From the Magazine

All's Whale: Actress Kristen Bell Discusses Her New Movie

Kristen Bell mixes celebrity with activism.

In Big Miracle, a film based on actual events that will be released in February, Kristen Bell portrays a journalist covering the story of her career: an international effort to rescue three gray whales trapped in Arctic sea ice in 1988. In real life, Bell spreads her star power beyond the theater, into the realm of environmental activism.

What attracted you to Big Miracle?
Initially I was drawn because it’s about animals and rescue, and then I was further engaged because of how deeply it explores other issues. Like what it meant politically to ask for the Soviets’ help. And biologists were saying, this is how natural selection works. These whales didn’t swim out fast enough. It happens all the time. Then there’s the Inupiats’ point of view—they have eaten the whales for thousands of years. It’s a much more complex issue than I first thought.

What was it like filming in Alaska?
Alaska is majestic. Driving along the highway you see belugas in the ocean. We were in Anchorage, which is not nearly as cold as Barrow, where the movie is set and it can get down to 50 degrees below zero. We didn’t have it that bad, though there were fiercely cold days. Mostly, we had to act cold, and we had makeup for frostbite.

You’re vocal about protecting other sea life: sharks. What sparked your interest?
I wasn’t always drawn to marine life. But going shark tagging with University of Miami researchers and shark diving in South Africa, I’ve learned how important sharks are to the marine ecosystem and how much we’ve taken liberties with throwing them away. Literally. Globally we kill 100 million sharks a year, and much of it’s for shark-fin soup: They’re pulled out of the water, their fins sliced off, and thrown back in to drown. I hesitate to give myself credit as being involved—I talk about what I’ve learned because I believe it’s important to consider how humane we’re being and the consequences of our “delicacies.”

As an ambassador for Neutrogena Naturals, you’ve been raising awareness about water conservation. What’s struck you most about the issue?
It’s not residential waste that’s the issue, it’s how we make products. For instance, it takes up to 3,000 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans. I must own 30 pairs and I never considered that. I could keep the tap on while brushing my teeth for the rest of my life and not waste as much water as I do buying clothes. I’m not saying everyone should stop being a consumer. It’s simply that we need to recognize that our dollars are votes. By supporting companies that take their environmental effects into consideration, you’re helping.

Why is advocacy work important to you?
For starters I was born with a lot of opinions [laughs]. I feel better about myself when I’m considering that every choice I make affects something or someone else. And because I’ve been given this platform in which people listen to my opinion—which may or may not be warranted—I feel responsible. I like learning new things, like that it takes about 20 gallons of water to make a bottle of beer. I then can lead the life I want to lead because I have more information. Each person is a lot more powerful than they think.       


Stay abreast of Audubon

Get updates about our conservation work and how to help birds.