The Story of P.H. Vazak: The Only Dog To Be Nominated for an Academy Award

Did you know that in 1985 at the 57th Academy Awards, the first and only pet was nominated for an Oscar? And no it wasn’t for a special award for Best Canine Actor. The dog was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for co-writing Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, alongside human writer Michael Austin. The dog’s name was P.H. Vazak, and he was a breed as rare as his writing prowess. Known as a Komondor or Hungarian Sheepdog, celebrity owners of a dreadlocked doggo include Mark Zuckerberg and Gavin Rossdale. A Komondor was also featured on the album cover of Beck’s seminal 1996 album, Odelay.

The Story of P.H. Vazak The Only Dog To Be Nominated for an Academy Award

Did a dog really write the screenplay and who really is P.H. Vazak?

Vazak is actually the name of Robert Towne’s Komondor dog. Towne is a famous screenwriter and director with a list of notable credits from the 1960s through 1990s. He’s best known as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the 1974 movie Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson. Towne wrote the screenplay for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, based on the classic novel, Tarzan of the Apes.

P.H. Vazak the Komondor dog and Oscar nominated Screenwriter
Or Maybe it took years to write because paws hinder the writing process?

The script was notoriously long and complex, so Towne felt he was the only one able to handle it properly, so he set himself as the director. It also took years for him to finish. During pre-production, Towne’s directorial debut, Personal Best, was released and was a commercial flop. Warner Bros was not pleased with the financial loss, so Towne decided to drop out as the director of Greystoke. The studio brought on Chariots of Fire director Hugh Hudson with screenwriter Michael Austin to overhaul the script. Towne was so displeased with the rewrites, he didn’t want his name attached to it. So he decided to use his dog’s name as a pseudonym instead. Then, despite Towne’s opinion, it ended up getting nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay but lost to Amadeus.

Jokes aside, pet actors are getting more recognition these days

As any keen observer of the world of celebrity pets would tell you, more deserved recognition is being paid to animal actors these days. From the fan-favorite dogs of the John Wick series and canine actors portraying real-life pooches like in Arthur the King, to notable feline actors such as The Marvels star, Goose, and the Tonic, the “horror cat.” Acting awards for pets have also received more press, such as the Palm Dog Awards and the Fido Awards. The most notable pet actor who acted in an Oscar-nominated film this year is Palm Dog winner Messi, who starred in Anatomy of a Fall. Messi also stole the show at the 2024 Academy Awards.

Dog Actor Messi Steals the Show at the Academy Awards
Credit: The Academy
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