On Friday night I settled down to watch a film, something I spend most nights doing, and browsing through the catalogue on Netflix (which I’m becoming quite fond of incidentally) I came across a film from the 90s that I’d never seen, called The Edge.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin and Elle Macpherson, the story revolves around a rich businessman and his friend who end up lost in the wilderness following a plane crash. Their quest to find a way out is made all the more difficult by a huge, man-eating bear that hunts them.
The film itself was decent enough, but one thing that interested me in particular was the bear itself. These days we are all too familiar with heavy use of CGI, but in this case it was evident that a real bear was used. Indeed, many of the sequences were clearly just clever editing between shots of the bear and shots of the actors, but there were also scenes that certainly seemed to involve live action between the two.
I was intrigued, and decided to look this animal up. What I found was ‘Bart the Bear’.
Bart was a 1700 pound bear in his prime, and grew over 9 feet tall. The astonishing thing about him was just how well he was trained.
A creature so large, so powerful, yet apparently so well behaved and a talented film star!
Hopkins and Baldwin put in admirable performances in The Edge, but the star of the show had to be Bart.
Although often played as the part of a Brown Bear, Bart was actually a Kodiak Bear. In addition to starring alongside Hopkins and Baldwin, he also rubbed shoulders with the likes of Dan Aykroyd, Steven Seagal and John Candy.
I think there is definitely something more impressive about seeing a real live beast starring in a motion picture rather than just CGI, no matter how impressive the effects may be.
Sadly, Bart the Bear died of cancer in the year 2000, aged 23.
Bears are stunning creatures, although of course generally extremely dangerous as well. This particular bear, however, was a well trained, affectionate actor. Although he didn’t have any Oscars to show for this, I’d like to give a strong shout out for one of my new favourite film stars.
Bart the Bear
1977 – 2000