By Sonia Horon, Global Animal
The Grey is about an oil drilling team stranded in the middle of Alaskan wilderness after their plane crashes. But it’s not the dangerous weather that poses the biggest threat to these men, it’s a pack of wolves that are portrayed as blood-thirsty, vicious creatures. It’s hard not to get irked while watching The Grey since wolves just got delisted as an Endangered Species. It’s even harder to then read interviews with Joe Carnahan, the director, defending his portrayal of wolves as realistic, instead of simply admitting that it’s completely fictional. The idea that a pack of wild wolves that have never had contact with humans would go after humans in a territorial blood war is implausible at best, dangerously misleading at worst.
Wolves are not human shredding machines as Joe Carnahan would have you believe. It’s very rare to encounter them and the director himself admitted to not having seen a live one while shooting the movie. But if you do encounter one, their basic instinct will be to go the other way, not viciously attack you. Joe Carnahan, in all his expertise, disagrees. In an interview with Spinoff Online he laughed the experts off and gave his own version of reality: “…this idea that wolves never attack people — I can give you dozens of stories and accounts that are completely contrary to that. Every time an animal behaviorist or someone who is an ‘expert’ says this is what they do, I’ll show you a 400-member super-pack in Siberia that tore through 30 horses in two days, so don’t tell me that nature is completely benign.”
Four hundred member super-packs? The experts Carnahan scoffs at say his statements are not connected to reality. Amaroq Weiss from the California Wolf Center wrote to me saying “In the last 100 years, there have been two “confirmed” cases of wolves killing people in North America, one in 2005 in Saskatchewan and the other in 2010 in Alaska.”
And when it comes to Europe the statistics are similarly low “There currently are an estimated 10,000-20,000 wolves in Europe, 40,000 in Russia and 60,000 in North America. Despite the high numbers of wolves, records can be found for only four people being killed in Europe and four in Russia by non-rabid wolves during the last 50 years.
Lightning kills 40-50 people a year in the United States, so you have a way better chance of being struck by lightning than killed by a wolf. You would never know this watching The Grey.
As for the director disregarding expert opinion in favor of telling lies to market his film, Amaroq Weiss, who has worked in numerous wolf-related institutes throughout the years, says: “No one who has worked in wolf conservation or seriously studied behavior of wolves in the wild would ever say that nature is benign. Nature is magnificent and wild and beautiful and unforgiving. However, wolf biologists also would never depict wolves the way Mr. Carnahan has portrayed them in this film because it wouldn’t be accurate. Wolves are charismatic animals that have long provoked the human imagination. Unfortunately, our imaginations have often slipped into the dark abyss of fear and hysteria, igniting campaigns to kill wolves. While The Grey may accurately be termed a thriller film, as Mr. Carnahan suggests, from the perspective of those of us who have spent years trying to get accurate information about wolves in front of the American public, there is nothing thrilling about a story that appeals to our darker nature, which most certainly has not been benign to species like wolves.”
Although method acting is usually a great technique, it seems some of the cast members of The Grey have taken it too far. Liam Neeson and fellow Grey stars ate wolf meat while shooting in Alaska. According to their director it was to help the actors really get a feel for the role. There have been numerous unfavorable speculations about how he got the wolf meat for his cast. So not only is Joe creating wolf phobia, but he’s also possibly contributing to wiping out this animal which is already endangered in so many states. Apparently for Joe Carnahan, director of gems like “The A-Team” and “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”, the subject of eating wolves is funny. During a lunch with reporters he reportedly picked up a plate and joked “I’m eating raw wolf!” Hilarious Joe. Eat an endangered species and have a good laugh.
This implausible movie will do terrible damage to wolves’ image. To those of you who would say “It’s only a movie,” think about how sharks fared after Jaws came out. Last year 36 million sharks were killed for soup, their fins cut off while the rest of them sank to the bottom of the sea and drowned. Did a movie do this? No. But a movie helped make it okay. Sharks and wolves, they’re vicious predators, they’ll kill you. So it becomes okay to kill them. Like it or not, movies affect public opinion and actions. They change us, sometimes for the better.
Just this year, the Interior Department has caved to pressure from ranchers and hunters to allow regular wolf hunts, in addition to outright killings of ‘problem wolves’ that attack cattle. Grey wolves have been brought from the edge of extinction to a total and still tenuous population of just 5,500 in eight states in the Northern Rockies.
This is the truth about endangered grey wolves: they are delisted and have a fragile hold on survival. They need our help and our understanding. Not our ignorance and exploitation.
Don’t buy this dark fairy tale about a magnificent animal.