All Research

How Accurate is Arthur the King? The True Story vs. the Mark Wahlberg Dog Movie


Mark Wahlberg
Born: June 5, 1971
Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Mikael Lindnord
Born: September 24, 1976
Birthplace: Salem, Sweden
Bio: Adventure Racer, Author
Renamed Michael Light in the Movie

Bio: Dog Actor

Death: December 8, 2020, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden (malignant tumor in lower back)

Juliet Rylance
Born: July 26, 1979
Hammersmith, London, England, UK

Helena Lindnord
Birthplace: Sweden
Bio: Mikael Lindnord's Wife

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

Did the real-life race take place in the Dominican Republic?

No. The movie changes the location. In researching the Arthur the King true story, we discovered that the real 435-mile (700-km) endurance race took place in the mountains and jungles of Ecuador in South America. The movie was originally going to be filmed in Puerto Rico but ended up being filmed in the Dominican Republic in January 2021.

Was the real endurance racer an American named Michael Light?

No. The racer who befriended the scrappy dog in real life is Mikael Lindnord, a Swedish adventure racer. The movie changes his name to Michael Light and gives him an American accent. Like in the film, his wife's first name is Helena. She is portrayed by Juliet Rylance (daughter of actor Mark Rylance) in the movie.

Inset: Arthur and Mikael Lindnord are pictured during the 2014 adventure race in Ecuador. Photos: Krister Göransson | Lionsgate

Is Arthur the King based on a book?

Yes. The Mark Wahlberg dog movie is based on Swedish adventure racer Mikael Lindnord's non-fiction book Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home that was published in May 2016. Mark Wahlberg, who stars in the movie and also served as a producer, did not learn of the story from Lindnord's book. He first became aware of the story from an ESPN segment that described how Lindnord and Arthur the dog met.

When did the real-life adventure race take place?

A fact-check reveals that the events that unfold in the Arthur the King movie starring Mark Wahlberg happened in real life during the World Championships in Ecuador in 2014. The movie changes the location to the Dominican Republic.

What was the name of Mikael Lindnord's adventure racing team?

The real-life team was named Team Peak Performance after the Swedish jacket company that sponsored them. Lindnord was the captain of the team.

Is Mikael Lindnord's team represented accurately in the movie?

No. While the makeup of the team is correct, three men and one woman, the movie changes both the ethnic backgrounds and names of the team members. In real life, Team Peak Performance was all white. It was made up of three Swedish competitors, Mikael Lindnord, Staffan Björklund, and Simon Niemi, and one American, Karen Lundgren. In the movie, Karen becomes a biracial female named Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel), who appears to be mostly fictional. Staffan and Simon are replaced by racers of Asian and Arab descent, Leo (Simu Liu) and Chik (Ali Suliman), who share little resemblance to the two real-life men.

In real life (top), Team Peak Performance consisted of racers (from left to right) Mikael Lindnord, Staffan Björklund, Karen Lundgren, and Simon Niemi. They are significantly altered for the film (bottom), with Mark Wahlberg's character being the only one that has a direct real-life counterpart. Photos: ARWS | Lionsgate

Was Arthur the dog injured when he met Mikael Lindnord and the team?

Yes. Like in the movie, the real Arthur had a large infected wound on his back. It was obvious he had been badly mistreated.

Did Arthur start following the team after Mikael gave him meatballs?

Yes. Mikael threw the scruffy stray dog some of his meatballs on the afternoon of day four of the race at a biking-to-trekking transition area. When his team left the transition area, Mikael and his teammates realized that the scroungy, injured dog was following them. "The dog was following us like 20 meters or something behind us," Mikael told ESPN. "And then I looked back again, then I saw that dog is coming closer and closer." The dog would remain with the team for the rest of the race.

Did Mikael name the dog Arthur during the race?

Yes. According to teammate Staffan Björklund, Mikael came up with the name Arthur in the jungle. He tried out a lot of names, but then he said, "What about King Arthur?"

"Even if he was wounded and really damaged, he still had this aura around him," Mikael told ESPN. "So, I think he deserved the name Arthur. Like a king."

How similar is the real Arthur to the dog in the movie?

In an Instagram post, Mikael Lindnord commented on the uncanny similarities that exist between the dog actor Ukai and the real Arthur. "Ukai and Arthur look incredibly similar, like twins," wrote Lindnord. "It's not only the look, they walk the same and both have the same extreme calm and spiritual wisdom."

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord are pictured in real life (top) and as depicted by Ukai and Mark Wahlberg in the movie (bottom). Photos: Krister Göransson | Lionsgate

Did Arthur save the team from going off a cliff?

