No animals were injured during the filming of 1981 horror movie Roar but their human co-stars weren’t so fortunate. Here is some movie trivia about the most dangerous movie ever made.
Have you ever heard of Roar? Probably not, and with good reason. It was trashed by critics and ignored by audiences when it was released in 1981, earning a fraction of its $17 million budget and quickly forgotten. Tim League, a film buff who operates the Alamo Drafthouse revival theaters in Austin, Texas, recently discovered the film and screened it. Roar is earning a lot of new fans because its production is one of the most reckless in cinema history.
Roar was the brainchild of actress Tippi Hedren (best known as the star of The Birds) and her then husband and manager, Noel Marshall. Both were animal rights activists with a passion for big cats, and at the time lived on a wild animal preserve north of Los Angeles that was home to more than 100 cats. They later decided that their lions/tigers/etc. should star in their own big budget Hollywood film about a family, much like theirs, getting attacked by their gigantic kitties. After ignoring the advice of trainers and zookeepers, who told them that their idea was totally crazy, the duo found investors and began filming Roar in 1970.
As you may have guessed, lions and tigers aren’t very good actors and they tend to get awfully “bitey” on film sets. The cast and crew endured more than 70 injuries as Hedren and Marshall bickered with investors and struggled to keep the cameras rolling. The young star of the film was even mauled by one of the lions and had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery. That star: Melanie Griffith—Hedren’s daughter. Additional disasters included the sets being repeatedly destroyed by wildfires and floods and the cats themselves getting hit by a mysterious illness.
Remarkably, no humans died during the production but, at one point, several members of the crew became convinced that the film was cursed due to Marshall’s decision to executive produce The Exorcist. Despite all of the complications, filming continued and Roar eventually roared into cinemas in 1981. As a writer for Variety put it at the time: “[this is] the most disaster-plagued film in the history of Hollywood.”
The couple divorced in 1982 and Hedren wrote a book about the debacle titled Cats of Shambala. If you’re curious to see Roar for yourself, it will be re-released in select cinemas this April.
For more movie trivia, check out Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into Hollywood.