‘He was a f***ing a**hole’ to do that

Written By komlim puldel on Minggu, 12 April 2015 | 23.08

Scenes from the cult movie 'Roar'. Source: Supplied

Ravening jungle beasts assemble in flocks to invade an otherwise quiet home where they chase humans up and down stairways and from one room to another

ALMOST everybody knows that director Alfred Hitchcock had live birds thrown at terrified actor Tippi Hedren so they would attack her for real in The Birds.

Few are aware, though, that Hedren and her family (including daughter Melanie Griffith) chose to work for years with more than 150 untrained lions, tigers, cougars and elephants for the most dangerous movie in history — which is finally making its US theatrical debut on Friday, some 35 years after it was completed.

Roar was the mad brainstorm of Hedren's then-husband Noel Marshall, the executive producer of The Exorcist as well as The Harrad Experiment, which starred Hedren and (Griffith's future husband) Don Johnson.

Scenes from the cult movie 'Roar'. Source: Supplied

"Dad was a f — king a — hole to do that to his family," says John Marshall, who as a teenager agreed to star with his father, younger brother, stepmother and stepsister in a bizarre project that dragged on for 11 years and caused dozens of brutal injuries to them and the crew.

"It seemed like a really cool idea at the beginning, but it was dangerous," he notes.

Marshall says the family spent years preparing for the film by living with the big cats at a ranch 40 miles north of LA where animal rights activist Hedren now runs a preserve.

The problems began when production commenced at the ranch in 1976 on the film, which opens with a conservationist's family arriving at his home in Africa — he's away on business — only to discover it's filled with ferocious lions and tigers.

"You're fine with lions and tigers as long as you don't show any fear," Marshall recalls. "The problem is that the plot required us to show fear. These animals who had learned to respect us were totally confused when we started acting terrified."

There were more than 70 bloody attacks on the stars and crew. As Hedren recounts in a 1988 memoir, when John Marshall tripped on a rock and landed face down in high grass, a lion he was walking with jumped on him, "his big mouth closing over the back of John's head."

Marshall recalls: "I looked up and there was blood on his teeth. It took six guys to pull him off me and I got 56 stitches. I had to work with that lion on and off for five years because we kept running out of money."

Following a clash between two lions, Melanie Griffith quit the production — Hedren quotes her as saying, "Mother, I don't want to come out of this with half a face."

Griffith later returned, only to be mauled by a cat so severely she required dozens of stitches and plastic surgery.

"It's amazing no one was killed," Hedren once said of the film, which left her with a broken leg after she was bucked off the back of an elephant.

Soon after production finally wrapped, she split with Noel, who reportedly took years to recover from injuries and complications, including gangrene. (He died in 2010.)

The animals were also spooked by the film's frightened crew, who frequently quit en masse as casualties mounted. Director of photography Jan de Bont (who later directed "Speed") had his scalp ripped off by a lion and required 120 stitches.

Marshall says Roar was never theatrically distributed in the United States because of suits brought by creditors.

Scenes from the cult movie 'Roar'. Source: Supplied

With less than $2 million in worldwide ticket sales versus a budget that swelled to $17 million, it's considered one of the most disastrous indie productions in Hollywood history.

Owned for the last five years by Marshall's daughter Stephanie, Roar will make its Blu-ray debut this summer following a run in around 40 theatres.

Neither Hedren nor Griffith are promoting the film, and Marshall doesn't blame them.

"Tippi and Melanie kind of want to forget about the whole thing," says Marshall, who is still in touch with them. "I still get nightmares when I watch 'Roar,' so I don't see it too often."

That said, Marshall doesn't regret the experience. "It was amazing to live through that," he says. "I should have died many times. But I kind of want to do it again."

*This article first appeared in the New York Post.

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