Wildlife and animal rights groups across the United States are boycotting Liam Neeson's new thriller, "The Grey," because it misrepresents wolves as vicious predators that stalk and kill humans. But the on-screen fiction isn't the worst part. It's what happened off-screen during the filming of the movie that has horrified many people.
At director Joe Carnahan's insistence, Neeson and his castmates prepared for a scene in the movie by actually eating wolf meat. They were filming in Smithers, British Columbia, when Carnahan asked local trapper Dick McDiarmid to provide some wolf carcasses. They ordered two for props and then asked the 67-year-old trapper to bring more.
“They wanted a couple more that they were going to try and eat,” McDiarmid told the Province, a Canadian news site.
McDiarmid said he had the four wolf carcasses in his freezer and he delivered them to Carnahan. Most of the cast got sick -- some vomited on the spot -- but Neeson did not, according to an interview published in the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I went up for seconds of the wolf stew," Neeson said. "A few guys did upchuck. We all knew what we were eating. All I can say is it was very game-y.”
One of Neeson's co-stars, Dermot Mulroney, talked to Jimmy Kimmel about eating the wolf stew.
"Now that I am thinking clearly, I know who to blame," Mulroney said. "This would be Joe Carnahan, the director, who insisted that we experience that."
"Do people eat wolves?" Kimmel asked. "Is it legal to eat a wolf?"
Mulroney stuttered and fumbled before responding,"I can't be certain."
The actors had their choice of wolf stew or "gnaw it off the bone" barbecued wolf, Mulroney said.
McDiarmid was surprised that people would want to eat a wolf. He also was surprised that the movie portrays a wolf pack relentlessly hunting a group of humans. That just doesn't happen in real life, he said.
"I've never really felt threatened by (wolves)," the trapper said. "I’ve seen them watching me from, I don’t know, 75 feet away, and then as soon as you look at them they take off.”
In reality, wolves fear humans and avoid interaction at all costs. Humans, on the other hand, are a serious danger to wolves. Gray wolves are in danger of becoming extinct. They were protected under the federal Endangered Species act until last April, when Congress caved to the interest of cattle ranchers and hunters, and used a budget rider to to remove gray wolves from the list.
There are only about 1,000 gray wolves in Idaho, 566 in Montana, 25 in Oregon and 30 in Washington. Yet Idaho allows both hunting and trapping of wolves -- and the state Department of Fish and Game sets no limit on how many may be killed across much of the state. [See Idaho Department of Fish and Game for details.]
Animal activists fear that demonizing wolves in movies like "The Grey" wrongly leads people to believe the animals are a danger to humans. As one "Boycott the Grey" picket sign read in Alameda, Calif., "Wolves will die because of the lie."
The boycott is in full force, but it has not yet stopped the movie from raking in cash at the box office. "The Grey" is expected to take in at least $18 million on its opening weekend, according to Entertainment Weekly.
To learn more about wolves, visit Defenders of Wildlife.