11 Actors Who Took Home Their Animal Co-Stars
Some actors walk away from a recently wrapped film with a new hairdo or a stolen prop. Viggo Mortensen occasionally leaves with a horse—and he’s definitely not the only one. From Sophie Turner’s direwolf to Audrey Hepburn’s deer, here are 11 actors and the lucky animal co-stars who got to go home with them.
1. Sophie Turner
In Game of Thrones, Sophie Turner’s onscreen affection for Sansa Stark’s pet direwolf wasn’t all acting. “Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one,” she told CoventryLive in 2013. “We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set.” When Lady’s run on the show ended and Zunni, the Northern Inuit dog that played her, needed a forever home, Turner’s family volunteered theirs.
2. Brendan Fraser
Of all the horses in History Channel’s 2015 miniseries Texas Rising, Brendan Fraser’s favorite was Pecas, a gray Percheron that got picked on by the more flamboyant mustangs. “He was my acting partner,” Fraser told the Toronto Star. “It wasn’t headed to the glue factory or anything horrible, but I thought, ‘I want to do well by him, too.’” So he brought Pecas—Spanish for “freckles”—home to a barn in Bedford, New York, where the horse made fast friends with Fraser’s teenaged son, Griffin.
3. Tiffany Haddish
The eponymous catnapped tabby at the center of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Keanu (2016) was played by multiple kittens from multiple animal shelters. After production wrapped, co-star Tiffany Haddish got to keep one, changing its name from Clementine to Catonic. Catonic definitely didn’t stay kitten-sized for long.
4. Kim Novak
Like Keanu, the spell-casting feline in 1958’s Bell, Book and Candle was played by several Siamese cats. When Kim Novak, who starred in the film alongside Jimmy Stewart, brought one home with her, she just called the cat by his character’s name: Pyewacket. The cat caused trouble offscreen, too. In 1960, he escaped from Novak’s New York City garden, and she even bought an ad in The New York Times to help recover him. Meanwhile, Pyewacket had found his way to the home of two female Siamese cats, bit their owner’s secretary, and got taken to a shelter. But the secretary saw the ad and contacted Novak, who promised to chide him. “But not much,” the Vertigo star said in a newspaper interview. “I’m too happy to have the silly boy back.”
5. Yvette Nicole Brown
Filmmakers focused on casting as many rescue dogs as possible in Disney’s 2019 live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, and one of them went home with Yvette Nicole Brown, who played Aunt Sarah. It was actually the trainer who chose the perfect dog for Brown to adopt after filming was finished. “At the end she goes, ‘I think I have your dog.’ I said, ‘Oh! Who is it?’ And she says, ‘Harley is your dog,’” Brown told People. “She was 100 percent right. Harley is my dog. I love him.” Harley, a cocker spaniel, even has his own Instagram account.
6. Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen formed close bonds with the two main horses who carried Aragorn through various parts of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings trilogy: Eurayus, the bay horse who played Brego, and chestnut-colored Kenny, who played Hasufel. He took them home with him, and he also purchased the white horse that Arwen rides while fleeing the Nazgûl in The Fellowship of the Ring. “The person who did that spectacular bit of riding was a stuntwoman who I ended up becoming friends with. I knew how much she liked that horse, so I bought it for her,” Mortensen told NME in 2020.
It wasn’t the last time he’d find a new pet on set. He didn’t plan on buying T.J., the horse he rode in 2004’s Hidalgo, but he liked him too much to say goodbye. “I just got to really, really like him. He’s got such a unique, strong personality,” he tol IGN. “His reactions were consistently appropriate, whether it was displaying jealousy or possessiveness, or being the conscience, or being like, ‘C'mon, let's go,’ or being annoyed.”
7. Audrey Hepburn
While filming 1959’s Green Mansions, Audrey Hepburn became the de facto mother of the weeks-old fawn, Pippin—or Ip, as Hepburn called her—that also appeared in the movie. “I’ve fallen in love with her,” she said in a newspaper interview. “She has the run of the house and garden at home. I feed her with a baby bottle. Ip doesn’t have any teeth yet, but she loves to nibble on everything.” Hepburn’s then-husband, Mel Ferrer, who also directed the film, was a fan of the pet, too (though their Yorkshire terrier, Mr. Famous, definitely wasn’t). Hepburn did give Ip up once the film was finished, but Ferrer reportedly brought her back to help his wife recover from a miscarriage in May 1959.
8. Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers got to choose his own equine co-star for the 1938 film Under Western Stars, and he went with Golden Cloud, a palomino stallion who had recently appeared in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). He renamed him “Trigger” for his quickness, and they got on so well that Rogers ended up purchasing him and using him in many other movies. “He was 4 when I made my first picture and I was 26, so we kind of grew up together,” Rogers later recalled. “He never did anything wrong.” Trigger died on Rogers’s California ranch in 1965, but his taxidermied remains are still around.
9. Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor got to choose which horse to ride in 1944’s National Velvet, too. According to Horse & Hound, she picked one that she often rode at her country club: a rather high-strung thoroughbred named King Charles. Once filming had wrapped, the studio gave him to Taylor, barely a teenager at the time, as a gift.
10. Chris Evans
As soon as he arrived at a dog pound to shoot a scene for 2017’s Gifted, noted dog lover Chris Evans had one question on his mind: “Are these actor dogs, or are these real, up-for-adoption dogs?” Upon finding out they were all available to adopt, Evans strolled around and found one who “didn’t belong there,” as he told People. According to Evans, the lucky adoptee, named Dodger, is a good boy who loves kids and gets to sleep in Evans’s bed with him. “He sleeps on my pillow, you wake up face-to-face,” he said.
11. Robert Redford
It took livestock supervisor Kenny Lee six months to find the perfect rising star to play Rising Star, the horse of Robert Redford’s character Sonny Steele in The Electric Horseman (1979). A 5-year-old thoroughbred named Let’s Merge got the gig, and Redford ended up taking that directive seriously. Not only did he do his own riding in the film, he also bought the horse once it was over.
A version of this story ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2022.