'Beyond the Bear' to become a movie

Nov 17, 2021

Credit Courtesy of Dan Bigley

An Anchorage man who was blinded by a bear at the Russian River nearly two decades ago is bringing his story to the silver screen.

Dan Bigley, author of “Beyond the Bear,” said he’s talking to producers and a screenwriter about turning the book he wrote about his experience into a movie.

“Just like after the accident, people were always saying, ‘Oh, you should write a book. You should write a book,’" he said. "And then, as soon as the book was out, people were like, ‘Oh, this would be a great movie.’ It was just one of those things I’ve heard a lot.”

In 2003, when Bigley was 25, he was attacked by a brown bear after a day of salmon fishing on the Russian River. The bear bit him in the face, permanently blinding him.

In 2013, he co-wrote a book about the attack and how he moved forward.

He said he had some calls about turning it into a movie. But for a while, nothing came of them. 

Then, he connected with screenwriter Molly McAlpine, who was willing to write a script on spec. Bigley said they’re talking to producers from Guy Walks into a Bar, a New York production company behind films like “Elf” and “Sully.”

“We’re just finishing up the script right now and we’ll start to shop it around and try to get other actors and people attached to the project," he said.

He said the screenplay largely covers the same chronology as the book. But he said he’s rethinking which scenes he should keep in the movie.

“In some ways, we can include more," Bigley said. "But in a lot of other ways, we’re limited by the number of scenes, and by the numbers of hours that we have to tell the story.”

They’re still working on settling most other details, like where they’ll film. 

“I think we would love to do it here in Alaska," he said. "Alaska is a character in the story, really, is the way I think about it.”

Nearly 20 years after the accident, Bigley lives in Anchorage with his wife and two kids. He said some days, it’s harder than others to rehash that part of his life.

“But to be honest, one of the things about rewriting the book and sharing the story so broadly is it has become easier," Bigley said. "I think part of that is time, obviously, all the personal work I’ve done — therapy and things like that. But I think the bigger answer is that, really, the bigger my life gets, the smaller my disability gets. And really the bigger my life gets, the smaller the trauma of it all gets. And I’ve gone on to live a very fulfilling and wonderful life. And that’s what the whole story is about, is about moving beyond the bear.”

He said people can follow the progress of the movie through his Facebook, @danbigleybearattacksurvivor.