'Hugo' Star Blackie's Performance Not CGI-Enhanced, 20-Minute Love Scene Was Cut (Exclusive)

Jaap Buitendijk

Visual effects supervisor Rob Legato blasts rumors of CGI but reveals Blackie's anchovy paste-fueled love scene with British actress Emily Mortimer.

By now you’ve probably heard about Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese’s campaign to snag a nomination for his Hugo canine thespian, Blackie, the Doberman Pinscher for Dog News Daily's Golden Collar Awards. After writing a persuasive op-ed in the LA Times, and bemoaning Blackie’s GC omission on The Jimmy Kimmel Live show this week, Blackie is now an official write-in nominee for best performance by a dog in a feature film, as reported by THR.


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The Golden Collar Awards will take place on Feb. 13 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel on Los Angeles and Charlize Theron will be honored with a Humanitarian Award. Her Young Adult Pomerian costar Hummer is also a Best Dog Actor nominee.

A source close to the Golden Collar Awards told THR last week that the reason why Blackie didn't get an initial nod is that they had concerns about some of Blackie’s performance being computer enhanced. To see all the nominees, click here. 

But according to the films visual effect supervisor Rob Legato (Avatar, Apollo 13, Shutter Island, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Titanic, The Aviator), that’s not true. “There was absolutely zero CGI or FX in any of Blackie’s performance," he tells The Hollywood Reporter exclusively. "Nothing was altered, no eyes changes, none of that stuff was done.”

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There was only one brief moment that was motion-captured, the scene in which Blackie and Sasha Baron Cohen are running down the stars. “Both stars were motion captured for that so it's still their performance.”

Blackie is also responsible for most of the laughs in the film, admits Legato. His favorite scene in when Cohen and Blackie are in the bathtub together. “The look on her face, that dumb kinda look and the 3D just enhanced it. There is something adorable about this ferocious-looking dog who is actually a big sweet pea.

Blackie, like so many actors, was a bit difficult to work with in the beginning. “At first we could not get her to do a darn thing," Legato recalls. "Marty was like, “I’ll never work with another dog!’ But then the French trainer Mathilde de Cagny came in and solved all our problems. Now Marty loves the dog and really wants her to get the recognition she deserves."

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There was some, how shall we put this, method acting involved in Frankie's performance, as there is with all dog actors. Human actors are rewarded with money. Animals are rewarded with delicious treats. But as well as trainer-supplied dog treats, Legato used salmon oil to encourage Blackie to lick Cohen’s injured leg to show the depth of their relationship.

Blackie also had an overzealous love scene that, unfortunately, ended up being cut. "Emily Mortimer tells a funny story about being told that one of the dogs was going to kiss her. She thought it would one of the small dogs but it was Blackie," Legato reveals.  “So they slathered her face with anchovy paste and Blackie really got into it, licking her face for 20 minutes. She thought it was the grossest thing ever to be covered in dog slobber and smelling of anchovy paste."

Hey, now there’s an idea for the 2nd Annual Golden Collar Awards. Just like at the MTV Movie Awards, how about a best dog kiss award?

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