Pictures from the teenage years of Melanie Griffith have resurfaced to show how the actor grew up with an odd—and dangerous—choice for a family pet. The pictures show Griffith, her mother Tippi Hedren, and then-stepfather Noel Marshall going about their daily routine at home in the company of a huge lion named Neil, who was the family pet.
The photos from 1971 were originally published in LIFE magazine and taken by photographer Michael Rougier. They show a 14-year-old Griffith hanging around her mother’s home in Sherman Oaks, California, where she played and slept with a full-sized lion named Neil. One photo shows Griffith lounging in bed with Neil, who is covered with a red blanket. Another photo shows Griffith jumping into a pool, with Neil stretching a paw to grab her leg and jaws wide as if to bite it.
What possesses someone to adopt a lion. And then call it Neil? http://t.co/q44E0vEl1W
— Matt Baylis (@MattBaylis2) October 10, 2014
WHAT. Why don’t *I* get to have a pet lion??! http://t.co/51yqvCYgMz
— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) October 13, 2014
Griffith, now aged 57, started living with Neil at her mother’s house after Hedren and Marshall adopted the lion from Anton Lavey, High Priest of the Church of Satan, when he could no longer keep the pet in his San Francisco apartment. Hedren and Marshall reportedly became fascinated with lions after taking a trip to Africa, where they decided to make a movie about the huge cats.
Actress Tippi Hedren and daughter Melanie Griffith living with a lion named Neil in 1970s pic.twitter.com/VHv5oQOopo
— VR-Zone (@vrzone) October 10, 2014
They ended up making the movie Roar, starring Hedren and Griffith, which took 11 years to make. The movie ended up being a box-office flop. However, what was more worrying was the fact that many of its cast and crew, including Griffith, were injured during filming. Griffith needed 50 stitches after being bitten by one of the cats.
In a 1982 interview with The Guardian during promotions for Roar, Griffith spoke about her injury. Griffith said that the lioness that tore her face open hadn’t meant to hurt her. “Just, after seven years growing up with the lions I forgot you have to be careful. You can never be sure you’re safe and just a blow can pop your head like a ping pong ball,” she said.