The 1981 film Roar was never released in theaters in the U.S. The movie, which was in production for years from the mid 70s on, features over a hundred live lions, tigers, panthers, elephants and various other wild animals.
According to Terry Albright, who worked on the film throughout its production, part of the reason the film was never released domestically was the use of non-union crew. “Almost everyone on the film was non-union,” Albright says, “except [director of photography] Jan de Bont.”
I had a chance to speak with Albright, who talks about the film with great fondness, despite its recorded 70 animal-related injuries among cast and crew.
“Stunts, animal handling, set building, I did it all,” claims Albright.
Albright was a family friend of then married actress Tippi Hedren and actor-director Noel Marshall and found himself working in multiple capacities on the film. “I would drive between my company Film Consortium and the set in Acton, almost falling asleep at the wheel.”
Besides exhaustion throughout the years long production, the crew had to deal with untamed and unpredictable animals. Albright recounts the time Jan de Bont (who went on to direct Speed and Twister) was scalped by one of the lions.
“Me and Jan were dug in the road under a tarp filming some lions running at us. Jan was moving his hand around under the tarp, and lions are attracted to movement like that, and he got attacked … I had to drive him several miles down mountain roads to the hospital.”
Despite his injury, and 220 stitches, de Bont returned to the production.
“Jan was a real trooper,” says Albright, “He was willing to put himself on the edge.”
More than the injuries and the disastrous production schedule, though, Albright says what he remembers most about the production was spending time at Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson’s Malibu beach house, or at Tippi Hedren’s ranch, where many of the wild cats stayed.
“Tippi Hedren, Noel Marshall, the whole family: John, Jerry, Joel, and Melanie Griffith, were all wonderful to work with. I remember at the time Tippi’s house was full of baby cats and cheetahs, which have claws more like dogs than cats, and they would tear up the furniture. I spent a lot of time there and getting bit never really occurred to me, even though I did get bit a couple times over the course of filming.”
Roar, billed as “The Most Dangerous Movie Ever Made,” is being rereleased in the U.S. by Drafthouse Films and is playing at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet in Kansas City.