Dog day afternoon for Stephen Frears

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The Independent Culture

Our film was out-of-competition at Cannes and it still won a prize," beams Stephen Frears. That prize was the Palm Dog, given to the best canine performer in a movie showing at the Cannes Film Festival. The award-winning dog, a boxer called Albert, steals the show in one of Tamara Drewe's pivotal scenes, setting a herd of cows off on a stampede. It was, says Frears, one of the most hilariously difficult scenes he's ever had to film: "You send the dog into the film and want the dogs to chase the cows, which starts to happen but then after a time the cows turn around and start to chase the dog. It was very funny."

It was a particularly special moment for Frears as the Palm Dog celebrated its 10th birthday this year. The award, brainchild of journalist Toby Rose, with a jury made up of a selection of prominent British film critics and writers, always provides light relief and amusement at the annual French film extravaganza.

This year, runner-up director Michelangelo Frammartino, who made Le Quattro Volte, commonly known as "the goat movie", kept to the spirit of the ceremony when he claimed, "I'd rather win a Palm Dog, than Palm D'Or" before crying into his dog biscuits at being pipped to the post by Frears.

The British film-maker is making something of a habit of winning prizes for the dogs in his films. The corgis that appeared in The Queen swept the board at the inaugural Dog Oscars, The Fidos, in 2007. "With this boxer and the corgis in The Queen, I'm a master of dogs", boasts the director.

In fact, Frears doesn't own a dog. He's really more of a cat person. "The next-door neighbour's cat just hangs around my house," he admits.

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