As most True Blood fans know, the upcoming third season is all about the werewolves, and the producers used real life wolves instead of CGI. But it turns out they had a few snags during the filming, they were racing to finish certain scenes, but not because of the budget or air dates. Nope, they needed to wrap it up before the wolves shed their winter coats.
“We had to work on their timeline,” says executive producer Gregg Fienberg. The 120-pound gray wolves’ lighter summer coat would make them look much smaller and less intimidating, which doesn’t work with their werewolf role. “We can’t suddenly have wolves that look different.”
That’s just one small issue shows have working with the furry high maintenance stars. But it’s their only option. Only the big-budget movies that can afford to create those fancy expensive computer-generated werewolves, but TV, with its smaller budgets, are usually stuck with real wolves.
Take The Twilight Saga: Eclipse for example, it took a team of around six visual-effects experts up to six weeks to create Jacob and his pack, which is one HUGE price tag. As for live wolves, while the price varies, it’s usually $500 to rent them for a day. Since wolves prefer to travel in packs, six or seven wolves may join the actor wolf, but producers don’t have to pay for those extras.
Now here’s where working with wolves gets really difficult – the wolves, even those raised in captivity, are a huge pain in the ass, because well, they’re wolves not dogs. All human actors must be warned constantly not to pet the wolves, and have to sit through loads of safety seminars. Cologne and perfume and absolutely forbidden on set since they upset the wolves and all food must be cleared from the immediate area as per rules provided by the American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit.
Before he was cast as werewolf Alcide on True Blood, Joe Manganiello had little experience working with animals. Working with real wolves took some getting used to. Once during a break between scenes, the actor had to rush through a crowd of extras and off the sound stage after crew members spotted him eating turkey. “All I heard was ‘Are you out of your mind!? The wolves are coming,”‘ he recalls.
Since wolves are so skittish, they need to arrive on set a day or two before filming begins so that they can have private time to sniff around and get comfortable with the area. On top of that, they also get their own air-conditioned trailers, with separate compartments for each wolf, which is where they rest between scenes.
Every wolf eats three to four pounds of raw meat and high-protein food daily and needs loads of breaks. “They’re worse than children,” says director Michael Lehmann.