Few fictional cats are as important, plot-wise, as Church, the fear-inducing undead feline who plays a major role in both Stephen King’s 1983 novel Pet Sematary and director Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation of the book. So, when filmmakers Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch were prepping their new big screen version of the story, the pair put a lot of thought into choosing the purr-fect (aha!) kind of animal to portray him.
“In Mary Lambert’s movie it’s a British shorthair,” Widmyer said, Thursday night, during a Q&A which followed the movie’s Los Angeles premiere at the Egyptian Theatre. “The Cat’s name is Church, because [he’s named after] Winston Churchill. I think they cast that cat because it’s a British cat [for] a British Prime Minister. And that was a damned good-looking cat! So, Kevin and I were like, we shouldn’t try and compete with that cat. That cat is amazing. We have to do our own thing. And in the book, it’s a very basic cat. So, we went back to the hardcover… and we were like, oh, it’s like a Maine Coon, with, like, four exotic colors and long hair. And we were like that’s going to be our cat.”
But that was just the start of the process.
“Little did we know how hard it was going to be to find, like, eight cats who looked exactly like that,” Widmyer continued. “It was really just about finding the trainers, and then we tasked the trainers with now finding a lot of cats that could do that, and to their credit they did. I mean, they say you can’t train a cat, and Kevin and I always joke around that our apartments are living testament to that, because our carpets and our couches are torn to hell, because we can’t train our cats not to scratch them. But these cats, they were able to train them and every cat had a different specialty. There was the cat that could hiss, the cat that could jump, the cat that could stare… They were like this pack of divas on set. You know, the cat would get on set and have to get acclimated, so all the actors would have to shut up and just kind of let the cat sniff everything for like ten minutes. So, we just sat there, and watched the cat.”
Pet Sematary claws its way into theaters April 5. Watch the trailer above.