Far from the cries of Hollywood, Tippi Hedren spends most of her days surrounded by those she’s most comfortable with: deadly and exotic wild animals.
On one hand, this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds, in which Hedren made her screen debut as Melanie, a woman who follows a love interest up to Northern California where the town is suddenly besieged by violent birds. By all accounts Hedren was submitted to days upon days of shooting a particular scene in which she was attacked by real-life birds, almost losing an eye. It was not the kind of shoot Hitchock had promised her.
“How I survived, I kind of wonder sometimes,” she tells Off the Cuff. “They threw birds at me for a week.”
But survive she did, and despite this harrowing experience, Hedren not only shirked off the horrifying animal encounter, but embraced it. Inspired by her 1981 film Roar, a project that featured dozens of lions, Hedren started the Roar Foundation which now oversees The Shambala Preserve in Acton, Calif., a home to large exotic felines where Hedren now resides herself.
She joined #pretapodcasts to talk about her newest passion project — not a film, or anything relating to the entertainment world — but a bill which aims to stop the breeding of big cats to be sold as pets and/or used for financial exploitation. If passed, the bill poses a big threat to an illegal business that generates money comparable to the drug trade — a threat that some are not taking lightly.
“I don’t run scared,” she says as she recounts once receiving death threats from a man the FBI eventually discovered was a drug dealer from New Jersey.
“Many drug dealers have lions and tigers roaming around their grounds, because the authorities are very reticent to come into an area at night where there is a lion or a tiger,” she explains. But Hedren will not be deterred; when it is suggested that fighting for animal rights represents a full circle moment from being the young woman who was once attacked by them on set, she responds, “Until I get this bill passed it isn’t full circle for me.”
On a lighter note, Hedren also tells us about her proud (if not slightly conflicted) moment upon hearing that granddaughter Dakota Johnson was cast as Anastasia Steele in the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” she says, but adds, “I’d just as soon watch the trailer and that’s it.”
Luckily she has a softer spot for granddaughters than she does for big game breeders.
Listen to Hedren’s full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #pretapodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes