PETA has written a letter to Speed Racer producer Joel Silver saying that they’ve heard reports of animal abuse on the set of the Wachowski-directed adaptation of a crummy cartoon. "We are in receipt of information that may upset you," PETA wrote. "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."
Warner Bros has admitted that a young actor (the kid playing Spridle?) was bitten by the monkey, but says that the animal is being watched over by the American Humane Association. PETA ain’t buying it. “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,” they wrote back to Warner Bros, “so we regret to say that the assurances you offer are meaningless.”
When I was on the set of Inkheart earlier this year I got to see some animal training in action, with a ferret and a dog playing Toto from The Wizard of Oz, and I was impressed. The animals were eager to please, and there were multiples of each animal, each trained to do a specific bit of business for which they were rewarded a snack. There was legitimate love between trainer and animal. It would be terrible if animals were being abused on the Berlin set of Speed Racer, and I think we should all press for someone to watch over the chimp and make sure the reports that John Goodman has been tied to plows and made to work fields in Germany are completely untrue.