5 Animal Actors Who Probably Should Have Been Canceled
It’s a common refrain in the business of filmmaking: never work with children or animals. It’s a rule that would probably apply to pretty much any business, to be honest, but there’s a lot less demand for 8-year-old CPAs or chimpanzee telemarketers. It’s unavoidable at times, of course, and there’s definitely the capacity to hit on a top-notch performer like The Last Of Us’ Bella Ramsey, but for every Lyanna Mormont, you’ll probably end up with a difficult child (or even more likely, child actor parent) or a non-human co-star with a penchant for wrecking the craft services table.
Animals prove a degree even more difficult, as, due to the laws of nature, they’re not great communicators. Sometimes, that means that even when you do get a good performance out of a furry friend, there’s carnage or chaos behind the scenes that makes you question just how badly that cute monkey plotline was needed. Sure, too, there’s a lot of questions about the treatment of animals in entertainment that have carried over from the days of P.T. Barnum and the big top, so in some ways, it’s inevitable that an actor was going to have a swipe taken at them, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant for someone seeing that their scene partner is a “trained” bear.
Here are 5 animal actors who were less than lovely to work with.
Eddie - Frasier
Eddie the dog is a beloved member of the Frasier cast, with a popular rumor being that he used to get more fan-mail than the human members of the show. He’s host to his own collection of YouTube compilations in which he’s up to all manner of his trademark tricks. Most impressively, as anyone who’s ever interacted with a Jack Russell terrier can testify, the one where he sits silently and stares at the titular Dr. Frasier Crane.
When the cameras weren’t rolling, though, there weren’t many on the cast looking to spend additional time with Moose, the dog who played Eddie. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that Kelsey Grammer didn’t want kids or dogs in the show at all, a subscriber to conventional wisdom, apparently. Yet, as they always do, test audiences disagreed. Grammer complained that scenes with Eddie took twice as long to shoot, and John Mahoney, who played his father, had his own gripes, once exclaiming before a scene where Eddie was meant to be on his lap (a common location) that “the son of a bitch always bites me!” Keeping this information in mind, the interview clip in the above compilation with Mahoney has some clearly bottled frustration under the surface.
Orangey The Cat - Breakfast At Tiffany’s
The role of Cat the cat in Breakfast At Tiffany’s was played by a cat named Orangey. It wasn’t the first or last role for Orangey, who racked up a pretty impressive CV despite never having the capacity to understand what a “movie” was. Even though cameras were probably nothing more than a strange metal bird to Orangey, they sure seemed to be able to figure out whether or not they were on. He was well known for apparently running away after scenes, causing the entire set to be shut down until someone managed to wrangle him back into frame.
Orangey wasn’t exactly a team player either, taking full advantage of breaks to exhibit just how little he knew or cared for the reputation of screen icons like Audrey Hepburn. Orangey would apparently fill breaks in between filming by scratching and spitting on his co-stars. A hollywood executive referred to the fuzzy, not-so-friendly feline as “the world’s meanest cat.” So basically, Orangey was a cat.
Black Phillip - The VVitch
If you’ve seen Robert Egger’s fantastic movie The VVitch, there’s nothing surprising about Black Phillip, the family’s goat, being less than kind. Especially once you find out, SPOILERS, that he is literally an avatar of the great deceiver, Satan, Lucifer, Dickhead Prime, or whatever your preferred nomenclature for the devil is. So, when they were casting a goat capable of embodying the Fallen Angel himself, they found a massive, terrifying, black goat named Phillip, and thought “hey, that goat sure looks evil!”
They were right. Charlie the goat was not just difficult, but despised on set for being impossible to work with and outright dangerous. Robert Eggers is on record with his number one tip for new filmmakers being: no goats. Eggers elaborated: “You can't train a goat, the goat was a fucking nightmare.” Ralph Ineson, who played the father, had more than just a professional grievance with Charlie, the horned devil having sent him to the hospital three times, including detaching a tendon from his ribs. Ineson describes the experience by saying, “He had two modes… which were sleeping, and attacking me.”
Marcel the Monkey - Friends
Friends, the iconic 90s sitcom that experienced a bit of a revival recently thanks to Netflix, made every member of its main cast a household name. That included all the human stars, of course, but also prompted millions of viewers to be more than familiar with a monkey named Marcel. In the show, Marcel is the pet of dinosaur lover and whiner extraordinaire Ross Geller, played by David Schwimmer. This false relationship between Ross and Marcel meant that Schwimmer and the capuchin in question, Katie, had to have a much closer relationship than he would have preferred.
Most of Schwimmer’s grievances are the normal animal co-star annoyances: the monkey missing marks, forcing additional takes, and randomly taking off mid-shoot. There’s one specific issue that seems to have remained stuck squarely in his craw, though: Marcel’s habit of eating grubs while seated on his shoulder. Katie would get her squirming snacks and then rub grub bits into Schwimmer's hair like a schoolyard bully version of Timon and Pumba. Schwimmer recollected, “I would have monkey grubby hands all over. It was just time for Marcel to fuck off!”
Every Animal In Roar
This story isn’t about a single animal, but an entire film production that should have been cancelled within the first week, much less being carried through to completion. This is the 1981 film Roar, often called “the most dangerous movie ever made.” The basic plot of the comedy (yes, comedy) followed a family visiting their father on a Tanzanian nature preserve filled with dangerous lions and tigers who were played by very real, very dangerous lions and tigers.
Thankfully, no one was killed on set, a fact star Tippi Hedren has called “amazing.” The injury count, however, was incredibly high, and we’re not talking incidental scratches. The director Noel Marshall almost lost his arm to a lion bite on the FIRST DAY OF FILMING. But sacrifices must be made in the name of comedy! Throughout production, there were dozens of animal attacks, many of them requiring hospitalization. Tippi Hedren got 36 stitches in the scalp after being bitten by a lion and had her leg crushed by an elephant. The lions’ taste for heads continued when they attacked the director of photography, whose scalp required over 120 stitches to be reacquainted with his skull. Another star in the film, Melanie Griffith, at all of 19 years old, had her face clawed so badly she needed plastic surgery.
The film today has a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes. Your call on whether that was worth it. I enjoy Jason Bailey of Flavorwire’s description: “a cross between a nature special, a home movie, a snuff film, and a key exhibit at a sanity hearing.”