Day One: Thrilled to read in Variety that director Alejandro González Iñárritu is looking for a “real-life bear” to star in an upcoming film with Leonardo DiCaprio. I am so in! Particular as it looks like the Friends remake I starred in isn’t going to get past the pilot stage.
Day Three: Crushed the audition! The casting director shakes my hand (paw!). “I could detect the feral intensity of a young de Niro in your performance,” he gushes. I ring my agent to share the good news as the casting director sends the other grizzlies home (losers).
Day 30: First meeting with Alejandro González Iñárritu. “Can I call you AI?” I ask. “Sure,” he says. Nice guy.
Day 31: Get a copy of the original screenplay. Complain to AI that there’s not enough “bear” in it. Explain that the film needs to be another 30 minutes, with at least half of the film shot from the bear’s point of view. AI shakes his head. “Trust me – everybody will be talking about ‘YOUR’ scene with Leo,” he says.
Day 38: Meet Leo for the first time. He’s smaller in person than he looks on screen. “Looking forward to working with you,” he says. “I’d like to come to your trailer and workshop our scene. I have some ideas that will really make it pop.” When I smile, Leo flinches. An omen of things to come?
Day 44: Leo is concerned. “How exactly do I fight a bear?” he asks AI. I smile toothily: “You don’t.” Leo flinches again. Puny human. Still, I loved him in Titanic.
Day 51: Trouble on set as I gut a craft services guy who screwed up my caramel latte order. AI says it’s OK – he was an orphan owned by the studio.
Day 55: Complaints from the cast that I am, quote, “surly and uncommunicative”. I explain to AI that I’m trying to stay in character like Wesley Snipes did while filming the Blade movies. AI points out that refusing to talk to the cast made Snipes intensely unpopular. Urge to kill humans rising.
Day 60: Problems again as more of my lines are cut from the script. AI explains that it’s because I’m “harder to understand than Tom Hardy – and most people can barely understand HIM”.
Urge to kill humans rising again. I immediately ring my agent, who explains that a murderous off-set ursine rampage could harm my future career prospects in Hollywood. Go back to my trailer and take a Xanax.
Day 61: Tell Tom Hardy I loved him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. His answer is unintelligible. I see AI’s point.
Day 80: The day before the big scene. Leo is nervous. He comes to my trailer late at night. “You’re going to go easy on me, aren’t you? We’re only ACTING.” I smile. “Yes, ‘ACTING’,” I say, raising my paws to put air quotes around the word. Leo leaves my trailer, troubled. (Later I would discover he tried to have me fired and replaced by a trained circus bear, but AI wouldn’t go for it. “I want to feel your fear,” he told Leo.)
Day 81: The big day. Leo is understandably nervous … particularly about the line in the script “the bear attacks Leo in an improvised frenzy”. What exactly, he wonders, does the word “improvised” mean to a giant grizzly? He soon finds out as I charge him and toss him to the ground like a toy. My claws are soon all over his body like a whirlwind of razors. “Not the face! Not the face!” he screams. His acting is really good – he makes me believe he’s ACTUALLY afraid.
The assistant director moves to intervene when I start to draw blood, but AI waves him away. “Keep filming,” he says, then nods at me. I nod back. “This will be good for the project,” I whisper into Leo’s ear as I continue with the mauling that seems to go on FOREVER.
Day 82: The doctors say Leo will be hospitalised for months. AI shrugs. “True art comes with a price,” he says. Leo’s double – another orphan owned by the studio – will take over for the rest of the shoot.
10 Days After Shooting: Outraged to learn that people are accusing me of sexually assaulting Leo. How is that even possible? The paps are following me everywhere. Sunglasses fail to work as a disguise.
30 Days After Shooting: Leo is starting to heal … but the doctors say he’ll now walk with a limp. Oddly, he still refuses to talk to me.
In The Editing Suite: AI cuts me out of the movie except for my one scene with Leo. I feel the urge to maul rising. Seeing my hair stand up on end, AI pacifies me by saying that my scene with Leo is epic, legendary, one for the ages. “The best scene I’ve ever shot,” he says. “I see you and Leo sharing the Oscar podium. Once Leo gets out of the wheelchair, that is.”
Next Day: My scene with Leo IS epic. Best scene of the film. Oscar noms must surely follow.
Postscript: Crushed to learn that I didn’t get any nominations. But AI has my back. “The bear was an incredible actor, by the way,” he tells the press.
I feel vindicated at last.
My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.