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Hollywood's Top Dog of 2024

The mover and shaker this week in Hollywood? Messi, the border collie who plays Snoop in Anatomy of a Fall. He came over from France with is trainer Laura Martin Contini to take part in the Oscar Nominees Luncheon where he was highly in demand for paw shakes and selfies.

He was so in demand that even moi, author of Citizen Canine* and a member of the jury that awarded Messi his Palm Dog award**, was denied a one-on-one interview but I did however jump at the chance to join Messi’s virtual press conference.


Notably, it was the only press event I’ve attended that ended in belly rubs.


During the press conference, Messi did a few tricks like playing dead, barking on command, turning around and standing.


Trainer Laura did the talking for Messi. He may be the finest canine actor I’ve seen (THAT PILL SCENE!) but as of yet doesn’t speak human.


Some of my favourite learnings from the press conference:


  • Messi’s favourite celebs at the Oscar nominees luncheon? Billie Eilish spent a lot of time with the dog, as did Bradley Cooper. Both were described as being “very, very cuddly” with Messi.

  • He doesn’t just have a headshot, he has a “lookbook.”

  • The Palm Dog ceremonial collar*** awarded to Messi is actually too small for his neck so it’s now framed and displayed.

  • He flew business class**** from France to LA for Oscars promotion work

  • Laura’s kids named the dog Messi after the footballer Lionel Messi.

  • Laura said she picked him because he was “the ugliest dog of the litter” (!) -- Laura says she always “loves the underdog, no pun intended.”

  • Messi was the first dog Laura has trained – “we trained each other” she says.

  • Anatomy is his first film – in other auditions, he’d get close but not make the final cut. He was a “misunderstood artist,” Laura says.

  • He had to go through eight meetings with Anatomy team and cast before he was confirmed. Laura spent two months training him especially for the shoot, and more prep during the shoot as well especially for the harder scenes like the pill scene and the one where Snoop has to walk around the house while the inspectors visit.

  • Laura would train the dog to perform an action but also leave room for “improvisation and variation.” There is some improv, for instance, in that final scene with Sandra Huller.

  • Sandra Huller acted with her own dog in The Zone of Interest but said Messi was “the better behaved dog”.

  • Messi’s Achilles Heel is that he is afraid of vacuum cleaners.

  • Messi, eight years old and 50 pounds (the only star in Hollywood that will be honest about their age and weight?), has a sister named Fox, a tiny four-pound dog who tries to be in charge of him.  I wonder if it’s an Olivia de Haviland-Joan Fontaine rivalry situation.

  • He appears in a French TV series since shooting Anatomy and will hopefully shoot another series soon. Other auditions? “He gets calls now.”

  • There is no trip planned to Disneyland but Laura says, “He played out a Baywatch scene at Venice Beach.”

  • He had a bath before the press conference.******

  • They hope Messi will attend the Oscars but it’s not 100% sure yet.

  • La Vie De Messi? “Messi is happy when he is out in the fields and playing with a ball.”


*Of course I presented a signed copy of the book to Justine Triet when I interviewed her in London.

**first time in history a single film has won the Palm Dog AND the Palme d’Or.

***of course that was me who asked about the collar.

**** I can’t believe I wasn’t flown in to moderate this. I would have even travelled in economy.

******Not always the case with the human actors, I promise.

More pics from the presser:


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