John C. Reilly has walked off the Swedish set of director Lars von Trier’s “Manderlay” to protest the killing of a donkey for the shoot, a production spokeswoman said on Thursday.
“We did not want to talk about this, but since the news leaked out in the press, we confirm that this did happen,” the spokeswoman said.
“We tried very hard to use a puppet instead of a real donkey because we really needed to show a donkey being killed for the film, but when that didn’t work we approached a vet and asked him to provide us with an animal that was due to be slaughtered anyway. Because of the film, this poor donkey lived two more months than it would have otherwise,” she added.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, the film’s chief producer said Reilly quit three weeks ago, and was quickly replaced by Slovenian actor Zeljko Ivanek.
“The other actors did not have moral problems about the death of the donkey, especially since we gave it a lease on life, and he was killed with dignity, according to Swedish law and in the presence of a veterinarian,” said Peter Aalbaek Jensen, who is also managing director of the film’s Danish producer, Zentropa.
The $15 million film, which explores the American South of the 1930s, stars Bryce Howard as Grace, the part played by Nicole Kidman in von Trier’s most recent film “Dogville.” Other stars include Willem Dafoe as Grace’s father, Lauren Bacall, Jeremy Davies, Danny Glover, Isaach De Bankole and Chloe Sevigny.
Ivanek also starred in “Dogville,” which was part one of von Trier’s “USA — Land of Opportunities” trilogy, as well as von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark.” Reilly is best known for his roles in “Chicago,” “The Hours,” “Gangs of New York” and “Magnolia.” The shoot is due to wrap soon.