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TWO BROTHERS

How To Get Tigers To "Act"
The real casting challenge was that of the tigers that would portray Sangha and Kumal at various stages in the story, as well as those portraying their parents. Fortunately, Annaud knew exactly who to turn to for his lead characters and who would be able to make them perform as needed in front of the cameras: head trainer Thierry Le Portier, a fellow Frenchman who worked with the director 16 years earlier on The Bear and had more recently worked on the Academy Award®-winning Gladiator, with U.S.- based trainer Randy Miller.

"Once I decided to make the movie, I had the first draft of the script sent to Thierry Le Portier, who had worked out the puma scene in The Bear. He's a true professional and I have nothing but admiration for him. A highly respected specialist in wild animals, he's probably the world's greatest animal trainer. I remember his first phone call. ‘It's fabulous and completely undoable, so we are going to do it!' he said.” Recalls Le Portier, "We talked a lot about many aspects of working with tigers.

He was very interested in the different methods of training and how to get tigers to ‘act'.”

Although believed to be predominantly of Bengalese origin (as the descendants of those born and raised in captivity for hundreds of generations), the tigers chosen for the film are likely a mix of Bengal, Sumatran and Siberian breeds.

"We used 30 tigers in all,” says Le Portier. "Our biggest problem was to always have tiger cubs, seven- to twelve-weeks-old, at the ready. We followed all the births, all over the world. Zoos were notified of our search and kept us up to date. We found most of our cubs in France, and a few more in Thailand. Some were reared on a baby bottle. We picked up a lot of newborns that had been shunned by their mothers, a rather frequent phenomenon among tigresses.”

Le Portier uses a combination of voice, sounds and hand signals to direct the tigers. His training methods rely on his ability to anticipate the tiger's moves and choose the correct tiger for the shot, as well as being able to manipulate the tiger's natural behavior to fit the action.

"Each tiger has his own personality,” marvels Annaud. "I never imagined they could be so different. Each was chosen for its character – a very maternal tigress for the part of the mother, two more virile animals for the two brothers as adults, and a feeble male for the tired old tiger.”

Le Portier says, "I know the character of each of my tigers and I know how they will react in different situations and to other tigers. For example, I have a big female tiger that is generally not afraid of anything. She is the one I would choose for difficult stunts. She is also very good with other tigers and particularly with the cubs.”

Getting unrelated tigers to interact as a family was tremendously challenging, particularly when it came to portraying the unique relationship between the mother and her cubs. Generally, tiger social units are comprised of the mother and her young. Male tigers are by nature more solitary. However, during his visit to the Ranthambhor Wildlife Reserve in Rajasthan, Annaud did encounter real, lasting family groups. "The males visit the females,” he relates, "hunt with them, play with the young, share their prey or protect the family from possible dangers.” This little known aspect of tiger social life inspired several scenes in Two Brothers.

For the scenes involving the tigress and the cubs, Le Portier used one of his favorite tigers, Indra.

"It was amazing, the baby tiger, which was not hers, played with her for 37 minutes,” he explains. "He played with her tail, batted at her and eventually she even licked him. I was about five meters from her during the entire shoot, and when she started to get annoyed with the cub, I calmed her down. To get that scene was the re

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