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Meryl Streep is always willing to go as far as she feels is necessary for a role. However, sometimes her commitment even frightens the cast and crews around her. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why she’s frequently called one of the greatest actors to ever live. Streep once stepped up on the set of Out of Africa and “fended off a lion” when her stunt double got cold feet.

Meryl Streep plays Karen in ‘Out of Africa’

'Out of Africa' Robert Redford as Denys, Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, and Michael Kitchen walking through a plain in Africa wearing safari clothes
L-R: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Michael Kitchen | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Out of Africa follows a dairy farmer named Karen Blixen (Streep). She travels to Africa to meet up with her husband, Bror (Klaus Maria Brandauer), who deceivingly spends all of their money on a coffee plantation. Karen discovers Bror’s unfaithful behavior but soon falls for a hunter named Denys (Robert Redford).

Karen ultimately realizes that she actually prefers the simplistic lifestyle that Africa allows her compared to her upper-class background. However, not everything goes quite as perfectly as she hoped. Karen realizes that she will have to choose between her love and her personal growth that could provide her with a potentially better individual future.

Meryl Streep ‘fended off a lion’ with a whip when her stunt double was too scared

Erin Carlson’s Queen Meryl talks about Streep’s experience filming Out of Africa. She had a major moment of courage that inspired her to take action for the shot. Streep took the place of her stunt double during the scene where she must “fend off a lion” raiding her campsite. Unfortunately, her stunt double just couldn’t muster up the courage to go through with it.

“That girl was really scared, you know, and she had the sense to be scared,” Meryl recalled. “I didn’t. I was out there with all I had.” So, Meryl picked up the whip and was ready to do the scene.

Streep continued: “Well, that lion wouldn’t do anything to get excited, so Sydney untied the lion while I was whipping it—and didn’t tell me because he wanted the shot. It was the last shot of the film before we got to go home. I could have killed him.”

Director Sydney Pollack denied letting the lion off the leash


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However, Pollack remembers the events happening a bit differently. He doesn’t deny that she ultimately stepped up to complete the scene with the lion. However, he denied telling the trainer to let the lion off of its leash. Pollack blamed it on Streep’s “creative memory” while filming Out of Africa.

Queen Meryl explains that the director brought at least six trained lions and lionesses to work on the film. He also brought on a crew to keep on the ready with fire extinguishers in case things took a turn for the worse. However, Pollack wanted to contain a rogue lion and never harm it.

Nevertheless, Streep ultimately earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Out of Africa. That very same “creativity” is one of the many reasons why she’s able to deliver such phenomenal performances that audiences can’t stop buzzing about.