Ulysses, the ginger tabby cat who is a co-star of the new Coen brothers film about music is in fact three cats. I didn’t realise that but I do know that he is a key player in this acclaimed film, which, I believe, raises the profile of all domestic cats. It makes all domestic cats a star and I sincerely hope that Ulysses encourages cat owners to see their cat in a new, more appreciative and respectful light. The film is “Inside Llewyn Davies”.
I am delighted to see a cat, and an “ordinary” moggie at that, feature as a central actor in this film which was awarded Best Picture by The National Society of Film Critics and has been nominated for many other awards.
I said Ulysses is a co-star. I may be wrong. Some say Ulysses is the star of the film. He is a scene stealer. He is seen riding the New York subway. That took some doing and you could argue that it was an abuse to make a cat do that in the name of entertainment. I’d rather not go down that road at this time because I feel there are many positives for the cat to take from this film.
The reason why three ginger tabbies were employed was because the role was too demanding for one cat. In the subway scenes two cats were employed. “Jerry” described as “an action cat” and “Daryl” who was the laid back boy who was able to cope with the noise and disturbances of the subway. There are very few cats who would cope with a subway in full use. However, ginger cats are renown for their balanced temperaments. I wonder if a ginger tabby was deliberately chosen for this reason. I’d like to know the reason for choosing this type of cat. Was the idea taken from Bob the orange tabby who befriended a drug addict and saved him?
The third cat was Tigger, a female. She was the cat who was usually held by the actor Oscar Issac. The film makers called her the “holding cat”.
Five cats in all were chosen but two proved unsuited and were not employed. A Hollywood animal trainer, Dawn Barkan, prepared them for the role. She was concerned about the subway scenes. Saying that:
“Much of what was scripted is a scary thing for a cat”.
She said it was not a good idea to shoot a live subway scene. She was right but it went ahead.
“The film doesn’t really have a plot. That concerned us at one point. That’s why we threw the cat in”. (Coen brothers, the film’s directors)
Well, as a cat lover, I have to see the negatives too. Was it ethically acceptable to put cats through difficult circumstances for a commercial enterprise?
I’ll stick out my neck and say that, on this occasion, yes it was, because the film portrays the cat in a good light, which I hope rubs off on society and raises the profile of the world’s best loved companion animal, which sadly is still frequently ill-treated.
How does this film square up with Grumpy Cat being in a film? Well, I see a difference. All three cats in this film are healthy and playing a normal role. Grumpy Cat is being exploited (I say) because of facial deformities. It is a fine line but there is a line.
- P.S. Cat actors are paid less than dog actors. Typical. Cat actors earn £100-£200 a day.
- Associated: Cat People movie