Uggie the dog, the nine-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, will accompany his co-stars of the Oscar nominated film, The Artist, to the 2012 Academy Awards. Although the film has been nominated for ten awards, including Best Picture and Actor in a Leading Role, Uggie the dog was not nominated for an award. Some critics believe the skilled canine was snubbed.
The 16-pound dog has risen to fame against unlikely odds. Uggie's first two owners had planned to send him to a pound as they found he was too energetic and wild. Animal trainer Omar Von Muller temporarily adopted Uggie with plans to foster the pup until he found a new home, but he ultimately decided to keep Uggie on as his own.
He was a crazy, very energetic puppy and who knows what would have happened to him if he had gone to the dog pound. But he was very smart and very willing to work, Von Muller told the Daily Telegraph.
With the help of Von Muller, Uggie landed his first roles in commercials. His big break came in 2011 when he played Queenie in Water for Elephants, starring alongside Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.
One of the most important thing[s] is that he was not afraid of things. That is what makes or breaks a dog in the movies, whether they are afraid of lights, and noises and being on sets. He gets rewards, like sausages, to encourage him to perform, but that is only a part of it. He works hard, Von Muller told The Daily Telegraph.
In The Artist, Uggie plays the role of Jack, the best friend of fading silent film star, George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin. Uggie performs most of his own tricks, including flips, but he also has two stunt doubles, Dash and Dude. The stunt doubles were not used often as Uggie was very willing to work on set.
Uggie's trainers reportedly spent three days training the film's star, Jean Dujardin, to teach him the verbal commands and hand signals to use with Uggie during the scenes. Von Muller could also call out commands during filming, if needed, as all background noise was taken out of the silent film and replaced with music.
Following Uggie's performance in The Artist, many critics spoke out in favor of the Jack Russell Terrier. S.T. VanAirsdale, an editor at Movieline, started a campaign known as Consider Uggie on Facebook, hoping to seek recognition for the canine's performance. However, despite the popularity of the Consider Uggie campaign, most organizations hesitated to give Uggie an award.
When a number of members contacted the British Academy of Film and Television Arts to see if they could nominate Uggie for Best Actor, the BAFTA Awards released a statement claiming that: Regretfully, we must advise that as he is not a human being and as his unique motivation as an actor was sausages, Uggie is not qualified to compete for the Bafta in this category.
Trainer Von Muller, however, believes Uggie should be eligible for an award.
People say that dogs in films are just doing what they are told. But an actor is just following the director's orders, Von Muller told the Daily Telegraph. They say that a dog is only working for sausages, but an actor is only doing it for his paycheck.
Uggie did, however, win the Palm Dog Award for best performance by a canine at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and he received a special mention at the Prix Lumiere Awards, the French equivalent of the Golden Globes. He has also been nominated for two Golden Collar Awards by the online magazine, Dog News Daily. The awards ceremony will take place on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles and the proceeds will be given to L.A.-area dog rescue shelters.
Uggie currently resides in North Hollywood with Von Muller, Von Muller's wife and his six-year old daughter. He lives with seven other dogs, all of whom work in Hollywood.
Von Muller told the Daily Telegraph that Uggie will be entering into semi-retirement to avoid working the long hours that were required for a film like The Artist. However, he may play smaller roles in the future.