When you look at animals in the wild, there really aren’t many species that cohabit together. The deer stick together, the squirrels aren’t much for mingling and bears, lions and wolves certainly aren’t making friends outside their inner circle unless you’re the next meal. Just when you realize there should be more animal diversity in the wild, mother nature is one step ahead. Imagine if you can, a lion cub and a wolf cub being raised together and becoming best friends. When the right circumstances present themselves, anything is possible and miraculous tales grow into legends.
The Wolf and the Lion is an amazing family friendly film with a twist. The supporting actors are a lion cub and a wolf cub. It stars Molly Kunz (Widows, Chicago Fire), Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves, American Gods, Goliath) and Charlie Carrick (Hidden Assets, Cobra). It’s directed by Gilles de Maistre (Ferocious, Killer Kid) and the animal trainer is legendary Andrew Simpson, who’s worked on Game of Thrones and Revenant.
After her grandfather’s death, 20-year-old Alma decides to go back to her childhood home — a little island in the heart of a majestic forest. While there, she rescues two helpless cubs; a wolf and a lion. They forge an inseparable bond, but their world soon collapses when a forest ranger discovers the animals and takes them away. The two cubs must now embark on a treacherous journey across the wilderness to reunite with each other and Alma.
This film is a must see and it opened last Friday on 150 screens across the country with an additional 37 screens being held over. Molly Kunz is amazing throughout and I really tip my hat to her in regards to her many firsts on this film. Working with an actual wolf and lion for the duration of the film might not appeal to the average actor but Molly rose to the challenge and she said she was so glad that she had. In addition to acting with the animals, Molly is quite an accomplished singer, dancer and pianist. We are treated to her piano playing in the film and it’s truly magical. Veteran actor Graham Greene is incredible and always such a natural in front of the camera. Charlie Carrick adds an interesting element to the storyline and tries to spoil the party.
View The Trailer Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB19rnJM63k
I spoke with the impeccable and outstanding, incredibly talented and brave – Molly Kunz about her stellar performance and first time working with a lion and a wolf. It was a fascinating conversation and I reached her at her home in LA. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “Congratulations on an amazing family friendly film. Is this your first time working with potentially dangerous animals?”
MOLLY “Yes, the first time working with these particular animals, wolves and lions. I was in a play when I was 8 and I believe we had a dog in it, but there’s been nothing like this.”
HNMAG “Did you know going into the audition/film that you would be working closely with a wolf and a lion?”
MOLLY “I did. They let us know right from the start. My agent had sent me the script and it was all in the breakdown. In bold and highlighted, it said – actors must be very comfortable with animals. I had to think about it because I had some reservations about the lion. Is anyone comfortable around a lion, I don’t think so. After I had read the entire script, learned about the process and realized how professional our animal trainer was – Andrew Simpson. He’s worked with wolves in The Game of Thrones and The Revenant. I felt like I was in pretty good hands and my relationship with the animals was authentic. We were able to build on that during the course of production. They didn’t just throw me into the lion’s den (laughing).”
HNMAG “This must’ve been an extended production, considering that the wolf and lion had aged throughout the film. How long would it have taken to complete the filming?”
MOLLY “We were in production for 2 years. I auditioned for the film in 2018, so it’s been a long process and a labour of love.”
HNMAG “I really enjoyed the music in the film and the way it seemed to marry so well with the location and scenery. Was that you playing piano the entire time?”
MOLLY “It was for the most part. We had a couple of extraordinarily difficult pieces that required them bringing in a professional toward the end of the film. Even the composer couldn’t play the piece and he had written it (laughing). I did do most of the playing though.”
HNMAG “Piano playing was a requirement for the role?”
MOLLY “It was something the director had asked, before I was cast. He had also asked if I could sing. I said yes and originally, there was a song that I had sang as a lullaby to the animals, as well but it was cut.”
HNMAG “It sounds like there were a lot of firsts for you in this film. Have you sung or played music in other films before?”
MOLLY “Yes, I grew up performing in musicals. I did choir, show choir, played piano, danced, ballet, tap and jazz. My childhood was full of music, which made this role really special to me.”
HNMAG “This film sorta feels like a Disney production. Are you drawn to these types of stories?”