No. The cliff scene is a dramatized depiction of a detail mentioned in the book. In real life, the team was traversing the jungle when they went in the wrong direction at a fork after they read their GPS wrong. Unbeknownst to them, they ended up walking within about ten feet (three meters) from the edge of a sheer 65-foot (20-meter) cliff. While it's true that Arthur never strayed more than a few meters from Mikael Lindnord, the dog never spotted the cliff and growled at the team to stop their progress and save their lives. The book states that the team was never aware until later that they had gotten that close to a cliff. Fortunately, they scrambled to a trail and headed downhill. The cliff was something that the team back home, including Mikael's wife Helena, had spotted on their computer screens after the team had gotten off course.

Did they bring Arthur into their kayaks?

Yes. The race marshalls told them that they couldn't take Arthur along on the last leg of the race, which involved kayaking 34 miles across water for roughly 14 hours. Team Peak Performance agreed and planned to leave Arthur behind. However, Arthur had other plans and started swimming out into the water after them, not wanting to be left behind.

According to the team's Facebook page, "Mike, Simon, Staffan and Karen put their kayaks down in the water and set off, but Arthur refused to be left and started swimming. This was too heartbreaking for the team, and Mikael helped Arthur up in the kayak. This led to standing ovations from everyone on the shore, seeing the five (!) teammates set off."

Top: Arthur refuses to be left behind and swims out to one of the kayaks being used by Team Peak Performance. Bottom: Ukai as Arthur in the movie tags along in one of the kayaks.

What place did Team Peak Performance finish at the 2014 race in Ecuador?

According to the team, after six days and 435 miles, they "crossed the finish line with 5 members instead of 4 as the 12th top team in the world." Of course, the fifth member of their team was Arthur, who started to tag along with them on day four of the world championship race.

Did Mikael Lindnord take Arthur home with him back to Sweden after the race?

Yes. In determining how accurate Arthur the King is, we confirmed that Mikael Lindnord, who is renamed Michael Light in the film, did adopt Arthur after the race and took him home with him. The Ecuadorian team had heard about the dog and came up to Mikael's team after the race, telling them, "You guys realize that if you don't bring the dog back, he will be killed here? It's the culture here." Mikael soon called his wife, Helena, and told her, "I think I want to take him home."

It wasn't an easy process to get Arthur 6,455 miles to Sweden. It was also uncertain whether the badly injured dog would survive. The team launched a Twitter campaign to raise money to bring Arthur home. He was in desperate need of veterinary attention to treat the large infected wounds on his back that he had suffered in the months prior to meeting the team. In addition, Arthur would have to remain in the dog quarantine in Stockholm for 120 days before he could go live with the Lindnord Family in Örnsköldsvik, which is located 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Arthur eventually made it home in the spring of 2015 and became a family pet and Mikael's close companion. Mikael has written three books inspired by Arthur, including the 2016 bestseller Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home.

Did Mikael Lindnord retire after the 2014 race depicted in the movie?

No. Though he knew his nearly two-decade-long racing career was coming to an end, Mikael competed in the 2015 Adventure Racing World Championship in Brazil.

Is Arthur the dog still alive?

No. Sadly, during our research into the Arthur the King true story, we learned that the real dog Arthur passed away at 11:48 a.m. on December 8, 2020, six weeks before filming began on the movie. In an Instagram post, Mikael Lindnord described Arthur's final days. "Everything went so quickly and in more or less one week he stopped eating and drinking by himself, but the x-ray didn't say anything and neither did test and blood samples either. But the veterinarians that examined him weren't happy with the test and his reactions. We moved to a bigger veterinarian hospital, he got an IV, and they tried everything all over again. But he got worse and worse every day. The veterinarians fought all the way to the end. Arthur died of a malignant tumor situated in his lower back."

Michael Lindnord is pictured with his wife Helena, their two children, and their dog Arthur. Photo: Joakim Norenius

Was Mikael Lindnord involved in the making of Arthur the King?

Yes. Mark Wahlberg wanted Arthur the King to be as accurate as possible, so he involved Lindnord in the filmmaking process to get his input, particularly on how to depict adventure racing in a movie. Despite his own dedication to fitness, Wahlberg said that the movie was his "toughest shoot ever."

"I wanted the movie to look real," Lindnord told ARWS, "and I trained the actors so they moved and acted like adventure racers. We did it for real." Wahlberg was injured on the first day of filming, but he refused to shut down the production and pressed on.