More then 35 years after it was made, “An American Werewolf in London” remains one of the greatest horror films of all time. The Oscar-winning makeup and special effects by Rick Baker still look great in this age of too much CGI.
Besides enduring the extensive makeup, David Naughton, who played David Kessler, spent about 40 percent of his screen time naked. Filming in the cold British weather was tough, but he was understandably most worried about being in a cage with real wolves… while naked!
As he told SF Site in 2006:
“I didn’t want to be in this cage too long. They were trying to say to us that the wolves had been fed, that we should have some comfort in knowing that. There were three wolves and two weren’t getting along supposedly. The trainers were around — they were two women and I’m like, ‘Do we have to have women trainers here, fellas? I’m naked you know!’ But that’s just who the trainers were, it was all part of the fun!”
He added that the wolves coming over to him to check him out wasn’t planned, but it worked perfectly for the film. Earlier in the movie, we see a dog and cat react in fear to David, but here the wolves calmly accept him as one of their one.
I wasn’t in there too long but it was long enough. We were rolling and you’re not sure what they’re going to do. One of them came over to me, which was not part of it, and I’m like, ‘Oh hello! ‘We had tried to get ourselves familiarized with the wolves beforehand but wolves don’t tell you anything. Dogs will at least give you warnings that they’re not comfortable with you, but wolves just look at you with these very distant yellow eyes.
Naughton was told “no sudden movements” but of course, he wanted to get out of the cage as fast as possible.
Even when you’re climbing out and you think you’re up and above them, it’s still at the back of your mind that they can leap ten feet in the air. Fortunately, in the end, they turned out to be somewhat docile.
In an interview in 1981, director John Landis told People, “The female [wolf] was very enamored of David.”
Naughton told People, “the male wolf liked to run his paws through my hair.”
The actor ended up having a bigger audience than just some curious wolves and the film crew. As Naughton told The Guardian in 2017: “We were supposed to be done by 9am, but we overran. At one point, I looked up and said: ‘Wow! Why have you got all those extras over there?’ They replied: ‘They’re not extras – the zoo’s open.'”
“An American Werewolf in London” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.