Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Canine Sensation Uggie, Star of THE ARTIST, Visits the Egyptian

Uggie (almost 10), the Jack Russell Terrier actor from modern silent film sensation, THE ARTIST made his way to the Egyptian Theatre this morning to participate in announcing (with THE ARTIST co-star Penelope Ann Miller) the nominees for the Golden Collar Awards, a new Award Show produced by Dog News Daily to honor canine actors in five categories. The award show will benefit Los Angeles area dog rescue organizations and shelters.

Uggie's visit to the hallowed 1922 Egyptian Theatre was clearly a thrill for him, given his portrayal of a famous furry actor in the silent film era. "This is all where it really happened in the 20s," he woofed. The Egyptian, celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2012, was the home of the very first Hollywood movie premiere, ROBIN HOOD starring Douglas Fairbanks in 1922. Mary Pickford joined her husband Fairbanks, close pal Charlie Chaplin, Pola Negri and other luminaries of the film industry on opening night, October 18, 1922. The Egyptian went on to become the movie palace where some of the biggest films of the 1920s premiered, including Charlie Chaplin's THE GOLD RUSH, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (also starring Fairbanks) and Cecil B. DeMilles 1923 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, to name a few. It is unknown if east coast based Jean the Vitagraph dog ever had occasion to visit Sid Grauman's grand movie palace in his senior years. Uggie sniffed around to uncover the flavors of the theatre's glorious past.

Uggie, who is nominated for two Golden Collar Awards (for his roles in both THE ARTIST and WATER FOR ELEPHANTS), probably won't do another feature film on his own according to his companion Omar. "I wouldn't put him through it at this age," says Omar. Omar says he now has a double (2 1/2 year old Dash) who can work with Uggie on his next film.

Omar reports that Uggie is a natural. "In movies he just does all the things that we do at home like play ball." He also skateboards and water skis, but just for fun. While he auditioned with a massive amount of other Jack Russell Terriers, for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, Uggie and Omar were told about THE ARTIST by a friend. They met with the filmmakers and went to the home of the lead actor to see how the pair would interact. It was magic, so from there he got the job! The two still seem to have a connection if you saw them together at the Golden Globes. Either that or, Jean DuJardin had a pocket full of treats.

Co-star Penelope Ann Miller (who wore a dark blue dress to the press conference and was constantly brushing Uggie's fur off her to avoid being targeted by PETA), admitted that Uggie is definitely a scene stealer, but she felt it worked well for her character since she was supposed to be jealous of her screen star husband's relationship with Uggie. Penelope is also glad that people are discovering silent film through this project. She loves the 1920s and was influenced by watching actresses from that era.

Uggie posed for numerous photos in sitting and standing positions and did several on camera interviews, one with NBC News (he did start licking the reporter's face, but Emmy winning news reporter Gordon Takumatsu later told the American Cinematheque that he liked a friendly interview subject and that he had last seen a Sergio Leone film at the Egyptian with his brother and will back in February for more Spaghetti Westerns Leone-style!) which will air at 5PM PDT today.

When asked by the American Cinematheque if he thought Uggie would be approached by Harry Winston or one of his competitors to wear a diamond collar to the Oscars, Omar responded that he had been thinking that might happen, but what he is really hoping, is that the Oscar producers will ask Uggie to present an envelope to Billy Crystal. "He's very good at things like that," says Omar.

Apparently when he reached the press room for the Golden Globes, everyone kept asking Omar, are you sure he will be okay with all the flashing cameras? Uggie took to it like a pro. "It didn't bother him at all," says Omar. When they put the Golden Globe Award down on the carpet he just went over and put his paw on it."

Omar also shared with the press that although he loves the whole movie, his favorite Uggie scene was at the end of THE ARTIST when Uggie rolls over and plays dead and breaks the tension. He revealed that Uggie is often an ice breaker. "He will do something funny and everyone laughs."

The American Cinematheque recently tributed 1960s feline actor Orangey (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, RHUBARB) at the Aero Theatre.

Although not playing at our theatres (the Aero or Egyptian), the American Cinematheque HIGHLY recommends THE ARTIST, playing at a theatre near you! Watch a trailer. Genuine silent films can be seen on the big screen as they were meant to be seen, monthly at American Cinematheque theatres. Coming this month and in February are silent films from Charlie Chaplin, Georges Méliès (fans of HUGO will want to check this out!) and Buster Keaton!

-- Margot Gerber for the American Cinematheque News Corp.