WATCH: Beast star tells terrifying story about a professional lion-hugger 1 year ago

WATCH: Beast star tells terrifying story about a professional lion-hugger

'If you show the lion the tiniest bit of fear, you can end up getting eaten.'

There is an old Hollywood saying: never work with children or animals.


The latter is certainly applicable to new intense thriller Beast, in which a father (Idris Elba) takes his two teenager daughters to South Africa, where he reunites with an old friend (Sharlto Copley), who takes them all on a lion-spotting safari.

However, while they're alone and in the middle of nowhere, they all soon discover they've become the primary target for a rogue lion, and with no way of escape or communication, they must figure out a way to survive.

In the run-up to the movie's release, JOE had the opportunity to chat to pretty much everyone involved in the making of the movie, including District 9 star Sharlto Copley, and you can check out that interview in full right here:


During our chat with Copley, who is a native of South Africa, we asked were there any aspects of the film that he was surprised by? Unsurprisingly, it is to do with how incredibly dangerous the lions are actually are...

Copley told us:

"I knew a South African lion expert by the name of Kevin Richardson, who I had met a couple of years prior. And I spent a day with him, he is probably the biggest lion guy on YouTube, has millions of views. And he does play with lions like I do in the movie.

"And he can do that even with lions that he didn't raise. On the right day, with the right lion, he can gauge them like that. And he thought me that when you say a human playing with a lion, being playful with them, just how unbelievably difficult that is. How incredibly dangerous it is.


"He spent years trying to find someone to replace him, find someone to do what he does, and he cannot. People will go through a process, two or three years of training, and then just chicken out one day.

"Because you can't show any fear whatsoever. So when you watch those videos, you think 'Oh, he must be sort of a Zen animal guy, like how I love my dog and my dog loves me'. Kevin is more like a special forces guy. If he wasn't with lions, he'd be a Navy SEAL.

"If you show the lion the tiniest bit of fear, if you go in playing and he scratches you a bit hard and your fight-or-flight triggers and you want to leave, the lion is just instinctively going to claw you and go 'Nope, where are you going?', and then you're going to get more scared and you can end up getting eaten.

"It is a crazy level of absolute neutrality, but also you've got to dominate without being too violent. It is very tricky to engage lions like that."


Obviously Copley wasn't dealing with actual lions when he was doing his lion-hugging scene in Beast, so what was he dealing with during that scene?

Copley laughs describing the memory: "I was interacting with a stunt guy with a lion head on, and two paws. So it was like a bad high school mascot, all grey, and in a leotard."

You can also check out our interviews with Beast's leading man Idris Elba below, as well as his on-screen daughters Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries right here, the movie's producer Will Packer here, and the movie's director Baltasar Kormákur here.

Beast arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday, 26 August.