I’ve had such a full life, from modelling in New York to being discovered by Hitchcock, a movie career, to my love for big cats, campaigns for animal welfare and three marriages.“My marriages were all good – until they weren’t. My first husband Peter Griffith was younger than me and I’ve never understood why I married him but he gave me Melanie.
I’d love to act alongside Melanie and Dakota in a movie. “These cats are apex predators and should never be considered as pets.” Yet Hedren lived with a lion cub in the 1970s and on occasion allowed full-grown lion Neil the run of her house, even sleeping in bed with young Melanie, who needed plastic surgery after a lion’s claws raked her face. “I should never have had big cats in the house.” When she filmed the 1981 movie Roar, about a family living with lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs, 70 of the cast and crew suffered mauling injuries, including cinematographer Jan De Bont scalped by a lion, requiring 220 stitches.“It took five years to finish that film,” says Hedren, who was among those mauled.“It was insane.” At Shambala she no longer allows keepers and cats in enclosures at the same time.“I’m looking out at a lion lazing on top of his den,” she says.“Out of my bedroom window is a tiger resting beside a pond.Repeated lion and tiger attacks through the years have left Hedren with scars, aches and debilitating injuries.
“I’ve been dragged down many times by lions and they weigh more than a football linebacker,” she says.The view is absolutely beautiful and at night the roars of the big cats are like a lullaby.” It’s also the reason why at the age of 86 Hedren needs to keep acting.She is one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary blonde ice queens, the star of The Birds and Marnie, the matriarch of an acting dynasty that produced daughter Melanie Griffith and granddaughter Dakota Johnson.“I’m very proud of Melanie and Dakota because I’ve never pushed them into acting,” she says. To this day I’ve never given either one a word of career advice.They made it entirely on their own.” Yet when Dakota accepted the annual Women in Hollywood Emerging Star Award in October she thanked Hedren “for making me the woman I am today”.“That was sweet but I take no credit,” says Hedren.The man known as “the greatest entertainer in the world” was onstage, the smoke from his cigarette trellising the air.