MSNBC reports that the animal-rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)has been informed that the monkey used in the filming of Warner Bros. Speed Racer was being abused on the set. As a result, the organization has urged the production company to stop using a live animal while filming:
"We are in receipt of information that may upset you," PETA wrote to the producer Joel Silver, the man behind such megahits as the Matrix and Die Hard series. "We've received several troubling complaints from people who have been on the Speed Racer set and report that the main chimpanzee 'actor' has been beaten and has bitten one of the human actors." PETA urged Silver to stop using the live critters and switch to animatronics.
"We appreciate the concerns of your organization," came back the letter from movie company Warner Bros. "We also respect the vision and choices of the filmmakers with which we work. Every option on a film is carefully weighed, and for this production, the decision was made to use live animals."
A spokesperson confirmed that a chimp did chomp on a young actor, but said that the actor was treated and the animal was given a rest. She sent along assurances from the American Humane Society that no animals were being abused.
PETA is further investigating the matter as they have responded to Warner Bros. reply: "No humane representative is closely monitoring those animals while off-set or during pre-production training, the very places where abuse is most likely to occur,"
Based on the classic 1960s series created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida that later was retooled for North American audiences, the big-screen film will follow the adventures of the young race car driver Speed in his quest for glory in his thundering gadget-laden vehicle, Mach 5. The movie will feature other characters from the show, including Speed's family and his mysterious archrival, Racer X. The cartoon featured Speed's younger brother Spritle and his pet chimpanzee Chim-Chim,
Speed Racer was released May 9th, 2008 and stars Emile Hirsch, Nicholas Elia, Susan Sarandon, Melissa Holroyd, Ariel Winter, Scott Porter, Gian Ganziano, Peter Fernandez. The film is directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski.