If You Don't Read This Post, We'll Kill This Chimpanzee
While it pains us to stoop to the animal-threatening tactics of National Lampoon, it seems that Hollywood is far more cavalier with the fates of its four-legged thespians. According to the LAT, one of filmdom's most enjoyable genres — that of the monkey movie — is being assailed by PETA activists, who are demanding that actor chimps be replaced by CG versions. They allege that the trained monkeys are being abused to solicit a performance — and based on this anecdote about "Clyde," the orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose, they may have a point:
According to "Visions of Caliban: On Chimpanzees and People" by famed primatologist Jane Goodall and Dale Peterson, the original "Clyde" was trained with a can of mace and a pipe wrapped in newspaper. He was viciously beaten the day before filming started to make him more docile. Near the end of filming the sequel "Any Which Way You Can," the orangutan was caught stealing doughnuts on the set, brought back to the training facility and beaten for 20 minutes with a 3 1/2 -foot ax handle. He died soon after of a cerebral hemorrhage.
You'd think that 30 years would improve the lot of chimps. In some cases it has, as filmmakers like Peter Jackson are opting for animatronic apes or actors in ape suits. At least two high-profile trainers have been pressured out of the chimp business in the last few years by lawsuits or protesters. Yet some persist. This summer " Speed Racer" became one of the only films in recent history to earn an "unacceptable" rating from the American Humane Assn., the group that monitors the use of animals in films. Now there are certainly moviegoers who will argue it was they who were mistreated by the Wachowski brothers' candy-colored box-office bomb, but at least consumers weren't physically manhandled. According to the AHA website, two chimps were used to portray the character of Chim-Chim (who performed such feats as driving a golf cart in the movie), and a trainer hit a chimp during a training session in front of a representative of the AHA. (Warner Bros declined to comment.)
Ironic, then, that virtually the only thing left unpixellated in the Wachowski Bros. bomb was the monkey whom activists actually wanted to go CG. Naturally, the reclusive directors had no comment, preferring instead to pass along a message from their publicist that appeared to be scrawled in feces, bearing only the mysterious phrase, "Ooh ooh ooh AHH AHH AHH!"