Four-legged actors vie the Oscars
EMRAH GÜLER Hürriyet Daily News
Spielberg's 'War Horse'Playing dead might not be the greatest acting challenge for Meryl Streep or Brad Pitt, but it was no small accomplishment on the part of one four-legged actor. Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier, won the hearts of millions with his role as the sidekick to fading matinee idol George Valentin in this year’s award-sweeper “The Artist” and kick-started discussions around the recognition, or lack thereof, of animals on screen in the process.
Being the social dog that he is, Uggie graced every award show possible, accompanying the proud cast and crew of “The Artist.” At the Golden Globes he took to the stage, distracting many from the acceptance speeches with the “Aws!” he drew from the audience.
Uggie received his own awards this month, snatching both a Golden Collar and a Pawscar, the former recognizing the onscreen work of canines and the latter, animals in general. The Golden Collar Awards, initiated this year by the Dog News Daily website, drew attention when Martin Scorsese wrote a letter to the LA Times, asking readers to start a campaign to include Blackie the Doberman, who played alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in another awards-favorite, “Hugo,” to be included among the nominees.
Blackie’s name was soon on the list that recognized Uggie’s role in two movies, last year’s “Water for Elephants” and Cosmo from the Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer flick “Beginners;” Denver, who played Skeletor in “50/50;” and Hummer with his role in “Young Adult.” Uggie, as expected, won the award, putting it next to his Pawscar for best scene stealer.
The Pawscars are handed out by the American Humane Association each year for best animal performances. The association also oversees the proper treatment of animals on Hollywood’s movie sets. Among the other award winners were the birds in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” for best dressed, Cosmo for best animal speaking role, and “We Bought a Zoo” for best ensemble.
Consider Uggie and Rin Tin Tin
Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier.
A special prize went to “War Horse,” with its 14 horses who played Joey. Try casting 14 actresses to play Margaret Thatcher, and you will know how well deserved the award is. Crystal, the chain-smoking monkey in “The Hangover Part II,” however, was nowhere to be seen in the awards.
The two popular awards, along with Uggie’s rise to global stardom, coincided with calls from such names as Steven Spielberg and James Cromwell to the American Academy to make animals eligible for acting categories. Uggie had already won the Palm Dog, for best performance by a canine, at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Soon, a campaign called Consider Uggie hit the social media, asking the academy to consider Uggie for a Best Supporting Actor award.
To no avail; neither Uggie nor any of the four-legged actors were included in the nominees at this year’s Oscars, sparking debates on the academy’s adamant stance on excluding animal stars. Susan Orlean, biographer of the legendary canine actor of the silent film era, Rin Tin Tin, also began a campaign last year, urging the academy to give the German shepherd a posthumous Oscar. Legend has it that the very first winner of the Best Actor Oscar in 1929, in fact, was Rin Tin Tin. And at the last minute, the award was given to Emil Jannings, a two-legged actor.
Animal Stars: Ms Piggy and Kermit
Setting her plump foot on the issue most recently was another animal star, Miss Piggy. In a press conference, the porcine star voiced her doubts about attending the Oscars next Sunday, “As for going to the Oscars, it’s hard to feel right about going to an event like that where you’re not really welcome.”
Her latest film, “The Muppets,” is among this year’s nominees in Best Song category, and Miss Piggy is expected to present an award with her better half, Kermit.
The last time an animal was at the Academy Awards was in 1998 when Bart the Bear from the movies “Legends of the Fall” and “The Edge” presented the Best Achievement in Sound Effects Editing Oscar. It remains a mystery whether Miss Piggy will acknowledge how the Academy Awards traditionally neglect animal stars, from this year’s impressive line-up to such legendary names as Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Cheetah of the Tarzan movies and Terry, the Cairn terrier better known to the world as Toto in “The Wizard of Oz.”