Canine star Uggie from ‘The Artist’ tells all in memoir

Uggie the dog. Photo credit: Nick Holt

Uggie, the four-legged star of 2011’s five-time Oscar winning film “The Artist,” has released an honest-to-dog Hollywood memoir.

Published in the US, UK and France in October 2012, “Uggie, My Story” (Gallery Books) chronicles the talented pooch’s humble beginnings, early acting work and eventual rise to the heights of cinematic superstardom.

“Uggie: My Story”

Not afraid to “bark and tell,” Uggie also relates (via author Wendy Holden) numerous entertaining encounters with his human co-stars, as well as amusing anecdotes about directors, politicians, journalists and vets of his acquaintance.

The celebrated Jack Russell terrier began life as a pup considered too wild for adoption by two previous owners. It wasn’t until after friends of animal trainer Omar Von Muller alerted him to the dog that the “pound-bound hound” found a permanent home and a lifelong friend.

“He was a crazy, very energetic puppy,“ said Von Muller, “and who knows what would have happened to him if he [had] gone to the dog pound. But he was very smart and very willing to work.”

Once his energies were channeled into performing and he set his paws on a soundstage, Uggie proved unfazed by cameras, lights and stage noises, making him the perfect canine actor.

Uggie with co-stars Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in “Water for Elephants.”

Early roles in commercials, a stint on tour across North and South America (performing his signature skateboard-riding trick), and bit parts in films eventually led to Uggie’s first big break, as “Queenie” in the romantic drama “Water for Elephants” with Robert Pattinson (“Twilight” saga) and Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”).

In fact, the book is dedicated to actress Witherspoon, widely known as the scene-stealing canine’s favorite human being.

“They were very close,” says von Muller. “When Uggie would come on set, he’d be all over her. She was a real animal lover. And he likes to kiss a good-looking girl.”

Soon afterwards French director Michel Hazanavicius chose Uggie for the movie that brought the terrier worldwide fame, a silent black-and-white romantic comedy-drama called “The Artist.”

French star Jean Dujardin and Uggie working together in “The Artist.” Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Uggie immediately bonded with French star Jean Dujardin, and the actor wisely carried a pocketful of sausage treats for their scenes together.

Although there were two younger stunt doubles available, Uggie gamely performed most of his stuntwork in the film himself, so that the other dogs were rarely required.

“The Artist” played to exceptional reviews, winning a host of international awards and accolades, and eventually five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor. Uggie’s remarkable contribution to the film confirmed his bona fide star status, and he was thrilled to take the stage at the Oscars with the rest of his co-stars.

Jean Dujardin walks off the stage holding both Uggie the dog and an Oscar statuette after “The Artist” wins at the 2011 Academy Awards. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

That bravura performance garnered Uggie the Palm Dog Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, a special mention at the Prix Lumière Awards, and Best Dog in a Theatrical Film award at the first Golden Collar Awards.

On June 25 2012, after being the first dog ever invited to immortalize his pawprints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, Uggie announced his retirement from the film industry.

Although now pushing 10 (70 in dog years), and free to enjoy much less demanding days poolside, Uggie does seem to miss the showbiz spotlight, and will sometimes take on the occasional project. A one-day cameo in Will Ferrell’s comedy film “The Campaign” or being named Nintendo’s first-ever spokes-dog helps Uggie feel like he’s keeping a paw in the game.

Uggie is the star of a PETA campaign encouraging everyone always to adopt — never buy. Credit: PETA/PR Photos

But this beloved canine actor might be most proud of his latest role — as the PETA spokes-dog for their “Adopt Don’t Buy” animal rescue campaign.

“I may be the first dog to win an Oscar and write a best-seller but my most important work is with animal rescue,” Uggie writes. “Please adopt – and if you must buy, buy my book!”

Overall, Uggie appears happy to have lived a dog’s life. “I have no regrets,” he writes in his memoir. “My only hope is that long after my paws no longer trod this Earth I will still be remembered as a little artist with a big heart.”

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