An Interview With Andrew Simpson, Wolf Trainer To Game of Thrones Star Quigley
By Sarah Fisher
Winter is coming, or rather, Game of Thrones Fans’ favorite time of year, the release of the highly anticipated eighth season of the franchise. While we enjoy keeping up with the show’s stars through the filming season, one actor stands out to us: Alberta based Quigley, a white wolf trained by Andrew Simpson, the man to call for a project requiring Hollywood’s a-list wolves. We had the incredible chance to speak with Andrew on his involvement with GOT, some exciting other projects, and learn how much wolves differ from their cousins – dogs. Read on as we press for spoilers and learn what it takes to run with the wolves.
How did you come to specialize in work with wolves? What sets them apart from other animal talent? How long have you been working with wolves?
I grew up in Scotland in a small town in the middle of nowhere. I was always fascinated with the movies and animals and I left home at 20 for Australia. It was there that I worked on the Lindy Chamberland movie, where the famous line “a dingo ate my baby” was made famous. I was backpacking around Australia and asked for a job with the lady who trained the dingos. They are misunderstood and quirky like North American wolves.
I started working for a company in Vancouver, Canada before starting my own company, Instinct Animals For Film. They had a wolf in a cage who everyone said was untrainable. I spent a lot of time with him to understand what he was about. Eventually I could take him on a leash and work with him.
They are not like dogs.
On set, people just see a dog, but the last director I worked with said wow- they are nothing like a dog at all. They even move differently.
I then came to Alberta and now focus about 80% on wolves.
What makes a great wolf actor? How are wolf actors selected?
One that accepts and understands everything that’s put in front of them. In my opinion, a wolf is the hardest animal to work with. House cats are hard to work with, and some dogs too. Everyone expects their movie dog to be able to do everything you see on YouTube which can make things hard.
You cannot get a wolf to do something it doesn’t want to do, ever.
Even if a dog doesn’t like an actor, give them a tennis ball and they will follow. For a wolf, you can’t trick it. It will simply walk away. You have to spend the time and build a relationship so it has the confidence in you. There’s a lot of things on set like lights and distractions, and the wolf needs reassurance from you.
The first 6 months of our wolves’ lives, we take them everywhere, and what they see in those months becomes normal. We take them to the airport to watch planes go off, and the more interaction and exposure makes them a better working wolf.
I’ve had wolves who were great as puppies, and as adults , they suddenly don’t want to work any more. Unlike some other companies, we keep them. Eventually, the wolf may come back and want to work again.
They become members of the pack and enjoy their life. When they show interest again, they will start working again! We had one wolf take an 8 year break and now she’s one of my best actors!
We don’t give up on them. We make the commitment and although we aren’t a rescue or a shelter, if the animal doesn’t want to work, they stay with us.