(LOS ANGELES-AFP) – He won a canine version of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival — and Uggie the dog was back in the spotlight as “The Artist” scooped top prizes at the Oscars on Sunday.
But now the trick-performing, life-saving Jack Russell is hanging up his dog collar, said his trainer, adding that the four-legged star has earned his right to a relaxed retirement after helping the silent-film to Oscars glory.
“He has always had the talent to do this and much more,” said Omar Van Muller, the nearly 10-year-old dog’s Colombian manager.
“Lots of the things he did weren’t in the script,” he told AFP. “But he did them because he knew how to, and the director used them in the movie,” he added.
Uggie has long been able to walk and perform tricks, but toiled in anonymity for most of his life before landing the plum role in “The Artist,” about a silent era movie star struggling to adapt to the “talkies.”
All that changed when he appeared in Cannes last year — and was awarded the Palm Dog, an informal canine version of the Palme d’Or, to go with the honors showered on the French-directed movie.
He joined the film’s stars on red carpets at festivals around Europe, and as Hollywood’s awards festival got underway repeated his tricks over the other side of the Atlantic.
Then last month he won a Golden Collar, a new Hollywood prize for four-legged performers — for his work last year in both “The Artist” and “Water for Elephants.”
Van Muller, of German extraction, said Uggie was more clever than many people expected.
For example, “the script called for him to play dead — but he dramatically walked backwards and then collapsed. Lots of the things the little dog did in the movie were Uggie’s own tricks,” he said.
But time is catching up with the cute star.
“The little fellow is getting older. That doesn’t mean he’s at death’s door, but he has worked his whole life, he’s given me so much and I think it’s important to retire him from all those hours of filming work.”
Uggie — who famously saves his master in “The Artist” from a burning building by running and getting a policeman — will do more “humanitarian” work to promote caring for pets, said Van Muller.
To that end he has become the furry new face of a Japanese video game, promoting Nintendogs+cats, a game for the hand-held Nintendo 3DS that allows users to feed, train and care for customizable pets.
Uggie attended Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, taking the stage dressed in a black bow tie, in keeping with the posh Academy Award dress rules.
“The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius included the cute co-star in his acceptance speech.
“I want to thank Uggie, the dog. I think he doesnt care. Im not sure he understands what I say,” Hazanavicius said, adding — in an apparent reference to Uggie’s linguistic skills — “He’s not that good, but thank you.”
Uggie, who has suffered from a neurological problem for some time, is now retiring.
But his trainer says he has had a full career. “To be in a film like ‘The Artist’ and to do everything that he’s done is sensational, it’s something very rare,” he said.
“Normally films that we make, for Disney, are for children, are funny but won’t be nominated for an Oscar,” he said.