Behind the Scenes Roar: Brandon Sklenar’s Unique Challenge Wrestling a Massive Stuffed Lion as Spencer Dutton in ‘1923

‘1923’: Spencer Dutton Actor Brandon Sklenar Wrestled With a 200-lb Stuffed Lion


Brandon Sklenar plays Spencer Dutton in the Taylor Sheridan series 1923. The youngest son of James and Margaret is a grown man living in Africa when the prequel begins. Fans received an epic introduction to Spencer, who was hunting a lion when it suddenly attacked. Luckily Sklenar didn’t have to wrestle with a real lion for this scene.

Filming for ‘1923’ partially took place in Africa

For Brandon Sklenar’s role as Spencer Dutton in 1923, the actor filmed in uncharted territory for the Dutton-verse. “We were in various locations, including South Africa and Kenya for 2½ months,” the actor told USA Today. “When Taylor Sheridan says you’re in a location, you’re not in Santa Clarita.”

Sklenar had some pretty intense encounters with wildlife while filming in Africa. “We had a herd of elephants that day on set,” he revealed. “At one point, one started running around, and before you know it, four elephants are running around. It was wild. The instinct is to run, but that’s the last thing you should do.”


Spencer Dutton actor Brandon Sklenar filmed a scene in ‘1923’ using a huge stuffed lion

At the start of 1923, Spencer Dutton lives in Africa. He works as a hunter-for-hire, killing big cats and other animals that are plaguing human settlements. In Spencer’s opening scene, he tracks a lion and kills the creature at the last second, just as it jumps on top of him.

“I was actually under a 200-pound stuffed lion that looked incredibly real and was obviously incredibly heavy,” Sklenar told USA Today, recalling the scene where his companions pull the large, dead creature off of him.


Although Sklenar wasn’t fighting a real lion, there was one present during filming for the premiere of 1923. “We had a real lion on the set that day and combined that with movie magic to make those scenes work,” the actor explained.

In another scene, Spencer travels to a different encampment that is being plagued by a leopard. Spencer remarks that leopards are smarter than lions and runs into some trouble while trying to kill the animal. It turns out there were two leopards hunting in the area, and one nearly got the best of Spencer.

Sklenar and Julia Schlaepfer also filmed with elephants on the set of ‘1923’

In a later scene in 1923, Spencer Dutton and Alex are nearly trampled by an elephant, and they spend an evening hiding in a tree and fighting off a pride of lions. Filming this scene was especially memorable for Sklenar and his co-star Julia Schlaepfer.

“We had a herd of elephants on set that day and they were these lovely, magnificent creatures,” Sklenar told Newsweek. “They were 3 feet from your face all day. We would have to keep them near the car so they get a shot of this elephant running towards us.”

“Julie [Schlaepfer] and I would have to hide a bunch of oranges in our pockets, and around the car and off camera to nudge them towards the car,” Sklenar continued. “Sometimes they’d come over and you’d have to hold out an orange and this thing, like their hairy elephant lips would come down, and that was a really special experience.”


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