Uggie, left, from the film “The Artist,” and his shy brother Dash arrive at the first annual Golden Collar Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, 2012. Both wear custom-made tuxedos sans pants. (Matt Sayles – AP)
People love dogs.
People love movies.
Thus, people love dogs in movies.
At this weekend’s Oscars, one dog is set to become top dog amidst the multitude of breeds that have graced the screen since collies immortalized Lassie and solidified their dominance as the divas of cinematic canines.
Academy Award nominee Christopher Plummer (left) and Ewan McGregor (right) star as father and son in writer/director Mike Mills’s “Beginners.” Cosmo keeps them company. (Focus Features)
There are many reasons why this smart and agile breed of dog has surpassed Pomeranians, Poodles and even the all-American Golden Retriever (the dumb blonde of dog actors) to star in not one, but two Oscar-nominated films this year.
For one, they’re unhappily unemployed.
Jack Russells were historically bred for the British tradition of fox hunting, but that sport isn’t in high demand in the United States. Since these diligent hunting dogs are born to work long hours, go weeks without food and do exactly what their masters tell them to do, it was only natural for them to make the leap from hunting to acting, where the beautiful and tenacious succeed with the right training.
“Jack Russells are highly intelligent dogs, and they’re bred to work,” said Catherine Brown, chairwoman of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and author of three books on the breed. “They’re very willful, and have a lot of drive. Once they’re trained, which can be difficult, they’re very loyal and hardworking if there’s something in it for them.”
Uggie visits the Empire State Building with his trainer Omar von Muller on Jan. 24. (Andy Kropa – GETTY IMAGES)
Like hot dogs. Bacon. The simple pleasures, really. Which is why on “Ellen,” for instance, the delightful Uggie from “The Artist” didn’t mind skateboarding across stage in exchange for a whopping seven pieces of vegan cheese for just two minutes of performing.
Alongside Uggie, Cosmo of “Beginners” became the scene-stealing sidekick of cinema this season, helping his two-legged friend Christopher Plummer win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Both pups helped solidify Oscar nominations for their films, making these Jacks so popular that their human colleagues even manufactured a Team Jacob-v.-Edward-style feud between the duo.
“They are great performance dogs,” Brown said. “They have a sense of humor and need mental exercise. They don’t like to be bored and they’re fiercely loyal to their owners.”
Kelsey Grammer, in his ninth year in the title role of the NBC sitcom “Frasier,” posing with Frasier’s father’s dog, Eddie. The 16-year-old Jack Russell, whose real name was Moose, died of old age in 2006. (BILL REITZEL – ASSOCIATED PRESS)
And that loyalty shows on screen. Moose, the Jack who played Frasier’s father’s beloved dog, Eddie, in the eponymous sitcom, won the part after only six months of training and became one of the enduring stars of the show. He became so popular he even received his own cover story on Entertainment Weekly in 1993.
Frankie Munoz in “My Dog Skip” with Enzo, son of Moose. (Getty Images)
But as with all Hollywood stars there are perks and nepotism. Moose is the father of Enzo, the star of “My Dog Skip,” who stole hearts co-starring with a young Frankie Munoz. Moose, who died in 2006, spent the last six years of his life in retirement with another screen starlet, Jill, the Brussels Griffon from “As Good As It Gets,” proving that it’s good to be top dog in Hollywood.
Uggie the dog snubbed by the Oscars
Uggie, the canine star of “The Artist”, won’t be taking part in the Oscars or appearing on the red carpet next week, despite having won the hearts of millions of moviegoers.
“Uggie has not been asked to participate or appear at the Oscars,” a spokesperson for The Weinstein Company, distributors of “The Artist”, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Without an official invitation or credential, the playful Jack Russell terrier, 10, will not be able to romp with other stars on the Oscar red carpet as the silent film front-runner vies for the movie industry’s highest honours.
And contrary to some press reports, Uggie has not been rehearsing an Oscar skit with host Billy Crystal, sources close to the ceremony said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the annual Oscars, did not return a request for comment.
But Uggie has at least one trophy in his own right to add to his own Facebook page and Twitter account.
On Monday night, the cute sidekick fought off a stiff challenge from Blackie the Doberman – the star of director Martin Scorsese’s family film “Hugo” – to win the inaugural Golden Collar Award for best dog in a theatrical film.
Uggie turned up with a resume of tricks and a red bow tie at a ceremony in Los Angeles to accept the honour, bestowed by the online magazine Dog News Daily.
“People don’t realise how many hours we put into training these dogs into becoming movie stars, so I’m very happy that this is happening,” Uggie’s trainer, Omar von Muller, told Reuters at the red carpet ceremony.
Scorsese, who had fought a successful campaign to get Blackie’s name added as a late entry to the Golden Collar ballot, was graceful in defeat.
“I realise Blackie has a lot going against her, especially when you play the anti-hero,” Scorsese said, with just a small whimper, in a video message for the Golden Collar Awards.
It was not immediately known if Blackie had also been snubbed with a non-invite to the Oscars. Uggie, the canine star of “The Artist”, won’t be taking part in the Oscars or appearing on the red carpet next week, despite having won the hearts of millions of moviegoers.