If the Hollywood maxim of never working with kids or animals is true, it’s a wonder any turn up in movies. Here, we look at ten of the best.
10. Mr. Jingles
Aside from Jerry and maybe Basil the Great Mouse Detective, there aren’t too many great acting roles for mice. Understandably so when you learn that 30 trained mice played Mr Jingles, the resurrected mouse in Green Mile.
With so many of the creatures filling one role, their motivation for giving an outstanding performance was clear; none wanted to be the Mr Jingles crushed under the sadistic Percy Wetmore’s foot.
The photo should come with an “awwwww” warning; this is diving head first into cute dog territory. Beethoven rivalled Mary Poppins as the best kids nanny in movie history; scaring off bullies, fixing love-matches and lifeguard duties, all before the first pouch of Pedigree Chum has been ripped open.
Add into that mix fraudsters and animal experimentation, and it’s not hard to see why Beethoven was an all-round smash hit at the box office. Beethoven 2nd came along and brought parenthood with it and everyone lived happily ever after in the subsequent six (!) sequels.
It could quite easily have been War Horse; Finder’s Key played the main role in both films. Horses, so often a prop in the western, shed that tag and fascinating stories emerge. The biopic of Seabiscuit, the 1930s thoroughbred racehorse who took on and beat the best of the era, resonates with recent research. Conducted by an online bookie, it was established the horse was likely to record a podium finish in a race between the nine fastest land mammals.
Ten horses played Seabiscuit in the film and forty were used in all. The real Seabiscuit was the nephew of his great rival, War Admiral, as the latter’s sibling, Hard Tack, sired Seabiscuit.
Originally cast as light relief, Cheetah was the star of the show. Johnny Weissmuller was the Olympic gold medalist and Maureen O’Sullivan, the looks, but Cheetah had the last laugh, outliving the pair.
He died in 2011 and was widely loved in the animal sanctuary where he saw out his days. He had a touch of the diva about him though. Ron Priest, a volunteer at the time said,
“When he didn’t like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them. He could get you at 30ft with bars in between.”
And for that he will ever be remembered.
Inside Llewyn Davis was the tale of a folk singer in 1961, following him for a week in Greenwich Village. Ulysses the cat was the animal manifestation of his music career. The ginger tom had a wonderful elusiveness, disappearing on a whim and returning only for food and company.
Ethan Coen was hugely unimpressed with Ulysses acting. He said, “”The cat was a nightmare. The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, “Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.” A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don’t want them to do, if anyone’s interested; I don’t know if there’s a market for that.”
Every Which Way But Loose and the follow-up, Every Which Way You Can, were run-of-the mill films, notable for Clint Eastwood’s foray into a comedy role about bare knuckle fighter, Philo Beddoe.
Eastwood was the Hollywood draw; Clyde, his pet Orangutan, was the star of the show. Clint claimed his sidekick was a “natural actor” but “you had to get him on his first take. His boredom level was low.”
Originally played by Pat the Collie in the first Lassie films. Pat was earning the equivalent of $3m per year in his prime. It’s a staggering amount and one of which many serious actors of the day would be royally jealous.
Pat died in 1958 but not before becoming the benchmark by which all Lassie’s were judged. He kept it in the family as well. All subsequent dogs used were descendants of his.
3.Keiko the Killer Whale – Free Willy
Keiko the killer whale played Willy in the two Free Willy movies but there was nothing free about his time. He earned not only his freedom in 2002 – sadly, he died a year or so later following a bout of pneumonia – but also $36m for the films. $36m! He quite literally, had a whale of a time!
Movie making at it’s best in the top two and it was hard to decide which was the more imaginative. But second place it is for Air Buddy, who played Buddy in the movie, Air Bud, a story about a golden retriever who can play basketball.
Sometimes Air Buddy used a screen name, Buddy the Wonder Dog, and with tekkers like that, nobody can argue!
Yep, the pig who wanted to become a sheepdog. There wasn’t one ‘Babe’ in the film; 48 had to be used because the piglets grew too quickly found from quickmoviefacts.com. But this was the film where the showbiz adage about animals went out of the window; over 1,000 were used in the shoot!