During the seventies, actress Tippi Hedren and her family lived with a pride of dozens of lions. The entire family was involved in caring for the large cats at her Sherman Oaks home in California. These lions were known to be both sweet and incredibly ferocious.
Hedren and her husband, Noel Marshall, were inspired to live with the pride after a life-changing experience filming in Africa. The couple toured various wildlife preserves and were fascinated when they stumbled upon an abandoned plantation house in Mozambique overrun by dozens of lions. It’s what motivated them to begin their 11-year adventure to create Roar, a film that would almost cost them their lives.
The cats were raised under the same roof as Hedren’s children, including her daughter Melanie Griffith. The cubs even slept next to her and her kids because the couple believed the risk was extremely low.
However, that wasn’t the exactly the case.
During production of the movie, there were over 70 attacks on the cast and crew documented, even several really close calls. The filmmaker, Jan de Bont, had his scalp ripped off, Hedren suffered a fractured leg and scalp injuries, and Griffith was attacked in the face by a lioness and needed 50 stitches and reconstructive surgery. John Marshall had to be rushed to the hospital after a lion bit down on his skull. There was even one case of gangrene.
Surprisingly, nobody was killed. “In hindsight, I know how stupid it was to do this film,” says Marshall. “I am amazed no one died.”
Despite taking 11 years, dozens of near-death experiences, and $17.5 million to complete, the film was a flop, grossing just over $2 million. Variety magazine called it the “most disaster-plagued film in the history of Hollywood.”
The majority of the photographs featured in the slideshow above were taken by LIFE magazine in the early 1970s at Hedren’s home.
Watch the trailer for Roar below.