It Was the Seventies! Tippi Hedren Once Kept Lions as Pets

In Depth

Perhaps one of the greatest stories of Hollywood glamour and ego gone wrong is the one of Tippi Hedren and then-husband Noel Marshall illegally breeding lions on their California property. Hedren was insistent that the big cats—like lions, tigers and panthers—made great pets. Case in point, here’s a lion cuddling with her daughter Melanie Griffith, here’s a lion mauling Melanie Griffith and here’s a lion mauling Melanie Griffith again.

Hedren and Marshall were so sure that it was okay—recommendable even—to keep lions as house pets that they attempted to make Roar, a film meant to raise awareness about the over-hunting of big cats, where cast and crew were expected to interact directly with the deadly animals. Good (and idiotic) intentions, sure, but the filming—which lasted 11 years—was a total blood bath.

“Upon approaching animal trainers for support, they were told their idea was a suicide mission and were dismissed as ‘brainsick’ and ‘completely and utterly insane,'” writes Tim League of Drafthouse Films, the company that will be re-releasing Roar in the near future.

The cast and crew endured countless injuries, with over 70 bloody attacks documented. While nobody was killed, there were several close calls, most notably [cinematographer Jan] de Bont [who went on to direct Speed] being scalped by a lion resulting in 220 stitches on his head. Hedren endured a fractured leg and deep scalp wounds. Griffith was mauled by a lion, resulting [in] over 100 stitches and reconstructive surgery. Noel was gored so many times that he was eventually hospitalized with gangrene. Maintaining a consistent crew became virtually impossible as injuries and safety risks kept them from returning to set.

The film was released in 1981 and was an immediate flop (whether they made enough to pay for Melanie Griffith’s needed facial reconstruction surgery, I don’t know).

These days, Hedren no longer advocated keeping lions as pets. “I cringe when I see those pictures now,’ she told The Daily Mail in 2014. “I have to tell you we were stupid beyond belief. We should never have taken those risks. These animals are so fast, and if they decide to go after you, nothing but a bullet to the brain will stop them.”

“We’re dealing with animals who are psychopaths,” she added. “They have no conscience or remorse genes, and they will kill you for their dinner.”

Image via Getty.

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