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Filmmaker Adam MacDonald talks about working with bears on his thriller 'Backcountry': 'You don't ever feel safe!'

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Director Adam MacDonald is wandering around the 21st floor of a Manhattan hotel trying to remember his room number. “This will make for a good story, right?” laughs the Canadian filmmaker. To be honest, two-guys-walk-up-and-down-the-corridors-of-a-hotel ain’t that great of a tale. It’s not, for example, as good as a-couple-gets-menaced-by-an-enormous-bear-while-lost-in-the-Canadian-wilderness. That, in fact, is the plot of MacDonald’s debut movie Backcountry, which opened yesterday (March 20) at New York’s IFC Center and can also be seen on VOD.

After locating his room, MacDonald has a cute story to relate concerning the origin of the movie—it involves a camping trip he and his wife took five years ago and some ominous, early morning noises—and nice things to say about the film’s two human leads, MIssy Peregrym and Jeff Roop. But what EW really wants to know is what it was like working with the two huge black bears who share credit for playing the film’s couple-threatening backwoods beast. “It was very intimidating,” says MacDonald. “They were huge. [The wrangler] had a list of do’s and don’t’s: You can’t yell around them, you can’t run, no eye contact. And I have a healthy fear of bears. One of them jumped on a tree, and started scratching it—I could see the power. I felt that deep primal fear. You kind of get used to them but you don’t feel ever safe when they’re around.”

Turns out, bears are not so different from some Hollywood actors we could name in the attention-craving department. “They never came out at the same time,” says MacDonald. “What was interesting is that one would hear the other getting all the praise and then it would want to come out of the trailer while the other one was getting tired: ‘I’m going back to my trailer.’ They’re prima donnas! When they’re done, they’re done. Then the same thing would happen and the one which went back to the trailer would get excited and want to come out. So that’s how it worked.”

Sticking with the animal theme, MacDonald is currently shopping around a script called Wolf at the Door. “There is a wolf attack, but the whole story doesn’t hinge on it, like Backcountry.” So, are wolves easier or harder to direct than bears? “I’m going to find out,” chuckles the director. “Ask me next time we meet and I’ll have the answer for you!”

You can see the trailer for Backcountry, below.