How Anatomy of a Fall’s Dog Star Messi Made It from TV Ads to Awards Season: “He Had a Lot of Trouble Getting Roles”

So how was he trained to look sick, with his tongue lolling out like that?

Do you want to see? [Laura calls Messi into view and tells him to play dead. Messi flops over onto his side and won’t be roused, even when Laura shakes him and lifts him up. A tiny chihuahua then trots into view and tries to rouse Messi from his slumber. Laura then claps and Messi jumps up immediately. The chihuahua runs off].


I worked [with] Messi for two months before each day [filming]. I first started on the bed by taking his head and resting it, then the shoulders, then the body. He had to let his whole body fall to appear inert. I added cries and emotions so that he knows not to move despite the noise.

We also worked on set before the famous sick dog sequence, with Milo, so that he learned how to hold it properly. It was an afternoon of filming, it was quite long with breaks for the dog but he was happy at the end because he had the ball and treats. For me it was the greatest cinema scene I have done in my life and I am very proud of it.

At the end he comforts Sandra. How were scenes like that achieved?

When he finds Sandra in the bed, it’s me who is hidden to the side and asks the dog to come and sit on the bed and put his head down. As the dog looked at me too much, I closed my eyes like I was sleeping so that he would forget me and then I left room. Sandra gives so much emotion that for Messi it is a real scene from life and therefore he lets himself go. I always leave room for improvisation for the dog so that he can suggest things and make it natural.

Had Messi been in any other films before this?

Messi was a misunderstood artist. He had a lot of trouble getting roles. He always went to the end of the auditions but was never accepted often because of his [unusual] look and his eyes. He did French commercials like Pedigree, Truffaut, and a short film and music videos. His biggest role which showed all his performances was Anatomy of a Fall. He only had one chance and he won everything.

Is he going to be in any other upcoming films that we need to look out for?

He may have a new role in another French series but it has not yet been signed.

And what does he like doing at home for fun?

We live in the countryside and Messi loves going for walks and playing ball. For him the ball is sacred! Otherwise at home he is a fairly calm dog. The quiet force.

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