Living With Neil the Lion Documented In Bizarre Photoshoot Back In 1971
This is not a staged photoshoot, but a series of photos documenting the real life of a family living with a lion. These pictures, taken in 1971 by LIFE photographer Michael Rougier, show how Hitchcock’s “The Birds” star and animal rights activist Tippi Hedren, her daughter actress Melanie Griffith, and her husband Noel Marshall lived day-to-day together with Neil the lion.
In 1969, Hedren and Marshall were filming in Africa and came across an abandoned house inhabited by lions. The scenery made the couple want to make a film that would help promote the preservation of this beautiful endangered species. Animal trainer Ron Oxley advised them to live with a lion for a while to get to know what they are really like. That’s when the family moved to a remote ranch in California to live with their lion.
The film “Roar“ came out in 1981, starring Hedren, Griffith, Marshall, and 150 untrained large cats. The filming production left the 70 people from the crew injured, with Melanie Griffith with 50 facial stitches from a lioness attack. Despite this, Hedren still lives with 70 animals, including Michael Jackson’s Bengal tiger, in the Shambala Preserve that she founded for mistreated or neglected exotic animals.
Neil the lion with Tippi Hedren in her home in Sherman Oaks, California, 1971
Melanie Griffith in a swimming pool with Neil (left) and a child playing with Neil (right)
A housekeeper steps over Neil
Noel Marshall tries to work in his study with Neil on his desk
Tippi wrestling with Neil
Tippi raids the fridge and reads a newspaper with Neil
Melanie jumping into a swimming pool while Neil grabs her leg
Tippi Playing With Neil
Neil in bed with Melanie
Neil sleeping with Melanie