Bart the Bear with trainer Doug Seus, 1997
|Born||January 19, 1977|
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||May 10, 2000 (aged 23)|
Heber City, Utah, U.S.
|Resting place||Seus ranch, Heber City, Utah, U.S.|
|Owner||Doug and Lynne Seus|
|Height||9 ft 7.5 in (293 cm)|
|Awards||Nominated, Academy Award, The Bear (1988)|
|Cause of death||Animal euthanasia|
Bart the Bear (January 19, 1977 - May 10, 2000) was a male Alaskan Kodiak bear actor best known for his numerous appearances in Hollywood films, including The Bear (for which he received widespread acclaim),White Fang, Legends of the Fall, and The Edge. He was trained by animal trainers Doug and Lynne Seus of Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife, Inc., in Heber City, Utah.
Bart was born on January 19, 1977, at the Baltimore Zoo. When Bart was five weeks old and weighed five pounds (2 kg), he was adopted by Doug and Lynne Seus, who worked as animal trainers for films. The Seuses trained Bart using a reward and praise system. While still a cub, he appeared in the TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams playing Adams' companion bear, Ben, as a cub.
Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hannah, Annette Bening, Ethan Hawke, Steven Seagal, Tchéky Karyo, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Trevor Howard, and Anthony Hopkins all appeared in films opposite Bart. All of them were reportedly impressed with how well he was trained. Film directors Jean-Jacques Annaud and Lee Tamahori, who directed Bart in The Bear and The Edge respectively, called Bart "The John Wayne of Bears."
Anthony Hopkins worked with Bart in two movies: Legends of the Fall and The Edge. According to Lynne Seus, "Tony Hopkins was absolutely brilliant with Bart...He acknowledged and respected him like a fellow actor. He would spend hours just looking at Bart and admiring him. He did so many of his own scenes with Bart." Film critic Kenneth Turan called Bart's performance in The Edge "the capstone of an illustrious career" and "a milestone in ursine acting."
Bart's greatest recognition came when he starred in the title role of Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1988 French film, The Bear, playing an adult grizzly bear who befriends an orphaned cub and defeats hunters. Annaud auditioned 50 bear actors from all over the world before selecting Bart for the role. In order to perform the role, Bart, trained by Seus, successfully learned several new routines and behaviors, including going against his natural abhorrence of a strange bear to accept the unrelated cub co-starring with him. Annaud remained impressed with Bart's performance even after being injured by Bart when Annaud, against trainers' orders, entered Bart's enclosure to pose for publicity photos. The Bear was a hit in both Europe and the United States, grossing over $31 million in the United States and over $100 million worldwide, and reportedly resulting in an Oscar nomination for Bart, which was unable to go forward because animal actors are precluded from receiving Academy Awards.
Bart was an ambassador for the Vital Ground Foundation, which procures threatened wildlife habitat along the Rocky Mountains, on Kodiak Island in Alaska, and in the Gobi Desert.
In October 1998, Bart was diagnosed with cancer, and later underwent surgery twice to remove tumors from his right paw. Cancer reoccurred, taking away his strength and appetite causing him to not want to take the pain medication, so he was euthanized on May 10, 2000, at the age of 23. He was buried on the Seus' ranch.
At the time of his death, he was filming the television documentary Growing Up Grizzly (2001) (also featuring Bart's namesake Little Bart), which was narrated by Brad Pitt, who had appeared with Bart in Legends of the Fall.
Bart the Bear 2, an unrelated Alaskan brown bear cub born in 2000 and adopted by Doug and Lynne Seus shortly before Bart's death, was named for Bart and has sometimes been called "Little Bart". Bart the Bear 2 has followed in the footsteps of the original Bart, becoming an established animal actor and Vital Ground ambassador.