Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fred Schepisi
|Produced by||John Cleese
|Written by||John Cleese|
Jamie Lee Curtis
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||Robert Gibson|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release dates||January 24, 1997 (US)
February 14, 1997 (UK)
|Running time||93 min.|
Fierce Creatures is a 1997 farcical comedy film. While not a direct sequel, Fierce Creatures is something of a spiritual successor to the 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda. Both films star John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. Fierce Creatures was written by John Cleese, and directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young.
The principal setting of the story is Marwood Zoo (Marwood is John Cleese's middle name), a fictional zoo that resembles Marwell Wildlife. Marwood Zoo has recently been acquired by Octopus Inc., a conglomerate headed by billionaire New Zealander Rod McCain (Kevin Kline), the most powerful man alive. Octopus Inc. requires that all its investments return at least a 20% profit.
The director of the zoo is retired Hong Kong Police Force officer Rollo Lee (John Cleese). In order to meet the new revenue target, Lee institutes a "fierce creatures" theme, on the assumption that a zoo that only exhibits dangerous animals and emphasizes violence will attract more visitors.
All the animal keepers, including the spider-handler Bugsy (Michael Palin), vociferously protest against the policy, and make various attempts to get Rollo to change his mind.
When newly hired executive Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) arrives at the zoo from Octopus Inc. to take over, she demotes Rollo to middle management. Tagging along is Vince McCain (also played by Kevin Kline), vice president of marketing for Octopus Inc. and son of Rod McCain.
The animals' keepers are enraged when Vince covers zoo and animals alike with advertisements after secretly garnering numerous sponsorships.
When Rod McCain arrives in London for a visit, everyone is concerned about the zoo's status. Rollo and Bugsy learn that Rod wants to close the zoo for under-performing, and it is revealed that Vince has been stealing the sponsorship money.
A confrontation takes place at the zoo office, with Willa, Rollo and Bugsy stopping Vince from running off with a bag containing the money. When Bugsy refuses to shut up, Vince loses his temper and grabs a Beretta pistol from the management office. Rod arrives just as Vince is being subdued, and he announces that the police are on the way to arrest Vince for stealing. Vince tries but fails to shoot his father, and when Bugsy takes the pistol it accidentally goes off, shooting Rod between the eyes.
In the panic that follows, a plan emerges to fool the arriving police. The animal caretakers work together to dress Vince up as Rod, since he can imitate his father's accent fairly well. When the police and Rod's assistant, Neville, arrive, Vince (as Rod) tells them that he has re-written his will, specifying that the zoo will become a trust of the caretakers and Vince inherits everything else, and he wants all of them to be witnesses. After signing the new will, Vince locks himself in a caretaker hut where he feigns Rod's suicide.
Now free, the zookeepers destroy the evidence of McCain's ownership. Vince becomes the new CEO of Octopus (along with firing Neville), while Willa and Rollo begin a new life together while continuing to run the zoo.
- Michael Palin as Adrian 'Bugsy' Malone
- Robert Lindsay as Sydney Lotterby
- Ronnie Corbett as Reggie Sea Lions
- Carey Lowell as Cub Felines
- Bille Brown as Neville
- Derek Griffiths as Garry Ungulates
- Cynthia Cleese as Pip Small Mammals
- Richard Ridings as Hugh Primates
- Maria Aitken as Di Harding
- Jack Davenport as Student Zoo Keeper
Fred Schepisi was called in to reshoot the last 25 minutes of the film and other sequences throughout. Schepisi claims he tried to get the producers take out the opening 15 minutes, which was done for a test screening, but then some of this footage was put back in, which Schepisi thought killed the movie.
William Goldman worked on the movie as a script doctor.
Concordance with A Fish Called Wanda
The novelization of the film, written by Iain Johnstone, begins with a letter, written by Archie Leach (Cleese's character in Wanda) to Rollo, revealing that they are actually twin brothers; Rollo changed his surname from "Leach" to "Lee" in order to improve his chances of advancement within the Hong Kong police.
The main four actors have roles here that display similar dynamics to their roles in A Fish Called Wanda: John Cleese's character is the morally upright straight-man, Jamie Lee Curtis's character starts out morally grey but ends up romantically linked to John Cleese's character, Kevin Kline is the dense antagonist of the film's plot, and Michael Palin's character provides an active supporting role to the main events. Michael Palin's character in Fierce Creatures, however, is a chatterbox that is difficult to keep quiet, the opposite of his personality in A Fish Called Wanda, where he was a stutterer unable to say anything easily.
Various small gestures throughout the film recall Wanda. In one scene, a keeper tells Rollo that Willa liked him. When Rollo reacts in surprise, Bugsy explains to him that the pheromones he releases into the air attract her. Rollo sniffs his armpit as if to check on how he smelt, a gesture performed by Kevin Kline as Otto in "Wanda". Also in a throwback gesture, in A Fish Called Wanda there was a fish named after Jamie Lee Curtis' character; in Fierce Creatures there is a Ring-tailed Lemur named after Cleese's character. In the final scene John Cleese also "accidentally" calls Jamie Lee Curtis' character "Wanda" instead of Willa.
Supporting actors from A Fish Called Wanda returning for Fierce Creatures include Maria Aitken (wife of Cleese's character in A Fish Called Wanda), his assistant in Fierce Creatures, Cynthia Cleese (daughter of Cleese's character in A Fish Called Wanda and Pip Small Mammals in Fierce Creatures), and Michael Percival (a barrister in A Fish Called Wanda and an antkeeper in Fierce Creatures). Tom Georgeson, who played George Thomason in "Wanda", also made a brief cameo as a zoo visitor watching the sealion display.
John Cleese explained in a David Letterman appearance he didn't want to make a sequel to A Fish Called Wanda because of the expectations and how often sequels are inferior to the original. He points out Aliens and The Godfather, Part II as rare examples of sequels surpassing the originals.
For a time the working title of Fierce Creatures was Death Fish II. In Poland the film was released under the title “Lemur zwany Rollo” which literally means “A Lemur Called Rollo”, directly referencing A Fish Called Wanda.
- "Interview with Fred Schepisi", Signis, 22 December 1998 access 20 November 2012
- Craddock, Jim, ed. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2007 (Detroit: Thompson Gale, 2006), p.310, Fierce Creatures review.
- Fierce Creatures at the Internet Movie Database
- Fierce Creatures at Rotten Tomatoes
- Fierce Creatures at the British Comedy Guide