Somber Will Ferrell Admits Shock
Although we normally try to keep the news cheery in these here parts, movie fans were shocked last month to hear that a grizzly bear most recently seen in the film 'Semi-Pro' had attacked and killed its handler . In Los Angeles, if not nationally, the story was often reported with the implication that comedian Will Ferrell had dodged a bullet by having filmed opposite the animal.
Now, for the first time, Ferrell spoke to us about the death of 39-year-old animal trainer Stephan Miller.
'You know, honestly, it was very sad,' the 'Semi-Pro' star remembered of his thoughts when he heard the news. 'I feel for the trainer and his family. It was kind of a tough situation, obviously, for him and that profession and that sort of thing, and I was shocked.'
The bear, a 5-year-old male named Rocky, had been trained to wrestle with experienced handlers like Miller. It was a routine that came in handy for films like 'Semi-Pro,' which had a funny scene in the script that called for Ferrell's basketball team owner Jackie Moon to wrestle a bear in an attempt to boost attendance at home games.
In real life, the bear's skills were being exhibited for a promotional video taping when the 700-pound, 7 1/2-foot animal bit the trainer in the neck. But Ferrell is quick to point out that he never actually filmed with the bear.
'Everyone was saddened, and everyone thought that,' he remembered. '[They'd say] 'Oh, you're lucky that the bear...' But, I was never in the same vicinity of the bear when we shot the movie.'
Ultimately, Ferrell can only send his sympathy, and remind everyone that courageous animal trainers like Miller are the reason why such scenes can be so convincingly filmed. 'I guess it's a credit to the way that that scene was cut and shot,' he said. 'It looks like I'm in there with a real bear. But there's a lot of brave people who do that work.'