Zellweger's Suffolk co-star revealed

HE is a natural on screen who is set to feature in cinemas across the world - proving it's not a dog's life for all.

HE is a natural on screen who is set to feature in cinemas across the world - proving it's not a dog's life for all.

At only two years old, Moss the Suffolk cocker spaniel is already living a movie star's life complete with his own personal chaperone, famous friends and a suite in the fanciest of hotels.

For the starry-eyed spaniel made his Hollywood debut yesterday in Miss Potter, starring alongside Renee Zellweger in a film chronicling the life of children's author Beatrix Potter.

The clever canine plays Miss Potter's pet dog, which does not have a name in the film, and spent three weeks working with Zellweger on location in the Isle of Man and in the Lake District.

In both locations, Moss was chaperoned to and from set when it was his turn in the script and even had his own hotel room where he slept on the bed.

The pampered pooch's furry charm has already won him countless admirers, including Zellweger, and it is thought the rising star will have a long future in the industry.

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Moss's owner, professional animal handler Diane Ling, from Ramsholt, near Woodbridge, said: “Moss loves filming - he gets to stay in a hotel room and gets to sleep on the bed!

“He's a very pretty looking dog and he has that 'ahh' factor. He does come home rather spoilt.

“He's a very clever dog. He'll stay in one position no matter what happens around him. I can give him hand signals from behind the camera to move him around on set.

“He started training at eight weeks old and it's ongoing.”

Miss Potter is a biopic of the famous children's author and illustrator. Directed by Chris Noonan, it portrays events from her own life with animated sequences from her stories, featuring her most famous character Peter Rabbit.

The basis for much of Potter's work was the animals she looked after or observed during holidays in Scotland and the Lake District.

Animal actors involved in the film include a frog, hedgehog, piglets, fox, rabbits, chickens, ducks and a goldfish.

Mrs Ling, 53, is a self-employed animal handler with Hertfordshire-based Animals Okay, which supplies animals for work on film sets, and was in charge of several animals on the film, as well as her own dog Moss.

Despite being surrounded by glamorous colleagues, filming was hard work.

“It was a really busy film. I was in charge three of four weeks filming and responsible for all of the animals,” she said.

“We had the logistics of housing the animals and making sure they were all happy and in the right place at the right time.

“We started at 5.30am and finished at 9.30pm at night. We had to be on set before 7am. I had hundreds running backwards and forwards - it's not glamorous.”

Mrs Ling, whose main work is as a farm conservation adviser, is no stranger to a Hollywood film set.

Another of her dogs, a flat-coated retriever called Briar, had a long career in showbiz, appearing in Middlemarch, Emma and Sense and Sensibility to name but a few.

But the animal expert was particularly impressed with her Tinsel Town colleagues on this occasion.

She said: “Renee Zellweger is an absolutely lovely person. She found out that it was my birthday and surprised me with a cake. She's a really nice person.

“Everyone loved Moss, he got on with everyone. He got very excited.

“It becomes difficult to stop the cast members fussing over him.”

At home, Moss is a working cocker spaniel and assists Mrs Ling's husband Richard on shoots.

But it will not be long before fame beckons again and he'll be off on his travels with a new Hollywood beauty.

WEBLINK

www.misspottermovie.co.uk

www.animalsokay.com

Born in Kensington, London, on July 28, 1866, Potter was educated at home and did not have the opportunity to mix with other children. Instead she devoted her time to animals and kept frogs, newts and two rabbits called Peter and Benjamin.

Her father Rupert Potter, a barrister, rented a country house in Scotland for many summers and later in the Lake District and Potter fell in love with the natural beauty of the area.

As a teenager, Potter was appointed housekeeper and was discouraged from any further education. But she developed her own artistic talents by sketching the animals she took under her wing and observed them for hours.

Her story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was not published until 1902, when she was 36. It was published by Frederick Warne & Company. The small book and other stories were popular and she gained an income from the sales as well as secretly becoming engaged to the publisher, Norman Warne. However, he died before the wedding.

The author and illustrator completed 23 works, all of which were published in a small format so they were child friendly.

Potter eventually set up home at a farm in Cumbria in the Lake District. She started accumulating land with advice from a local solicitor called William Heelis. The pair married in 1913 when Potter was 47.

After her death in 1943, Potter left all of her cottages, farms and land to the National Trust so they could be protected and remain unspoilt.

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