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

Ladysmith author wins American award for her new children’s book: The Moon Watched it All

Shelley Leedahl’s book took gold in the All Ages Picture Book category

Ladysmith Historical Society sees big turnout for salmon dinner fundraiser

Over 200 people attended the event held as a fundraiser to support the Society

Nanaimo Ladysmith school district deciding how best to provide menstrual products for students

Early cost estimates tag $75,000 for product dispensers; trustees seek student consultation

Lefebure rebuilds his previous life in construction

Former North Cowichan Mayor enjoys the transition back to physical outdoor work

The 13th Annual State of the Island Economic Summit to Return to Nanaimo This Month

With 608 attendees in 2018, the upcoming Summit promises to be a success

VIDEO: U.S. officials refute British couple’s ‘accidental’ border-crossing claim

Authorities say couple was arrested after illegal entry from B.C., with $16,000 and marijuana

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

One person hurt in crash at busy Nanaimo intersection

Minivan, sport utility vehicle collide at old Island Highway, Bowen Road and Norwell Drive

Two RCMP vehicles vandalized in Duncan over long weekend

Local Mounties asking for help in finding culprits

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Most Read