Who's Hollywood top dog? Stars back Oscar honours for pet actors

Steven Spielberg and other industry luminaries are calling for awards for animal movie performers.

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The Independent Culture

As the two-legged acting fraternity celebrated at the Golden Globes last night, a campaign to honour stars of the four-legged variety was gathering pace.

Centre stage was Uggie, the scene-stealing Jack Russell in The Artist. For while his film garnered six nominations at the Globes, Uggie has yet to receive any official recognition. Hollywood names, including Steven Spielberg – in London for the premiere of his film War Horse last week – and the actor James Cromwell have backed calls to honour animals at the Oscars.

One of the 10 horses to feature in War Horse was on the red carpet at the Leicester Square premiere and has also starred in a Vanity Fair photoshoot. Asked if animals should be recognised at the Oscars, Spielberg replied: “Yes.”

The British Academy of Film and Television wrote to members following enquiries to explain that “regretfully” Uggie could not be considered for Best Supporting Actor “as he is not a human being and his unique motivation as an actor was sausages”.

Gill Raddings, who has trained animals for films such as Sherlock Holmes II and Inception, said: “I'd love to see them honoured – but what the animals are doing is not acting.” A “Consider Uggie” campaign has been started by the website Movieline. It said the terrier had an emotional range that matched his co-stars' and “handily outperforms” Leonardo DiCaprio – nominated for Best Actor for J Edgar. This is not the first controversy over a dog's role at the Oscars. Legend has it that Rin Tin Tin received the most votes for Best Actor at the first Oscars in 1929 but organisers instead gave it to German Emil Jannings.

Susan Orlean, who has written a biography of the dog, insisted: “Rinty received the most votes ... in terms of popularity Rin Tin Tin didn't have a peer.” The German shepherd starred in 27 movies and at his peak earned £30,000 a week, in today's money. Other animals to have won plaudits for recent films have included another Jack Russell, Cosmo, in Beginners, alongside Ewan McGregor, and Crystal, the chain-smoking monkey in The Hangover Part II.

However, Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist, has refrained from jumping on the bandwagon for fear the success could go to Uggie's head. “You know how actors are,” he joked.

Animal magic: The real stars of the silver screen?

Uggie, Jack Russell, The Artist (2011)

The LA-based professional animal trainer Omar Von Muller rescued Uggie as a puppy. Nine-year-old Uggie's film credits include Water For Elephants and Mr Fix It. Von Muller said he loved the campaign to get Uggie an Oscar, adding: "I think it's about time that a dog is recognised. Will it really happen? I doubt it." In an interview Von Muller denied that Uggie was motivated by hot dogs or sausages – he said it was all down to experience and training.

War Horse (2012)

The starring role of Joey in Steven Spielberg's War Horse was played by 10 different horses led by animal trainer Bobby Lovgren. Among those to play the main role were Lovgren's own horse Finder; a horse called Civilon which did most of the riding scenes; and Andy, a two-year-old who played the younger Joey. The film had a team of equine artistic advisers responsible for ensuring that the white markings on Joey's forehead remained consistent.

Crystal, Capuchin monkey, The Hangover Part II (2011)

The perpetual smoking of Crystal in The Hangover movies prompted concerns she had become addicted, something director Todd Phillips denied on the red carpet at the premiere of The Hangover Part II in Hollywood. A 17-year-old veteran of Hollywood, Crystal starred in Doctor Dolittle with Eddie Murphy and Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller and Ricky Gervais.

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