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Messi, the Anatomy of a Fall Dog, Caps Show-Stealing Awards Season With Oscars Prank

Messi, the dog, appears seated in the audience during the Academy Awards in Hollywood on March 10, 2024. Credit - Kevin Winter—Getty Images

For months, Messi—not the soccer player but a 7-year-old border collie—has stolen hearts for his riveting portrayal of Snoop, a service dog for a blind boy, in the French legal thriller Anatomy of a Fall. And on Sunday night, as Hollywood’s biggest stars packed into the Dolby Theatre for the Academy Awards, Messi stole much of the show with his dapper grin and polite applause for the award nominees.

Sporting a black bow tie, Messi was shown in videos seemingly clapping among the star-studded audience during the opening monologue, a moment that quickly went viral.

The clip, however, appears to have been pre-recorded in a tedious operation that involved fake paws and what some have speculated is a lookalike dog. (Messi’s trainer Laura Martin posted a photo of her holding the fake paws in front of the Dolby Theatre after the ceremony, and it’s not clear whether Messi was able to attend the actual ceremony, which he was previously reportedly set to skip.) But the stunt has only fueled the fervor for Messi, who has just wrapped up a breakout awards season during which he served as a fan-favorite mascot for Anatomy of a Fall, which won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.

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It all started at the Cannes Film Festival last May, when Messi was given the Palm Dog, an unofficial prize recognizing the best canine performance—a notable win in an extra competitive year—while Anatomy of a Fall took home the Palme d’Or, the coveted top official prize.

Since then, attention on Messi has surged in Hollywood, taking even his trainer by surprise.

“There were a few interviews in France,” Martin told the Hollywood Reporter in February, “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.”

During his travels to Los Angeles over the past few weeks, Messi got down to serious business. In February, he attended a live reading of the Anatomy of a Fall screenplay, where he reprised his role as Snoop, opposite guest stars like Bob Odenkirk and Olivia Wilde. Then, he hobnobbed with more celebrities at the Oscars nominees lunch in February, spotted interacting with Bradley Cooper, Billie Eilish, and Ryan Gosling. (His appearance, however, stirred disgruntlement among other companies, which argued that the canine’s attendance gave Anatomy of a Fall an advantage over other nominated films during the Academy Awards voting window, according to the Hollywood Reporter.)

Before the Oscars ceremony began on Sunday, the show’s host Jimmy Kimmel sat down with Messi to run through his lines, as shown in a promotional video posted on Kimmel’s Instagram account, with Messi barking—seemingly in approval—at a joke about dog years. Messi also made time to help Kimmel continue his famous feud with Matt Damon, with a short video aired at the very end of the ceremony showing Messi peeing on Damon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Messi’s next role is reportedly in a French television show, but he seemed to be getting used to the Hollywood lifestyle. When he was not rehearsing, networking with other A-listers, or participating in celebrity pranks, Messi was seen enjoying Venice beach.

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