'Free Willy' Star Bindi Irwin: 'I Feel Lost Without Animals'
But on set, actress and animal activist Irwin wasn't lost at all. Filming in Cape Town, South Africa, for seven weeks last year, the 11-year-old Aussie worked with penguins, a giraffe and other exotic creatures. "It was so much fun," she says. "I told my mom I'd love to do a movie one day, and when Free Willy came along, I said 'yes' right away."
A prequel to the popular Free Willy series, the film follows the plight of an orphaned orca who finds himself in a seaside theme park owned by Gus Grisby (Beau Bridges). Irwin plays his estranged granddaughter Kirra Cooper, who comes to live with him when her dad falls ill. "Beau Bridges was incredible," Irwin says. "He taught me so much. At the start I was nervous about learning my lines, but he told me not to worry, and not to be scared of messing up."
Though Irwin wasn't yet alive when the first films hit theaters in 1993, 1995 and 1997, she studied them carefully. "They're not just action-packed family fun, but they really have a message. You can learn something from watching them," she says. However, the transition from documentary star to feature film actress did require a little adjusting. "With documentaries, there are usually about three people with you: the director, a sound guy and the cameraman," she explains. "But with this, there were over 100 cast and crewmembers!"
So what's next for the pint-sized starlet? Definitely more movies – "with animals," she says – and possibly an animated film. "I'd love to do the voice of a character, like Shrek," she shares. For Irwin, it seems that anything is possible.
Check out Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove on DVD today!
Read about more animal-friendly films on PEOPLEPets.com:
Creatures Big and Small Show Compassion, Heroism in Life
How Dogs Ruled on the Set of Hachi: A Dog's Tale
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