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Bart the Bear
Bart the Bear and Doug Seus.jpg
Bart the Bear with trainer Doug Seus, 1997
Species Brown bear
Sex Male
Born (1977-01-19)January 19, 1977
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Died May 10, 2000(2000-05-10) (aged 23)
Heber City, Utah, U.S.
Resting place Seus ranch, Heber City, Utah, U.S.
Occupation Animal actor, Breeding Animal
Years active 1980–2000
Owner Doug and Lynne Seus
Weight 1,500 lb
Height 9 ft 7.5 in
Won, Academy Award, The Bear (1988)

Bart the Bear (January 19, 1977 – May 10, 2000) was a male Alaskan Kodiak bear best known for his numerous appearances in Hollywood films, including The Bear (for which he received widespread acclaim), White Fang, Legends of the Fall, and The Edge. He was trained by animal trainers Doug and Lynne Seus of Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife, Inc., in Heber City, Utah.

Early life

Bart was born on January 19, 1977, at the Baltimore Zoo. When Bart was five weeks old and weighed five pounds (2 kg), he was sold to Doug and Lynne Seus, who worked as animal trainers for films. The Seuses trained Bart using a reward and praise system. While still a cub, he appeared in the TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams playing Adams' companion bear, Ben, as a cub.

After reaching adulthood, he made his film debut in the film Windwalker (released 1981). He grew to 9' 6" (2.90 m) tall and weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kg) throughout his life as an adult.

Career

Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hannah, Annette Bening, Ethan Hawke, Steven Seagal, Tchéky Karyo, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Trevor Howard, and Anthony Hopkins all appeared in films opposite Bart. All of them were reportedly impressed with how well he was trained. Film directors Jean-Jacques Annaud and Lee Tamahori, who directed Bart in The Bear and The Edge respectively, called Bart "The John Wayne of Bears."

Anthony Hopkins worked with Bart in two movies: Legends of the Fall and The Edge. According to Lynne Seus, "Tony Hopkins was absolutely brilliant with Bart...He acknowledged and respected him like a fellow actor. He would spend hours just looking at Bart and admiring him. He did so many of his own scenes with Bart." Film critic Kenneth Turan called Bart's performance in The Edge "the capstone of an illustrious career" and "a milestone in ursine acting."

Bart's greatest recognition came when he starred in the title role of Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1988 French film, The Bear, playing an adult grizzly bear who is befriended by an orphaned cub and defeats hunters. Annaud auditioned 50 bear actors from all over the world before selecting Bart for the role. In order to perform the role, Bart, trained by Seus, successfully learned several new routines and behaviors, including going against his natural abhorrence of a strange bear to accept the unrelated cub co-starring with him. Annaud remained impressed with Bart's performance even after being injured by Bart when Annaud, against trainers' orders, entered Bart's enclosure to pose for publicity photos. The Bear was a hit in both Europe and the United States, grossing over $31 million in the United States and over $100 million worldwide, and reportedly resulting in an Oscar nomination for Bart, which was unable to go forward because animal actors are precluded from receiving Academy Awards.

In 1998, Bart made an appearance at the 70th Academy Awards as part of a salute to animal actors. He presented an envelope to Mike Myers onstage.

Charity work

Bart was a "spokesbear" for the Vital Ground Foundation, which procures threatened wildlife habitat along the Rocky Mountains, on Kodiak Island in Alaska, and in the Gobi Desert.

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, Bart also served as the "spokesbear" for the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University.

Death

In October 1998, Bart was diagnosed with cancer, and later underwent surgery twice to remove tumors from his right paw. Cancer recurred, taking away his strength and appetite causing him to not want to take the pain medication, so he was euthanized on May 10, 2000, at the age of 23. He was buried on the Seus' ranch.

At the time of his death, he was filming the television documentary Growing Up Grizzly (2001) (also featuring Bart's namesake Bart the Bear 2), which was narrated by Brad Pitt, who had appeared with Bart in Legends of the Fall.

Legacy

Bart the Bear 2, an unrelated Alaskan brown bear cub born in 2000 and adopted by Doug and Lynne Seus shortly before Bart's death, was named for Bart and has sometimes been called "Little Bart". Bart the Bear 2 has followed in the footsteps of the original Bart, becoming an established animal actor and Vital Ground ambassador.

Filmography

Film

Television

  • The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, multiple episodes (1977–78) – Ben as a cub
  • The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (TV film) (1983) – Bear
  • Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills (TV film) (1986) – The Bear
  • Lost in the Barrens (TV film) (1990) – Bear
  • The Young Riders, Season 1, Episode 17, "Decoy" (1990) – Bart
  • Les amants de rivière rouge (Miniseries) (1996) – Bear
  • 70th Academy Awards – Presenter (1998)

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