Messi the Dog, ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ Star and New Hollywood Darling, Expected to Miss Oscars

Devastating news for fans of canine cameos: Messi, the scene-stealing border collie from best picture nominee Anatomy of a Fall and unlikely star of the 2024 Oscar campaign season, will not return to Los Angeles for Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Though reps for the Academy did not comment, a source at the Neon-distributed film says the French pup’s recent Hollywood sojourn, during which he overshadowed every human actor at the annual nominees luncheon, was a one-off. That means those A-Listers who didn’t get face time with Messi will just have to book a part in one of his future projects.

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“All of this attention began at Cannes,” trainer and dog mom Laura Martin told The Hollywood Reporter in February, via translator Frederic Cassidy. Cannes is where Anatomy of a Fall started its run on the awards circuit, taking home the Palme d’Or, and where Messi got his own unofficial prize — the Palm Dog. “There were a few interviews in France,” Martin continued, “but what we’ve been experiencing here in America — with the attention to this dog and his acting — it’s beyond anything we anticipated. It’s probably the maximum that you can accomplish in this field.”

Perhaps it was the nature of his role in Justine Triet’s legal thriller, one that skirted the usual dog tricks seen in Oscar bait (no offense, Uggie, RIP!) for a disarmingly emotional performance, that made Messi such a favorite this year. And while his recent visit to the City of Angels was brief — Messi lives with Martin in Paris — he did make the most of it. Throughout the whirlwind trip, Messi paid his dues by participating in a press junket, posed for photos with Olivia Wilde at a live reading of the Anatomy of a Fall screenplay and enjoyed a day of rest in Venice Beach, where he paid homage to Baywatch. Footage of Messi channeling David Hasselhoff can be found on Martin’s Instagram page.

But the highlight was the Oscars nominees lunch, where one viral clip of a fawning Ryan Gosling truly captures Messi’s thrall over the crowd. “The big moment was with Billie Eilish, who bonded with Messi for almost 10 minutes,” said Martin. “They were hugging and petting and they really had a vibe. Then Bradley Cooper bumped into him in the hallway. The dog went right to him, so they also had a connection.”

It should be acknowledged that not everyone is said to have been pleased with Messi’s attendance. After all, being a dog, he was not technically a nominee. Multiple companies with nominated films complained to the Academy that allowing him to attend the event gave Anatomy of a Fall an advantage during the voting window, according to a source with knowledge of the complaints.

This is awards season. Even a man’s best friend isn’t safe from politicking and petty grievances.

But animals have a long history at the Academy Awards. Uggie, the late Parson Russell Terrier who starred opposite Jean Dujardin in The Artist, was on the stage when their film took best picture in 2012. And while Banshees of Inisherin donkey Jenny wasn’t in attendance in 2023, a doppelgänger joined host Jimmy Kimmel onstage for a bit. At the time, Kimmel noted it probably wasn’t prudent to fly the equine out from Ireland for such a brief segment.

Kimmel was similarly skeptical about international animal travel when asked about including Messi in this year’s telecast during a larger conversation a few weeks ago. “It’s hard to top a donkey,” Kimmel told THR. “And really, the most notable thing that dog did was have a drug overdose and eat vomit. I don’t know if the Oscars has the appetite for that.”

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