While on the set of a hit television series, actors probably don’t expect to get eaten by an enormous lion. However, that’s exactly what almost happened to Gilligan’s Island star Bob Denver in 1966.
During Season 2, Episode 24 titled “Feed the Kitty,” Denver came dangerously close to being attacked by a lion. The huge animal was the focal point of the episode, but things almost got out of hand while filming.
The main plot of the episode revolves around a crate that contained a lion bound for a zoo that washed up on the island. The castaways are terrified of the lion, but Gilligan bonds with the animal after he removes a thorn from its paw. Yet early on in the episode before they bond, Gilligan is just as scared as the rest of the castaways.
In one famously hilarious scene, Gilligan tries to fortify his hut so the lion can’t get in. However, he doesn’t realize that the lion is already in his hut and lying on his bed. Now, Gilligan is trapped inside his barricaded hut along with the huge beast. Although it’s an amusing clip on television, the actor came dangerously close to being in peril in real life.
‘Gilligan’s Island’ Episode ‘Feed the Kitty’ Was Aptly Named
While the episode went on to become a fan favorite for many, Bob Denver was probably just happy to walk away unscathed while filming. The episode’s title is ironic considering Gilligan legitimately almost became a lion’s meal.
Even though Gilligan’s Island used a trained lion for the scenes, well, it’s still a lion. In fact, everything went according to plan during rehearsals, but once filming began, the lion had other ideas. While still on the bed, a roar rang out within the hut. A split second later the lion lunged for the actor, attempting to jump off the bed to attack Denver.
Thankfully the bed wasn’t firmly in place. So when the lion leaped from the bed, it pushed it backward instead of springing off the bed and onto Denver. That small detail may have just saved his life that day since the lion supposedly came within inches of Denver before its trainer wrangled it in.
Years later Denver spoke about the terrifying incident. He joked that he must have looked “like a little mouse.” Yet it was no laughing matter as the actor explained.
“I must have looked like a little mouse because I heard the roar and my hair stood on end. The only thing that saved me was the twin beds splitting part when he tried to push off. Then I turned to see the trainer in mid-air as he tackled the lion to keep him away from me. Other than that, none of us had any close calls. Believe me, that was close enough!” Denver said, according to a 2016 MeTV article.