There’s no truth to the rumor that Mr. Bigglesworth’s agent wanted the Austin Powers sequel to be called “The Spy Who Shaved Me.” Bigglesworth – a cat in desperate need of Rogaine – hasn’t been shaved, he comes that way; he’s a sphynx cat. Many sphynx cats have no hair whatsoever, a few kitties are relatively well endowed with “peach fuzz” and some even have hairy tips on their tails and ears.
Bigglesworth plays a supporting role to Mike Meyers in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” sequel to the 1997 original “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.” Meyers doubles in the movie as both crime busting Austin Powers and sinister Dr. Evil.
“This cat is making movie history, he’s playing a role casting directors have previously chosen for dogs,” says trainer Tammy Maples of San Bernardino, CA. “Cats are generally considered untrainable – they’re not considered stars.” Bigglesworth proves that’s not so.
In real life, Mr. Bigglesworth is named Ted Nude-gent. The first Austin Powers flick was Ted’s premiere on the big screen. However, Ted does have a sort of feline version of live theater experience; he’s a champion show cat, spending years strutting his stuff at cat shows.
“Socialization is essential for working cat actors,” says Maples. “Having been in shows his entire life, I knew the commotion and constant meeting of strangers on a movie set would be no problem. Ted loves to learn and enjoys working. The fact is that most cats do love to learn, if only their people would give them a chance. Sphynx, in particular, are eager to please.”
But then Maples must be a person worth pleasing. Even an American alligator, appropriately named Bigger, works to please her. Bigger has starred in the Lubriderm (cq) lotion print and TV campaign ads for the past seven years. She says Bigger’s toughest trick was swimming in a vat of milk. At first it was tougher than convincing a cat to swim in water, but once Bigger got used to the texture, he had no problem with getting milked.
Maples has 20 years of experience working with critters on TV, in the movies and commercials, including the Harry Anderson sitcom “Dave’s World”, which featured a bloodhound named Ernest; all six of the cats who played Sassy in the film “Homeward Bound,” including Tiki, who also portrays Salty on “Caroline in the City.”
In “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” Bigglesworth shares screen time with a new character, Baby Bigglesworth, played by three cats. It seems half the fun of having a sphynx is naming the cat. In real life, the three kitties are named Mel Gibskin, Paul Nudeman and Skindiana Jones.
“When Ted (Mr. Bigglesworth) appeared on the set for the sequel, he hadn’t seen Mike (Meyers) in months,” says Maples. “Ted immediately ran into Mike’s lap and began to purr. I believe Mike really loves Ted. On more than one occasion, Ted wound up staying in a scene longer than planned because he dozed off in Mike’s lap.”
Maples says the director would frequently shout “Action!” Then, Mike would holler back, “Wait!” “If Ted just arrived on the set, Mike wanted to be sure he was comfortable, he’d take time out to pet him and talk to him, and then he’d say, ‘Okay, we’re ready.”
Maples points out all actors aren’t so thoughtful. Many actors really do fear being upstaged by a wagging tail or purring kitty. Maples won’t reveal the name of the actor on a TV show who was supposed to be dribbling a basketball while a dog sat by and watched. In order to get the dog out of “his” shot, the actor would intentionally bounce the ball toward the dog.
“But I prefer to tell the good stories of the real pro’s,” she adds. On a made-for-TV movie, lots of cats were strewn throughout the lead character’s house, played by Elizabeth Montgomery. What no one knew is that is that the now deceased actress was allergic to cats. “She never said a thing until it became clear she was allergic. I’d apologize after a scene because it would take a couple minutes to simply collect all the cats. She said, ‘Listen, it’s not your fault, don’t worry about me, just take care of the cats.”
“I train, coach, even prompt my animals, but there’s a point in time when the cameras are rolling and it’s ultimately up to them and the human actors. Mike Meyers and Bigglesworth – now there’s a team that has movie chemistry. They do it all, I just sit back and laugh.”
These follically impaired cats with over-sized ears have personality to burn, according to Blake Gipson, Ft. Worth, Tex. based president of the Progressive Sphynx Alliance. Here are some sphynx tidbits:
- Described as hypoallergenic in ads in cat magazines, the truth is that no cat is truly hypoallergenic. However, the majority of people who sneeze and sniffle with Persians or Siamese may live tissue-free with a sphynx.
- Gipson describes the breed as “part monkey, part dog, and part cat.” He says, “Sphynx are bold and confident. They like being with people and want to please just as dogs do.” They’re very active climbers, even hanging upside down from cat trees. They love riding on shoulders, looking more like parrots than cats.
- Living with a sphynx means snuggling with a sphynx, and sharing your bed.
- Sphynx have a high metabolism, and a formidable appetite to match.
- Frequent bathing is required, or they’ll leave oil marks (from their coat) on fabric or light colored carpeting.
- These long-lived cats have discovered the fountain of youth, remaining playful and usually healthy into their golden years.
- The most curious of sphynx habits may be their delight in giving scalp massages to their favorite people.
- Sphynx cats typically sell for $1,000 to $1,500.
For further information on sphynx, call the Progressive Sphynx Alliance, 214-215-6085 or access www.interl.net~sphynx.