Melanie Griffith literally grew up with the “King of the Jungle” as her BFF, Page Six reports.
As a teenager, Melanie shared her home with a lion named Neil. The big cat came to reside with Melanie when her famous parents, Tippi Hedren and step-father Noel Marshall, decided to do a film on the big cats.
In the 1970s, Life Magazine did a photo shoot of Neil and his adopted family. The photos showed the lion lounging around the house, playing in the pool, and getting itself a snack from the refrigerator. There were even photos of the lion sleeping in bed with Melanie.
Melanie and her entire family starred in the film, which was titled Roar. The film took 11 years to create, and unfortunately was a box-office flop. During the shooting of the movie, there were several cast and crew injuries, including Melanie Griffith. The actress had to have 50 stitches after being bit by a lion.
Melanie Griffith, now 57, appears to be completely comfortable with the lion in all of the photos.
The idea for the film came about when Hedren and Marshall were filming a movie in Africa, and came across a house long abandoned and full of lions. After deciding to do the movie, they made the decision to get comfortable with the animals by bringing Neil into their home to raise alongside Melanie, Yahoo! News reports.
Roar was released in the early 1980s, and included 150 animals. The filming was tough on everyone. Griffith told the The Guardian during promotion of the film about how she got her famous face “torn open” by a lion and had 50 stitches.
“The lion didn’t mean to hurt me. Just, after seven years growing up with the lions I forgot you have to be careful. You can never be sure you’re safe and just a blow can pop your head like a ping pong ball,” Melanie told The Guardian.
Griffith and her family made sure that everyone knew that none of the animals were harmed during the filming, but that several humans, including Melanie, did end up in the hospital.
Animals are still a huge part of Melanie’s life. Her mother, now 85, runs an animal sanctuary called the Shambala Preserve. The sanctuary takes care of injured, mistreated, and neglected animals. The sanctuary is located in Acton, California. The sanctuary is run by the Hedren Roar Foundation, and Melanie is a member of the advisory board.