The Eight Cats Who Played Church In 'Pet Sematary' Were "A Pack Of Divas"

Church the cat is at the center of the the horror maelstrom that is Pet Sematary, the latest Stephen King adaptation to hit theaters. So directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch had to make sure that Church had the right look to portray the adorable pet and the undead feline it becomes, apart from all the blood and gore make-up, of course. It turns out it takes more than one cat to play the purr-fect Church — it takes eight. And all eight of them were divas, according to Widmyer.

In Mary Lambert's 1989 film, Church the cat was a British shorthair that became an icon of horror cinema. So Widmyer and Kölsch felt the pressure to live up to that.

"Kevin and I were like, we shouldn't try and compete with that cat," Widmyer said during a Q&A which followed the movie's Los Angeles premiere at the Egyptian Theatre, according to Entertainment Weekly. "That cat is amazing. We have to do our own thing. And in the book, it's a very basic cat. So, we went back to the hardcover... and we were like, oh, it's like a Maine Coon, with, like, four exotic colors and long hair. And we were like that's going to be our cat."

But that distinctive look turned out to be a pain in more ways than one for the filmmakers. First the directors had to find eight of this one-of-a-kind cat, and train them to act like pets from hell — but only onscreen. It turns out they didn't need training to act demonic in real life, Widmyer said:

"Little did we know how hard it was going to be to find, like, eight cats who looked exactly like that. It was really just about finding the trainers, and then we tasked the trainers with now finding a lot of cats that could do that, and to their credit they did. I mean, they say you can't train a cat, and Kevin and I always joke around that our apartments are living testament to that, because our carpets and our couches are torn to hell, because we can't train our cats not to scratch them. But these cats, they were able to train them and every cat had a different specialty. There was the cat that could hiss, the cat that could jump, the cat that could stare... They were like this pack of divas on set. You know, the cat would get on set and have to get acclimated, so all the actors would have to shut up and just kind of let the cat sniff everything for like ten minutes. So, we just sat there, and watched the cat."

Luckily, one of the cats that Widmyer and Kölsch brought to the New York Brooklyn Horror Festival advanced screening of Pet Sematary seemed well-behaved enough. (I can attest to that, having attended the screening and seeing the cat walk by me and sniff my purse.) They even got him in a tie!

Pet Sematary is in theaters now.

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his neighbour Jud Crandall, setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unspeakable evil with horrific consequences.