Tippi Hedren, the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” and her husband Noel Marshall were filming in Africa in 1969. While there, they noticed an abandoned house that had been taken over by lions. Their experience in Africa, in addition to this sighting, motivated them to make a movie about lions. They wanted to raise awareness about the endangered creatures and showcase their beauty. And who better to play a lion than, well, an actual lion.
The pictures below show Tippi, Noel and Tippi’s daughter Melanie Griffith with the lion that they made a member of their household. His name was Neil, and he became an incredible part of their family.
Here is Tippi, reading while leaning against Neil in their Sherman Oaks, California home.
They brought lions to their home after consulting with animal trainer Ron Oxley. After explaining what they wanted to do with their movie, Ron told them, “to get to know anything about lions, you’ve just got to live with them for a while.” So that’s exactly what they did.
Unfortunately, the rest of their neighborhood wasn’t as excited about the new guests as they were, so the family moved with the lions to a ranch in a remote area of California.
The resulting movie is titled “Roar,” and it is said to be the most expensive home movie ever made.
The premise of the movie sounds rather like a thriller. It surrounds a scientist who studies large African cats.
The scientist’s family comes to visit him, but he is not home at the time. Instead, they find lions, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars and leopards, which then chase them around the home.
They actually used all of the various big cats, and the cost of caring for them is a large part of the movie’s great expense.
The film photography alone took about 5 years, and they used as many as eight cameras to film improvised animal scenes.
By the end, “Roar” had reached a price tag of over $17.5 million. Unfortunately, it only grossed about $2 million.
In addition to being an expensive venture, it was also rather dangerous. Naturally, working with such powerful predators comes with serious risks. Tippi’s daughter, Melanie, was attacked by a lioness during the film’s production, resulting in 50 facial stitches. Over 70 people were injured as a result of contact with the animals.
Upon completion of the film, Tippi founded the Shambala Preserve to house the animals from the movie and to provide sanctuary for neglected exotic animals. She still lives at the preserve with about 70 animals, one of them being Michael Jackson’s Bengal tiger.
While the information surrounding their artistic venture paints it as a costly and dangerous experience, the resulting images of Neil the lion with his family are undeniably beautiful. It is safe to assume that Neil was more domesticated than the other cats, as you can see from the way he lounges around the house with his humans.
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