Blog: October 08 2014 | 09:00 AM

1971 Living With Neil the Lion

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Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith and family, just hangin' with their lion



This is what happens when a lion becomes part of the household.



These pictures show Tippi Hedren - star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds - with her huband Noel Marshall, and her daughter, actress Melanie Griffith, and their lion, Neil. Melanie is Tippi's daughter from her first marriage to Peter Griffith. At the time these pictures were taken, Melanie was 19.



While filming in Africa in 1969, Hedren and her husband saw an abandoned house which had been taken over and inhabited by lions. On their return to America, they determined to make a film about - and with - lions, based on what they had witnessed, and to raise awareness of the endangered status of lions.



Animal trainer Ron Oxley advised them that “to get to know anything about lions, you’ve just got to live with them for a while.” Hedren and her husband did exactly that, introducing lions to their residential home. Following complaints, the family and the animals moved to a remote California ranch.



"Roar" starred Hedren and Marshall, with Melanie paying Hedren's on-screen daughter. The film was written and directed by Marshall and produced by Marshall and Marshall. Marshall had been producer of 1973 film "The Exorcist."



The working title of the movie was "Lions, Lions and More Lions," although the actual movie features a range of big cat species including jaguars, cheetahs, cougars and leopards. For the plot, a male scientist is studying the lives of African big cats. He is not at home when his family come to to visit, and they are pursued from room to room by the lions and other big cats in his house.



Hedren and Marshall envisoned working with and filming big cats on a vast scale, bringing together 150 large cats - the largest private collection ever assembled. The cost of managing so many untrained animals contributed to the film's huge production costs.

Photography for the film took five years. According to Randolph Sellars, a cinematographer working on Roar in 1978, every scene involving the animals was improvised, and covered by up to eight cameras. Released in 1981, Roar cost over $17.5 million but grossed just over $2 million.

A year later, Hedren and Marshall separated.



They are dangerous. Everyone in my family has been hurt.- TIPPI HEDREN

During production of the film, Melanie was attacked by a lioness and required 50 facial stitches. Cinematographer Jan de Bont had to have his scalp sewn back on after being bit by a lion. In all, more than 70 people were injured during the creation of Roar.



After production of Roar was complete, Hedren founded the Shambala Preserve, an animal sanctuary for the protection of mistreated or neglected exotic animals. The actress still lives there, as do around 70 animals, including Michael Jackson's Bengal tiger.

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