B.C. polar bear Agee bringing realistic touch to films in age of CGI

B.C. polar bear Agee bringing realistic touch to films in age of CGI

Agee is 800 pounds, blond and cranky

Canadian film star Agee is a bit of a diva at work.

She travels to movie sets in a 12-metre-long trailer that has a wading pool on hot days, and doesn’t like co-stars or crew near her while she prepares for her scenes.

The 24-year-old also gives “stink eye” to anyone onset who talks to her manager, Mark Dumas, except for his wife, Dawn, the only other person Agee will tolerate while working.

“I have a wife and a mistress,” says Dumas, referring to Dawn and Agee.

“My mistress is 800 pounds, blond and cranky.”

Agee’s behaviour is understandable. After all, she is an apex predator — a polar bear, to be exact.

The Abbotsford, B.C.-based bear has starred in a variety of screen projects, the latest being the survival drama “Arctic,” directed by Joe Penna.

Opening Friday in Toronto and other cities in subsequent weeks, “Arctic” stars Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as the sole survivor of a plane crash in a remote and snowy area of the frigid North.

But work for Agee and other animals is slowing down in the film world as CGI takes over.

“Which is a shame,” says Dumas, who feels viewers are missing out on seeing “the majesty of such an incredible animal.”

“CGI, to me, is a cartoon. The animals don’t look as real.”

In “Arctic,” Agee appears in a scene involving a cave and, while she looks ferocious, it’s all an act.

“She’s trained to open her mouth and show her teeth. She doesn’t make any noise,” says Dumas, noting her roar in the film was added in post-production.

READ MORE: Abbotsford Goes Hollywood with Gibson, Carell and a polar bear highlighted 2017 filming

She does have sass behind the scenes, though.

“She’s very selective on who she likes and who she doesn’t like,” says Dumas, noting no one is allowed into her working space that’s surrounded by a thin electric wire fence onset.

“When I go away, she is a little upset and when I come back she’ll actually blow me off. If Dawn’s there she’ll go over and say hi to Dawn, love up to Dawn and then look at me like, ‘You’ve been gone.’”

Agee shot her “Arctic” role about a year ago in a warehouse in Abbotsford.

Her other credits include the 2014 Norwegian children’s drama “Operation Arctic” and 1996’s “Alaska” with Charlton Heston, which was her first movie. She also has her own Facebook page, Agee the Polar Bear.

Dumas, who has been an animal co-ordinator and trainer for 47 years, got Agee specifically for “Alaska” when she was two months old from the Kolmarden Wildlife Park zoo in Sweden in 1995.

He trained her through positive reinforcement, with the primary goal of making her a part of the family.

“I make a commitment to these animals,” says Dumas, who has had various creatures on his four-hectare property over the years, including a grizzly bear, cougars, deer, wolves and eagles.

“They work for me and then I work for them. You just don’t work ‘em and throw ‘em away. You’re with them or they’re with you for the rest of their lives.”

Agee has her own swimming pool and pen on the Dumas property, with the option to roam around on the grass as she sees fit.

She’s never been bred, and enjoys a diet of everything from chicken and salmon to pizza and Thai food.

Agee views Dawn like a “sister” and is so close to Dumas, he’s been able to stick his head into her mouth. The couple also sometimes swims with Agee.

When asked what he has to say to animal rights groups who think such creatures shouldn’t be in captivity, Dumas said: “If you saw the relationship I have with Agee, you’d be a fool to say that she is having a hard life. She really has it nice.”

“If Agee were ill treated, I wouldn’t be able to lay down with her, swim with her and train her,” he added.

“When I pull her trailer in front of her cage, she gets excited. It’s something that she likes to do. That happens because she is treated with a lot of respect.”

Dumas was born in Los Angeles and says he “fell into” animal training while working on the lion ranch of an acquaintance’s father.

“It’s a lifestyle,” said Dumas, adding he’s not in it for the money. ”If I figured out what I’ve made throughout my life, I’ve probably averaged about five cents an hour.

“You raise the animal from a baby, you spend a lot of time with it and no one’s paying you to do it, you just do it. And it’s a love you have.”

WATCH: Oscars to air without a host

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Catch up on all Nelson’s local news with the Star’s daily newsletter.
Nelson Star launches newsletters, right to your inbox

Sign up today for Morning News Alert

dd
LETTER: RDCK online survey set up to fail

From reader Janice Van Caeseele

Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

Daryl Jolly co-founded the college’s digital arts program

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

Most Read