Dakota Johnson says her grandmother Tippi Hedren still has more than a dozen lions and tigers.
The revelation came when she appeared on a new episode of Britain’s The Graham Norton Show.
When asked by Norton if her 90-year-old grandmother “still lives with the big cats,” Dakota stated that “Yes. Yeah. She has 13 or 14 lions and tigers.”
She added that Hedren used to have something like 60 house cats, but that she now just owned “a couple”.
Graham then showed two remarkable vintage photos of Hedren’s bigger cats. One showed Hedren on the telephone as a tiger leapt in through the kitchen window.
Another showed Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith — Dakota’s mom — appearing to have her leg bitten by a lion as she jumped in a swimming pool. “She didn’t lose the leg,” Dakota joked.
Asked if she remembered having big cats around growing up, Johnson said, “Yeah, well, by the time I was born they were all in huge compounds and it was a lot safer and it wasn’t as totally psycho as it was when they first started.”
The interview with Dakota took place via video call. Norton’s show has stopped broadcasting with a live audience due to lockdown restrictions in Britain, and he has been filming recent episodes from home.
Hedren was a Hollywood star herself, and is best known for her starring role in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds, which remains a classic to this day.
Other films Hedren has appeared in include The Birds II: Land’s End, Marnie, Roar, and Tea with Grandma.
Hedren is herself an animal rights activist and the founding president of the American Sanctuary Association. In 1983 she set up the nonprofit The Roar Foundation, and the Shambala Preserve, a big cat sanctuary in the Mojave Desert in California.
Both were launched after Hedren produced the film Roar which featured dozens of lions. During filming, several people — including Griffith and Noel Marshall, Hedren’s husband — were attacked by the big cats.
The Shambala Preserve is still active today, and as well as lions and tigers also houses other big cats like leopards. It became home to Michael Jackson’s two Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, after he shut down the zoo at his Neverland ranch.
Big cats were obviously a timely topic for Norton and Johnson to discuss, thanks to the recent popularity of Tiger King on Netflix.