew exactly what this dog was like, the script became “a joy to write.”
The joyous experience of working on “Togo” marks quite the shift for the scribe who had turned his back on Hollywood. Flynn previously only wrote comedy movies, but had bad luck in getting them to the big screen. “I sold them and they didn’t get made,” he explains. He eventually moved to Florida with his wife, but the urge to write new stories never left him. Only now, he wanted to try his hand at drama. The resulting script became the film “Gifted” starring Chris Evans, which “changed everything.”
Flynn’s dramatic work for “Togo” earned him a Writers Guild nomination, which he calls “surreal.” Even more gratifying than that nomination is the excitement and discovery that his new career path presents. “The challenge of writing dramas is a blast,” he exclaims. Having finally found his footing in a stimulating new genre, Flynn thinks he is a prime example of why we should “never quit” on our passions.