Each Wednesday through the week of the 2019 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 22, Take 2 is handicapping the Oscar rush with The Award Chase.
This week’s Award Chase is going to the dogs.
With so much written about potential best picture and acting nominations that man’s best friend gets lost in the shuffle. It’s not that every awards season has a canine or two that shines on the screen for more than a moment, but there is one four-legged friend that is certainly a movie star.
Meet Olivia, a 3-year-old Westie that steals nearly every scene she appears in the white-hot drama, “Widows.” In the film, Olivia, who goes by her real name here, belongs to Veronica (Viola Davis), a lobbyist for the teachers’ union whose husband, Harry (Liam Neeson) is killed during a heist gone wrong. Olivia is Veronica’s steady companion as her mistress mourns the loss of her husband and must figure out a way to pay back the men he ripped off.
Olivia remembers how Harry smells like and has a remarkable reaction whenever she catches it. It comes up at suspenseful moments in the film that will not be spoiled here. Veronica also pampers the lovable pooch, sending her to upscale kernels when needed. Unfortunately, according to Internet Movie Database, Olivia is not credited for her role.
Olivia is also a popular canine actor this year. The Westie made her film debut in a supporting role as Bastain in the comedy “Game Night.” In that movie, she belongs to Gary (Jesse Plemmons), a neighboring police officer whose wife recently left him. Olivia appears on one of the movie posters – quite a feat for a newbie.
Dogs are memorable parts of films and at times they can mean Oscar gold for the picture. There can even be a showdown between two pups. During the 2011-12 awards season, two Jack Russell Terriers were dueling in Hollywood for parts, the red carpet and Academy fame. Uggie and Cosmo battled it out with their films, “The Artist” and “Beginners,” respectively. Uggie starred as Jack in the nearly silent 2011 film as the pet to George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), an aging silent film star during the fledgling era of sound. Cosmo played Arthur, a dog shared by father-and-son Hal (Christopher Plummer) and Oliver (Ewan McGregor). In fact, both canines were competing for the same “Beginners” job, but Cosmo won out.
Uggie, however, went on to win multiple acting awards giving to animals that season, and “The Artist” won five Oscars, including best picture and best actor for Dujardin. Uggie retired following the 2012 Oscars and was the first dog to have his pawprints preserved at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Uggie died in 2013 at the age of 13 after a battle with prostate cancer. As for Cosmo, “Beginners” won the best supporting actor Oscar for Plummer.
Not every version of the Academy has been a dog fan. “The Wizard of Oz,” one of the most beloved films of all time, only won two Oscars – best original song and original score. Toto, played by Terry, was a Cairn Terrier who played in more than a dozen films before she died at the age of 11.
Other canines that propelled their movies to at least Academy Award nominations include the corgis in “The Queen,” Rex and Fly in “Babe,” Verdell in “As Good as it Gets” and Pippin in “Jaws.”
Will Olivia be among the famous pooches that’s a good luck charm for their film’s chances at Oscar gold? We’ll see in January.
Addendum: Instagram behind-the-scenes photo of Olivia with Viola Davis.