French actress Marion Cotillard, who won the Best Actress Oscar for La Vie en Rose and will soon be seen in the summertime blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises, is speaking out about an incident she experienced with a killer whale while filming on the set of Rust and Bone, a French import due in U.S. theaters this fall.
"One of the whales kind of went mad at me," the actress recalled. "She screamed at me with her jaws wide open." Cotillard was filming at the Marineland park in Antibes, France when the act of aggression occurred.
Her statement is eerily reminiscent of the many cases of captive-orca aggression described in my new book Death at SeaWorld -- Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity. The book, to be released July 17th by St. Martin's Press, recounts the brutal killing of beloved orca trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010. It theorizes that captivity is so stressful on these intelligent, free-ranging animals, it drives them to turn on humans (no orca has ever seriously attacked a human in the wild in all recorded history, while four people have died in killer whale tanks since 1991).
Cotillard, ironically, is herself adamantly opposed to orca captivity. Rust and Bone required her to work daily with killer whales, and persuade them to do silly tricks, "a task she found unpalatable after years of campaigning for animal welfare and supporting charities including WildAid and Greenpeace," according to the London Evening Standard.
"I've always had a repulsion going in a place where animals are in captivity. I had to work through my rejection of this world, which I still feel. But I had a job," she said. "Even though the orcas are as big as trucks, they're animals, and you have a connection with them." The actress added that she felt guilty when she withheld treats from the killer whales.
Meanwhile, Death at SeaWorld, which Booklist called "gripping" and "hard to put down," will hopefully be a big must-read book this summer. Reviewers at Goodreads.com seem to like it, and the story is currently being shopped around as a scientific thriller well-suited to the big screen.
For more information on the dangers of using killer whales in entertainment, please visit the official website for Death at SeaWorld
David Kirby will launch his national book tour at the Barnes and Noble Tribeca store on July 17th from 6-8PM