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“Roar” has been considered the most dangerous film in history, over 70 of the cast and crew were injured during the production

Stefan Andrews

In 1969, Tippi Hedren, along with her then-husband Noel Marshall, worked on a film set in Africa and both of them observed an intriguing pride of lions moving into a house after a rancher had moved out from it.

The lions had eventually inspired them with an idea about a movie, and Marshall would start working on the script as soon as they returned home from Africa. Little did they know that the filming of this movie would turn into one of the most notorious misadventures in the film industry ever.

The film was called “Roar” and its shooting had started as early as 1974. Starring Tippi Hedren in the main role, the film featured other family members as well: Marshall himself, his real-life sons, John and Jerry, and Hedren’s real-life daughter, Melanie Griffith. The story revolves around a family being attacked by jungle animals at a concealed home of their keeper, however, some of the attacks seen in the movie are anything but fictitious.

For the purposes of the movie, Hedren and Marshall first sought help from animal trainers but nobody would simply rent them thirty or forty lions, as the original script required. They were disappointed but were also advised to start keeping and training an exotic beast on their own, therefore, they started to raise a lion cub and learn from its behavior. The little lion was named Neil, and he was kept inside the couple’s home. Eventually, neighbors had complained and Hedren and Marshall soon bought a ranch outside Los Angeles which made the new home for the wildcat. Dozens of other lions, tigers, and even some African elephants were housed in the ranch as well. It must have looked like a little zoo garden by that point. The site also served as a film set for “Roar”.

During the shooting, almost every scene involving lions was improvised and shot with several different cameras. More than a hundred people were involved on the set, as well as a hundred and fifty untrained lions, tigers, leopards, and cheetahs. Despite the original plan predicting nine months of shooting, it took the crew at least five years to complete the picture only. Subsequently, injuries became part of the every-day life for crew and cast members.

Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s famous “The Birds” trailer.

The cinematographer, Jan de Bont had his scalp lifted by a lion resulting in 220 stitches. Hedren got a fractured leg and also had scalp wounds after an elephant had her kicked off its back while she was riding it. She was additionally bitten in the neck by a lion and the incident can also be seen in the movie. Her daughter, Melanie Griffith was attacked too, getting some 50 stitches to her face. At one point, she was in danger to lose an eye.

Marshal was attacked several times himself. In one of the accidents, he was clawed by a cheetah. He also picked gangrene and needed several years to fully recover. His brother was bitten in the foot, and assistant director Doron Kauper had his throat bitten open, as well suffered from other injuries on the head, chest, and thigh.

At one point, a flood also occurred on the ranch, destroying the movie sets and killing three of the lions. This further jeopardized the filming activities that already took extensive periods of time. After the flood, the film needed several more years to complete. Hedren had commented that they were determined to finish the film, saying, “we were so sure the film was going to be a success.” However, the film turned out a disaster. It cost fortunes and a tremendous amount of time but performed poorly at the box offices in Europe once it was released in 1981.

Shambala benefit stage production of “The Birds” in Hollywood, California.

Allegedly, around 70 injuries involving the predators occurred during the filming of “Roar”. Much of the footage capturing some really painful attacks by the wild animals got featured in the final cut. The output was real blood on the screen indeed. Given these accounts, “Roar” has been considered the most dangerous film of all times.

Actress Tippi Hedren had argued the numbers of incidents, “I believe that number is inaccurate – I believe it’s over 100. It’s somewhere between 70 and 100. It is the most dangerous film ever made in history. Nowadays, there’s so much regulation, if you’re working on a film and two people get injured, they come in and they shut you down.”

Hedren (right) with daughter Melanie Griffith at the 2014 Bel Air Film Festival at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. photo credit Real TV Films -FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0

The iconic actress had eventually expressed regrets of letting a fully grown lion live with her family in the 1970’s, saying they were “stupid beyond belief to have that lion in our house. We should never have taken those risks.

Here is another story from us: The dark side of the genius: Hitchcock was disturbingly obsessed with Tippi Hedren

These animals are so fast, and if they decide to go after you, nothing but a bullet to the brain will stop them.” She had not made any remarks once the film was released for the first time in the United States in 2015.

Stefan Andrews

Stefan is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Vintage News. He is a graduate in Literature. He also runs a blog – This City Knows.