Дженнифер Энистон Ben Hyland, in 'Marley' with Jennifer Aniston

belinda1 posted on Jan 09, 2009 at 12:42PM

Ben Hyland saw "Marley & Me" the same way many Long Islanders did. His dad bought tickets on Fandango, and they headed to the UA Westbury Stadium 12 the day after Christmas.

What made the outing unusual is that Ben, 6, was watching himself onscreen opposite the mischievous Labrador retriever famously declared "the world's worst dog" by author John Grogan in his 2005 bestseller. Ben, a Manhasset first-grader, plays middle child Conor Grogan at age 5 in the film adaptation, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.

If you've seen "Marley," Ben is the one who delivers a laugh-winning line to screen mom Aniston, who has just given birth to a (somewhat unanticipated) third child: "Daddy said her name was 'Whoops.'" As John and Ben exited the theater, an elderly woman walked over and asked Ben for his autograph.

MARLEY & BEN Ben is the eldest of three boys. His brothers are Jack, 4, and Colin, 1. For half his life, Ben has studied acting with Ann Graf, founder of The Actor's Garage, a Manhasset-based franchise. About a year ago, Graf passed along a flyer about the "Marley" casting call, encouraging John and Amy Hyland to send Ben on the audition. A few days later, Graf phoned with another push.

Amy remembers prodding Ben after his five-minute tryout. "How did it go?" "Good." "What happened?" "Nothing." "Marley & Me" became Ben's first (and so far only) professional gig.

BEN & JEN Ask Ben if he's heard of a TV show called "Friends," and you get a polite "No." Amy was on set with Aniston in Florida. For one scene, Ben spent three-plus hours in a pool, wearing floaties - a long time to tread water, even for an energetic kid. After the wrap, recalls Amy, "Jennifer Aniston looked at me and said, 'I think he's not feeling so well.'"

BEN & OWEN Owen Wilson was a more familiar figure, thanks to family favorites such as "Night at the Museum" and "Cars." When Ben met Wilson, he said, "You sound like Lightning McQueen," the hotshot rookie race car of the animated comedy.

BEN'S PETS You won't find a dog in the Hyland household because of family allergy issues. Instead, Ben tends to two hamsters, Moon Scar and Rhino. Moon Scar got his name from the shape of his eyes. Rhino is an homage to the TV-obsessed hamster of the movie "Bolt."

SO WHAT ABOUT POOCHES? Ben has mixed feelings about canines. What does he like? "That they're cute and furry." What doesn't he like? "They bark loud." Although 22 different yellow Labs were employed to make "Marley," Ben worked mostly with one, Clyde. Boy and dog didn't interact much. On set one afternoon, Ben wandered near Clyde with a sandwich. "He growled." jenniferjoanneaniston.com

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