MOLLY “Absolutely, I loved it. This was such an extraordinary experience. It does actually feel like a live action Disney movie to me as well. The fact that we used real animals was so ambitious and a challenge. I feel so grateful for the entire experience, as well as challenging myself. I loved watching these types of films growing up. I think this film is really special, especially given the state of the world. It can be difficult to maintain high spirits at times and I think films like this are important to people.”
HNMAG “Had you spent a lot of time in the woods, hiking trails, camping prior to being in the film?”
MOLLY “I live in LA now but I grew up in Wisconsin, on the lakes and I love the water. I moved to LA a few years ago for my career and I really missed that. It was so beautiful filming in rural Quebec. The landscape, the forest and the lakes are so similar to where I grew up. It was gorgeous and I felt so lucky to escape LA to go there.”
HNMAG “You’ve been travelling from LA to Quebec for 2 years?”
MOLLY “My home base is LA but I spent months and months in Quebec because I needed to be there for the animals. I had to be a big enough part of their lives where they recognized me and we could form that close relationship.”
HNMAG “I thought this film was shot in BC. I haven’t seen that part of Quebec.”
MOLLY “It was originally going to be shot off the west coast and then there was another location just outside of Calgary they had considered. However, the director discovered Lake Sacacomie and fell in love with it, so that’s where we shot. It was in a little town that was so charming and just stunning.”
HNMAG “Considering it took 2 years to film, were you able to work on other projects in between shooting?”
MOLLY “It gets a little complicated. With film contracts, there’s first position and second position. First position means they are my top priority, so any other projects that I’d be involved in would have to work around the schedule of this film. I did do a couple other little jobs while we were shooting but for the most part, it was just this film. It was a big time commitment but one that I was happy to make.”
HNMAG “How would you have prepared for this role?”
MOLLY “Before we started filming, I had training sessions with Andrew Simpson (animal trainer) even before my animals (wolf and lion) were born. They were only born 5 weeks before we started filming and I’d worked with Andrew on his acreage near Calgary, Alberta. I had spent a lot of time up there observing the animals and how they communicated with each other, who the hierarchies are in power and understanding how they use body language as communication. I was also learning how Andrew navigates their behaviour, so when I started working with the animal’s I would have some context as to how my body language is perceived by them because it’s so important. Many times, it was also about the organic connection. They would put the camera on me and the animals, then tell us to just play to see what happens. It was similar to a documentary in that sense. They would shoot whatever was happening and never forced the animals to do anything that they didn’t want to do.”
HNMAG “There is a scene in the film where you fall and bump your head on a rock. Then, the lion and wolf both lay beside you in a protective position. That looked like a pretty magical moment.”
MOLLY “It was pretty phenomenal for me and something that I didn’t quite believe was possible. I was a bit skeptical when we started filming and wasn’t convinced that I could feel comfortable enough to be as close and tender working with a 2-year-old wolf and lion, which are both Apex predators. It was extraordinary to me to be able to have that relationship with them but it was because of the trust we had built. I never felt fear around them, which I thought was remarkable and I didn’t think I was capable of that. I knew these animals since they were both cubs and they grew up with me, I learned their personalities and I still see that in them as adults. It was really special.”
HNMAG “At the end of the film, it mentions that the wolf and lion are still together. Was that written as part of the story and is it true?”
MOLLY “They’re still up there. I get text messages and photos from Andrew updating me on their antics. The bond between them is really beautiful – they’re best friends. Walter, the lion wouldn’t film if Paddington, the wolf, was not present on set. He wanted moral support.”
HNMAG “Does being in a film like this open yourself up to being more comfortable acting in films with other animals?”
MOLLY “Absolutely. I think this is such a unique type of film and I feel like there are very few films made this way, especially given that most use the CGI route. It’s an extraordinary investment of time and energy. It’s a lot easier to use CGI but if I had the opportunity to work with animals again, I’d love to.”
HNMAG “Your co-star was Graham Greene. It looked like you both had great chemistry.”
MOLLY “He was so much fun, always cracking jokes. I was honoured to work with him. He has such a strong resume and is full of wisdom and experience. The fun that we had together and his warmth, I believe really came across in our onscreen relationship.”
Check your local listings and bring the entire family to this film. If you need a lift, a boost or a reason to smile then this film is for you and your family. Bring the grandparents too because they also love the theatre but are often too considerate to ask for themselves.