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Oscars Costumer on Dressing ‘Jet-Lagged’ ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ Star Messi: Sleepy Dog ‘Was So Cute’

This time last year, Katja Cahill was taking a break pre-Oscars to visit “Banshees of Inisherin” breakout Jenny the Miniature Donkey — and her date (!!) — in a livestock trailer outside the Dolby.

“That was the best part of my Oscars, just getting to go hang out in the donkey trailer,” Cahill told IndieWire. “And donkeys have support donkeys too, so there were two donkeys there.” A frequent Oscars contributor, the costume designer crafted a glittering gold vest she described as a “blinged-out service animal jacket” for Jenny to wear on stage.

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At the 96th Academy Awards, the self-professed animal lover once again brought her artistry to an attendee of a different species. Cahill dressed “Anatomy of a Fall” scene-stealer Messi the dog — who played Snoop for director Justine Triet’s Best Picture nominee and Best Original Screenplay winner (co-written with Arthur Harari) — in an oversized bow tie.

“[Messi] was the cutest dog and the whole process was just so funny,” Cahill said. “The producers basically just said, ‘It’s a border collie. Make it a bow tie.’ And I was like, ‘Uh… measurements? They’re not standard!'”

The ABC telecast cut to a handful of pre-tapes (sadly, the pup was not actually seated in the theater on Sunday night) that showed Messi listening attentively to host Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue, clapping excitedly when Robert Downey Jr. won Best Supporting Actor, and peeing on Matt Damon’s Walk of Fame star as the ceremony’s stinger.

“We tried to keep the bow tie traditional so it hit very quickly,” Cahill said. “So it was just classy Oscars, black tie.” In the end, the costumer fashioned Messi’s collar from a big bow clip scaled up to meet the moment.

Messi the dog at the 96th Annual Oscars held at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Variety via Getty Images)
Messi the dog at the 96th Annual Oscars held at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, CaliforniaVariety via Getty Images

Laura Martin Contini, the thespian dog’s trainer, lives just outside of Paris and has owned Messi since he was young. Cahill got to know her fellow dog lover during the fitting process.

“His handler was French, so all the commands were these beautiful French sentences,” Cahill told IndieWire. “She would just be graciously giving him treats and getting him to sit while I was fitting him.”

The Academy flew Messi into Los Angeles for his fitting from France. Cahill remembers Martin Contini apologizing during one appointment that her sleepy dog was a bit “jet-lagged.”

“The dog even had a dressing room!” Cahill said. “There was a little sign for our secret guest.”

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 12: Jenny the emotional support donkey, backstage at the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Jenny the emotional support donkey, backstage at the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, CaliforniaLos Angeles Times via Getty Imag

In addition to recommending Messi for the lead role once played by Tim Allen in a “Shaggy Dog” remake that will never happen, Kimmel called the dog’s “Anatomy of a Fall” performance “incredible.”

“Even though he’s a dog, [Messi] may have given the performance of the year,” the host said. “I haven’t seen a French actor eat vomit like that since Gérard Depardieu.”

As the costume designer for the overall Oscars TV production, Cahill was juggling a lot for the ceremony. On top of dressing Hollywood’s rising dog star, she helped John Cena pull off an outrageous nude illusion, costumed the Kens for Ryan Gosling’s Best Original Song number, and styled the in memoriam segment.

“He was so cute,” Cahill said of Messi. “We’re lucky to always have animals with Jimmy.”

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