Film-maker CATHERINE HARDWICKE struggled to shoot the birth of JESUS CHRIST for Christmas film THE NATIVITY STORY because a chosen cow was a nervous mother, a donkey had haemorrhoids and sheep were mad. The THIRTEEN director had a four-hour window to capture the Biblical scene one night while filming in Matera, Italy and she learned the hard way just how difficult animal actors can be.
Under the watchful eye of Italy's Humane Society, it took 25 minutes for burly farmers to persuade the scene's cow to lie down and then a skittish donkey had to be replaced when it refused to settle down for shooting. The new ass had to rest on a cushion because it had a painful backside - and then "insane" sheep made every beast in the makeshift Bethlehem stable uneasy. Just as Hardwicke was about to shoot her first footage, the cow stood up and relieved herself all over the floor, prompting the Humane Society watchdog on set to announce filming was over for the night.
Hardwicke recalls, "That night... the first night we tried to do it, the babies went home at midnight before we got to roll any film and we had to use a rubber baby instead. "The next night, we did it all over, and we got the real baby in there." The director admits the Jesus baby's parents were more than a little concerned about their infant being so close to livestock: "They can't believe they agreed to let it come on the set, but it gets to be Baby Jesus, a Catholic fantasy."