Leo, the cat who played the undead version of Church in Pet Sematary (2019) died unexpectedly a month after the film’s release.
Animal trainer Kirk Jarrett had adopted Leo shortly after filming and set up an Instagram account dedicated to him, which had more than 16,000 followers.
Jarrett took to Instagram to announce the sad news of Leo’s passing: “It is with great sadness that we tell you that Leo has passed away. He will forever be missed by his human and fur family. May his star always shine bright.”
The cat’s cause of death was not revealed publicly.
While four different cats were used for the part in the movie, it was Leo’s face that graced the creepy film’s posters and was the main cat used as the undead version of Church.
“Leo is a confident sit-stay cat. His role is as the undead Church; that was his whole purpose, to be the poster child. The cat you see all across the different platforms, and in the trailer, almost any time he’s in the undead makeup–that was Leo,” Jarrett said in a recent interview with the AV Club.
Pet Sematary is based on a Stephen King book that shares the same name and is the second adaptation following the original horror film from 1989. It follows a family that discovers a supernatural graveyard that has the power to resurrect the dead.
Prior to his big Hollywood break, Leo was a shelter cat – as were the other three cats that played Church in the film. Jarrett said that when they found Leo, there was something unique about him.
“Part of it was that he’s just got such a cool look,” he said, “different from any other cat I’ve seen.”
Jarrett added that Leo had a “beautiful face, and these eyes that are so expressive.”
To be trained for his part in Pet Sematary, Jarrett and fellow trainer Melissa Millett first had to understand the film’s feline stars.
“We need the animals to be acclimated,” Jarrett explained. That meant “working through all of their insecurities from being rescues.”
While they started the cats out with fun, “catnip parties,” the trainers eventually began teaching them to work. Over time, the cats – including Leo – all learned their parts and it certainly showed.
Leo will certainly be missed, but he will forever be immortalized by his role as the poster cat for Pet Sematary.