Grizzly Man is a 2005 documentary film by German director Werner Herzog. It chronicles the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell. The film consists of Treadwell’s own footage of his interactions with grizzly bears before he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and eaten by a bear in 2003, and of interviews with people who knew or were involved with Treadwell. The footage he shot was later found, and the final film was co-produced by Discovery Docs, the Discovery Channel’s theatrical documentary unit, and Lions Gate Entertainment. The film’s soundtrack is by British singer songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson.
Timothy Treadwell (born Timothy Dexter; April 29, 1957 – October 5, 2003) was an American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, eco-wrarrior, and documentary filmmaker and founder of Grizzly people. He lived with the grizzly bears Katmai National Park in Alaska for 13 summers. At the end of his 13th summer in the park in 2003, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard (October 23, 1965 – October 5, 2003) were killed by a 28-year-old brown bear, whose stomach was later found to contain human remains and clothing.
Timothy Treadwell spent 13 summers in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Over time, he believed the bears trusted him and would allow him to approach them; sometimes he would even touch them. Treadwell was repeatedly warned by park officials that his interaction with the bears was unsafe to both him and to the bears. “At best, he’s misguided,” Deb Liggett, superintendent at Katmai and Lake Clark national parks, told the Anchorage Daily News in 2001. “At worst, he’s dangerous. If Timothy models unsafe behavior, that ultimately puts bears and other visitors at risk.” Treadwell filmed his exploits, and used the films to raise public awareness of the problems faced by bears in North America. In 2003, at the end of his 13th visit, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were attacked, killed, and partially eaten by a bear; the events which led to the attack are unknown.
In order for this film to be produced, it was necessary for Jewel Palovak, co-founder of Grizzly People and close friend of Treadwell’s, to approve the production of the documentary. Logistical as well as sentimental factors needed to be taken into account regarding the footage. Grizzly People is a “grassroots organization,” concerned with the treatment of bears, that Palovak and Treadwell started together. After his death, Palovak was left with control of Grizzly People and all 100 hours of archival footage. As Treadwell’s close friend, ex-girlfriend and confidante, she also had a large emotional stake in the production. Palovak had known Treadwell since 1985 and felt a deep sense of responsibility to her late friend and his legacy. He had often discussed the subject of his video archives with her. “Timothy was very dramatic,” she once said. She quoted Treadwell as saying, “‘If I die, if something happens to me, make that movie. You make it. You show ’em.’ I thought that Werner Herzog could definitely do that.”