Snakes Weren't The Only Dangerous Animals On The Set Of Anaconda

Luis Llosa's "Anaconda" recently made /Film's list of the most savage when-animals-attack horror movies, with Ryan Scott citing its memorable kills as the reason why it's "the ultimate '90s creature feature." The 1997 horror-adventure focuses on a documentary film crew that encounters a snake hunter in the Amazon rainforest, all while tracking a legendary green anaconda of mythic proportions. It features a slew of snakes and the star of the show, an animatronic anaconda designed by special effects supervisor Walt Conti, who previously engineered a full-size animatronic orca Willy of "Free Willy" and the miniature humpback whales of "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." The cast – among them Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, and a baby-faced Owen Wilson – got cozy with lots of non-human co-stars, but local black wooly monkeys made both scouting and shooting a hazard.

Longtime film site Film Scouts shares insights on the production of "Anaconda"; therein, executive producer Susan Ruskin recalls the troublesome creatures that made it a nightmare on the set:

"One of these monkeys seemed to find my son to be an attractive playmate and competitor and he got very aggressive with him. He ended up biting him on the ear and I had to get between them. Later that night, I climbed to the top of this rickety 250 foot tower to get above the tree-tops and make a phone call. I turned around and saw this shape coming towards me. It got hold of my hair and started pulling. I can only assume it was the same [woolly monkey] I had done battle with earlier that day. Eventually, I ducked and went totally submissive. Finally, it let go, but it wouldn't let me pass. I decided to get aggressive and yelled at it and ran down the stairs and got away."

Monkey business

Anyone who has seen Jordan Peele's "Nope" knows the reason for the showbiz axiom "never work with children or animals." Inconsistency in the former is one thing, but the unpredictability of the latter can be extremely harmful to one's health, as the team behind "Anaconda" (as well as the cast of Peele's fictional show-within-the-film "Gordy's Home") can attest. A child can flub their lines, but a startled chimpanzee or a territorial monkey will rip your face off faster than you can say, "Doctor Zaius."

Producer Verna Harrah had a nasty encounter with resident monkeys whilst location scouting in the Amazon. Harrah recalls what sounds like an alarmingly coordinated ambush to Film Scout:

"It was pitch dark and I was walking up the narrow stairwell towards my suite. I was carrying all this stuff when suddenly the lights went out. I put my key in my mouth and tried to feel for the lock and get up the steps. Suddenly, I felt what seemed to be a million things jumping on top of me, running from my ankle to the top of my head at lightning speed. It was very frightening."

The film site reports that the more aggressive male monkeys had to be lured away from the set for everyone's safety, but production was largely fluid and undisturbed due to a joint Brazilian-American crew effort. The result was a box-office success and a critical sigh of disappointment (including six Razzie nominations) — the B-movie sweet spot. Nostalgic nerds can get the popcorn ready soon; a new "re-imagining" of the snake spectacle is in development with franchise reboot maestro Evan Daugherty.