We Bought A Zoo


We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Elle Fanning, opened nationwide on December 23. Director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) takes us behind the scenes:

Photographer: Max Vadukul

“This was early in the movie, and we were parked at a street corner in Piru, California. The bear, whose name is Bart, actually did a little more than we intended: He stood up and pawed at the driver’s-side window. I think that was when Matt Damon realized he’d signed on to do a movie involving large animals.”

Photographer: Max Vadukul

“Scarlett Johansson was preparing to feed the tigers, and she was a good sport about it, just slinging the meat around. What I really like about this shot is that it captures the camaraderie between Scarlett and Matt. These two could be blasé about filmmaking, but they’re not. There’s nothing jaded about them.”

Photographer: Max Vadukul

“Me and Matt with Maggie Elizabeth Jones and Colin Ford, who play Matt’s kids in the film. In casting, we looked for the most untouched-by-Hollywood young actors we could find. To us, Maggie seemed like a more real version of the kids who usually get cast. And Colin, who came in with a Bieber mop of hair, had a great audition.”

Photographer: Max Vadukul

“Scarlett Johansson plays the head zookeeper, Kelly, on whose shoulders the zoo’s survival rests heavily. Scarlett is such an animal geek—when she first came in to talk about the part, she’d just celebrated a wedding anniversary by going to Tippi Hedren’s appointment-only animal sanctuary. She really feels the plight, the wonder, and all the things that come with loving animals.”

Photographer: Max Vadukul

“One of the fun parts about moviemaking is that sometimes you can be your own DJ and score scenes while they’re happening, or set a tone before you start shooting. If Maggie Elizabeth Jones ever started to flag, we’d play that song “Peanut Butter Jelly Time!” We played it a lot. Everybody got sick of that song.”

Photographer: Max Vadukul

“There is one pivotal scene where Matt’s and Scarlett’s characters get in a fight. On the day of the scene, we realized it had some dialogue that wasn’t in the tone of the rest of the movie. We all kind of stopped and went, Oh… But Matt and Scarlett tore into the scene, and we figured it out. They’re very spontaneous and smart. This scene in particular was an explosion of collaboration—I was really happy with it.”