Noel Marshall’s legendarily wild and totally bonkers movie “Roar” has long been billed as one of the most dangerous movies ever made (if not the most dangerous), thanks to its use of a multitude of wild big cats, many of which have been blamed for harming scads of cast and crew. Marshall and his then-wife Tippi Hedren made the film back in the late seventies, casting their own family, including Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith and Marshall’s sons Jerry and John, as a clan terrorized by a pack of seemingly domesticated lions and tigers, oh my. (And the big cats? Those were theirs, too.)
For years, rumors have persisted that 70 people were injured during the film’s spectacularly ill-fated shoot — when Drafthouse re-released the film in 2015, they used that number to frame up their catchy tagline: “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie. 70 members of the cast and crew were.”
But Hedren says the number is actually much lower, though it’s difficult to argue with hard and fast evidence that the injuries that were sustained were grievous. (From our own deep dive on the film: “cinematographer Jan de Bont was scalped, requiring 220 stitches; Griffith was mauled by a lion, which required facial reconstructive surgery; an A.D. narrowly escaped death when a lion missed his jugular by an inch; Hedren, who was also attacked by birds on the set of “The Birds,” endured a fractured leg and multiple scalp wounds; and Marshall himself was wounded so many times that he was hospitalized with gangrene.”)
In a new interview with Variety, Hedren refutes the long-reported number, telling the outlet, “We didn’t have that many. Maybe they’re talking about people who hit their thumb when they were pounding on a nail. In the five years, I think there were seven people that were hurt, but not seriously. When we were making the movie there were a few instances. I was hurt. Melanie [Griffith] was hurt. My then husband [director Noel Marshall] was in the hospital so many times they were going to name a wing after him.”
Still, Hedren does admit that the film was as arduous to make as initially suspected.
“I don’t know how we survived it,” she told Vareity. “Our nine-month shoot turned into five years. We were one on one with those big cats. They’re dangerous animals and they’re big. As I made the movie I got into the issue of stopping the government from allowing people to breed lions and tigers as pets. They shouldn’t be pets. They’re apex predators, top of the food chain, one of four of the most dangerous animals in the world.”
Still sounds dangerous to us!
You can read the rest of Variety’s Q&A with Hedren right here.