Cat Chat With Actress Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander. Photograph by Joan Marcus

This past Tuesday, we published an interview with Tony-award winning actress and film star Jane Alexander about her passion for birds and avian conservation. Turns out, she's also big on big cats (think, jaguar). But she's not so keen on what seems to be Hollywood's aversion to environmental flicks. I chatted with her about her feline affinities and box office beef: 

How are you involved with the big cat conservation organization, Panthera?
I’m on the conservation council. The CEO, Alan Rabinowitz, is one of my closest friends. So I’ve been jaguar tracking with Alan and spent time with him in many parts of the world, actually, trying to save the great cats.

Where did your affinity for big cats come from?
In meeting Alan. I had been down in Belize birding with my husband back in the early 80s, and we went down a little ravine, and oh, the smell that we encountered—I said, ‘My gosh, that smells like cat. I have a feeling there may be a jaguar ahead and I just don’t want to corner it,’ even though jaguars are not know to be aggressive to humans. So we backed off, and then I thought, ‘Hmm, what about writing a screenplay about a woman zoologist who tracks jaguars in Belize or Central America?’ I called up a friend of mine at the Bronx Zoo and told him my idea, and he said I needed to go back to Belize to meet a researcher who tracks jaguars. So I did, and I met Alan. We really hit it off, and that was the beginning. He is like a cat himself, a great, wild cat—a very majestic, fascinating human being.

What became of the screenplay?
I abandoned my idea. I read some of Alan’s journal, which I thought would make a great book, and I told him so. He then wrote Jaguar, about his right of passage as a young man—as a young biologist and zoologist. Then I decided to make a screenplay out of that. That was years ago, and unfortunately, we were never able to sell it. A lot of people in Hollywood are not very interested in doing feature films about the environment.

Unless the environment is being blown up or it's coming back to eat humans...
That’s right, or they’re creatures that they make up from the future or the past, or dinosaurs come back to life. It’s a strange thing because people would say, for the most part, that a healthy and beautiful environment—including the flora and fauna that inhabit it—are high on their list as one of the great values of life, but it doesn’t translate to money at the box office for Hollywood.

Are you still trying with that screenplay?
Not that one, but I have others. I always get my environmental pitch in there somewhere.



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