This collection of personal images of Neil the lion from the 1970s has a chilling narrative that should remind us all that we will never completely grasp the mentality of a wild animal, no matter how much we love or feel close to them.
Tippi Hedren, her husband Noel Marshall, and their actress daughter Melanie Griffith decided to make a film about lions after visiting Africa.
Neil the lion and Melanie Griffith in their Sherman Oaks, California, home in 1971.
They had Neil the lion live with them on the recommendation of Ron Oxley, an animal trainer who advised that “to get to know about lions, you’ve got to live with them for a while.” Michael Rougier, a LIFE photographer, documented their lives.
Their life with Neil appears to have been pleasant, but their film, Roar, did not fare as well.
Melanie in a swimming pool with Neil (left) and a child playing with Neil (right).
Melanie needed 50 stitches after being attacked by a lioness in the movie, while cinematographer Jan de Bont’s scalp had to be sewed back on.
A total of 70 individuals were hurt by the film’s cast of 150 huge predatory cats. The film cost about $17.5 million to make and only made $2 million.
Tippi Hedren reading a newspaper while resting over Neil.
Neil is stepped on by a housekeeper.
With Neil on his desk, Noel Marshall tries to work in his study.
Tippi raids the refrigerator and sits down with Neil to read the newspaper.
Melanie dives into the water, while Neil grabs her leg.
Tippi has a play with Neil.