Joe Exotic, who?

By Alicia Brunker
Updated May 23, 2020 @ 2:00 pm
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Before Joe Exotic, Dakota Johnson's grandmother Tippi Hedren was considered Hollywood's Tiger Queen. Hedren began rescuing dozens of exotic cats in the '70s, and housed them at her San Fernando Valley compound. And according to Johnson, she still lives with more than a dozen lions and tigers today.

During an at-home appearance on The Graham Norton Show, the actress spoke about her famous grandmother's passion for saving wild animals. When Norton asked if she still owned big cats, Johnson replied: "Yes, she has 13 or 14 lions and tigers." While that may sound like a lot, it's only a fraction of Hedren's former brood. "There used to be like 60 cats, and now there's just a couple," explained Johnson.

Norton then shared vintage photographs of Hedren with the cats, including one of a giant tiger jumping through the kitchen window. "Classic," Dakota joked about the absurdity of the image, adding: "Happens to me all the time." There was also a snap of Dakota's mom Melanie Griffith as a child jumping into a swimming pool while a lion grabbed her leg in the air. "She didn't lose the leg," Johnson confirmed.

By the time Johnson was born in 1989, the cats were no longer roaming freely around the house. "They were all in huge compounds and it was a lot safer. It wasn't as totally psycho as it was when they first started," she revealed. And it's probably for the best. While filming the movie Roar, Hedren experienced first-hand how aggressive the cats could be. She endured a fractured leg and multiple scalp wounds on set along with 70 other people who were injured during production.

Two years after the film's debut, Hedren established the Roar Foundation as a way to educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals.