October 20, 1997 12:00 PM

>Bart the Bear

STATE OF BRUIN

YOU COULD CALL HIM THE 800-pound gorilla of American movies, but you’d be 680 pounds short. Now playing one ornery ursine alongside Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin in the thriller The Edge, Bart the Bear is an actor who doesn’t have to call his lawyers to get his way. “In close quarters he can be pretty frightening,” says Hopkins. “You know that he is capable of killing you. No one except the trainer had close contact with Bart—otherwise, you’re dead.” At 20, Bart is a grizzled veteran, having worked since he was a cub on the ’70s TV show The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and in such films as The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Bear and, also with Hopkins, in Legends of the Fall. Bart’s earnings—reportedly $10,000 a day—help support the Vital Ground Foundation, which protects grizzlies.

For attack scenes, says Bart’s trainer Doug Seus, 56, “I teach Bart to open his mouth wider and wider, and we give him pears to cause salivation.” Roaring is bad form (it would mean the animal is really angry), so bloodcurdling sounds are dubbed in later. Bart, who has died seven times onscreen, will likely live another decade or so. “It’s going to be tough when he’s gone,” says Seus, who lives with his wife, Lynne, in Heber City, Utah. “He’s a member of the family.”

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