25 years ago the final shots of the movie that made East Africa famous were just being shot. And today the controversy continues….
The 1985 movie, Out of Africa, was being completed in Naivasha, Kenya, almost exactly 25 years ago. The last scene shot was actually in the middle of the movie, where the lions attacked Isaac Dinesen (Meryl Streep), because director, Sydney Pollack, hadn’t been satisfied with earlier takes.
I remember that wonderful year, 1984. We were all deeply involved in outfitting the movie, since there were so many people there to shoot it. I never learned a number, but it had to be hundreds. There’s never been a movie shot in East Africa before or since with such a large number of people involved.
My movie friends in Kenya tell me that today the technology has improved so dramatically that cameras and lights and booms now replace people. The largest media productions recently have been the BBC’s Big Cats series, and those were mostly “associate producers” who would be scooting around the Mara in tiny Suzuki’s looking for something to shoot.
When it was finally found, the “set team” would be called in, and we would see scaffolding, lights, platforms and giant cranes with moving cameras set up at remarkable speeds, all sometimes to shoot a family of 7 or 8 lion sleeping. It was remarkable, especially how fast it was done.
But 25 years ago, Sydney Pollack was so dissatisfied with the lion attack scene that, according to Meryl Streep (who played Karen) today (in contactmusic.com), he endangered her life to get a better shot!
Streep has always claimed, and the late Pollack has always denied, that he “unleashed” the lions to get a more realistic scene as they were set again on Streep.
The lions by the way came from Los Angeles and were trained as movie lions. But that never mollified Streep, who has always claimed that she was traumatized for life by what she’s often termed a “reckless move.”
It was a great scene!