Robert Towne got his dog an Oscar nomination out of spite

Robert Towne held such a grudge against 1984’s Greystoke that he made sure his dog’s name ended up on the credits.

One of the most unique honors in all of cinema is the Palm Dog Award, given annually at the Cannes Film Festival to the pooch who left the biggest mark on film that year. It’s a quirky award given at the most prestigious festival there is; but there’s nothing like that at the Oscars. Could you imagine the Academy voters nominating a dog? Well, they actually did – albeit in name only – thanks to Robert Towne. In the wake of Towne’s death this week, let’s take a look at the time he got so pissed off over Greystoke that he ensured his dog would be on the Oscar ballot.

In the ‘70s, Robert Towne was tasked to pen Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, later taking on directing duties at his own insistence. Towne hadn’t directed before so in the time being, he took on Personal Best, which was partly meant to prove to the studio that he was the perfect man for Greystoke. Unfortunately for Towne, Personal Best was plagued with issues, including the 1980 Screen Actors Guild strike and a major clash with David Geffen (the movie being a David Geffen Company production) that led to a sticky $110 million lawsuit over fraud, breach of contract and more. In order to salvage Personal Best, Towne gave up both his screenplay for and shot at directing Greystoke.

Robert Towne disliked the final product of Greystoke – which would end up being directed by Chariots of Fire’s Hugh Hudson – so much that he took his name off of it and instead gave credit to P.H. Vazak, Towne’s Hungarian sheepdog. And Vazak – or rather, Towne – would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, marking the only time a dog was nominated for an Oscar.

Greystoke would be the last time that Robert Towne earned an Academy Award nod, having been nominated for The Last Detail and Shampoo and winning for Chinatown. Just a couple of weeks before his death, Towne said he had completed writing all episodes planned for the Chinatown prequel series.

So as we remember the tremendous career of Robert Towne, let’s not forget the also-late P.H. Vazak, who goes down in history as the only “good boy” to bark up an Oscar nomination.

Originally published at