Watch canine star Messi recreate key 'Anatomy of a Fall' scene

This article first appeared as part of Jenelle Riley's Acting Up newsletter – visit the Acting Up signup page for early content and weekly updates on all things Acting.

I'm not new to being famous. I've sat down with Leonardo DiCaprio, interviewed Angelina Jolie — and I've never been more blown away than when I held a press conference with this year's breakout star last week. That's Messi, the lovable canine who plays service dog Snoop in „Anatomy of a Fall,” the scene-stealer of the Oscar-nominated movie and the guy everyone wanted to meet at a recent Academy luncheon. He is very, very good.

It was Messi's first visit to LA (he flew business class, thank you) and aside from lunch, he also visited some historical landmarks — check out his owner-coach, Lauren Martini-Contini. Instagram For his „Baywatch” entertainment. He and Martin-Contini (with translator Fred Cassidy) sat down for a live press conference that proved unlike anything I've ever done.

First of all, it's hard to hold a press conference with a dog at your feet, let alone pet him. Need to rub the fluffy border collie's belly or remind him who the cutest puppy is (he is.) Messi always yawns or leans into his side — you know, do dog things — and that's it. Like a revelation to me. At one point he held his paws up and I let out a noise that can only be described as a squeal. I know I should have dressed up and been more professional, but look at that face!

Messi, Snoop the Dog

Dan Dobaralski for Variety

Also, when a dog stretches, „Oh, great stretch!” That is the law.

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Although many pieces have been written about the love affair with Messi – most notably this week by Courtney Howard Variety – I wanted to express what it was really like to be in the room with this rising star and be honest with the canine.

Sure, he was surrounded by fans and journalists, but Messi was no diva. I brought him a present – a stuffed Snoopy toy in honor of his character – and he seemed to like it and walked away with it in his mouth. (Some have suggested it's a sly jab at „Maestro,” but I believe stories of behind-the-scenes friction between the two puppy scene stealers are exaggerated.) Some media Messi said he was „boring” and I believe he takes his craft too seriously.

And he had a big job ahead of him. In addition to showing tricks like barking on command and sitting on his hind legs, Messi was asked to recreate his iconic playing dead scene from the film. In the film, Sandra Huller's novelist Sandra is accused of murdering her husband by pushing him off a balcony. Their son Daniel (Milo Makado-Kraner) takes part in an experiment that helps free his mother — but ends up poisoning Snoop on purpose. While Snoop is okay at the end (which is why I can recommend this movie) there is a scene where he is sick and unable to move.

To recreate the scene you can see above, Martin-Contini ordered Messi to lie on his side. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth and his eyes were open. Playing Daniel, I tried to pick him up – he's a lot heavier than you think – but no matter what I did, Messi wouldn't move. As I witnessed too much, Martin-Contin gave the command and Messi jumped to his feet.

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Some other fun facts about Messi: He has auditioned for many projects before, but this is his first movie. „He always makes it to the last round and he's never been picked,” Martin-Contini revealed. Although he doesn't carry a headshot, he does have a lookbook. He has a sister named Fox who is smaller compared to Messi. He hates the vacuum cleaner. Yes, he is named after the Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi.

„In France, there's a tradition where every year you have a given letter of the alphabet to name your pet,” she noted. His year of birth is „M,” and his two children love soccer, so they decide on Messi.

There was also a scene that didn't make the cut, in which Danielle had to hug Snoop. „They did it over and over again. Milo was a little excited, the dog was a little excited, and they couldn't act,” he noted. „So finally they put the dog food in the folds of his neck, and the dog got mad enough to lick it off and the scene never worked.”

As for what's next, Messi has filmed a French TV series — „his life ended like that, he died on camera” — and another series may be in the works. (Suggested titles like „Collie Me By Your Name” and „Hello, Collie” were met with polite laughter.) For people looking for tips on training their dogs, Martin-Contini has one word: „Treats,” she said. „It's all about treats.”

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