Four years and 18 operations after a motorcycle accident left him close to death, Dan Haggerty is back making movies again. The brawny, bearded actor who became famous in films and a TV series as the nature-loving outdoorsman Grizzly Adams is starring in “Grizzly Mountain.” The movie, which features two of Haggerty’s real-life children--Dylan and Megan--opens today in 122 theaters and wider on Nov. 14.
To hear Haggerty tell it, the road back to Hollywood has been rocky. It all began the day a van pulled in front of him in Chatsworth and he slid his Harley-Davidson underneath the vehicle, crushing one leg, breaking his pelvis and opening a wound in his forehead that required more than 200 stitches. Rumors flew that Haggerty had died on the operating table.
“My wife got a letter from the Screen Actors Guild saying, ‘Sorry to hear your husband passed away,’ ” Haggerty recalled, adding that SAG even dropped him for failing to pay his dues. When a supermarket tabloid wrote about his plight, Haggerty said, he received 50,000 letters from fans saying, “Hang in there. We’re with you.” He then decided to write Pope John Paul II.
“I wrote the pope that I had received so much fan mail and adulation from the public that ‘I need you to pray for me to get strong and not let these people down,’ ” Haggerty said. “My wife said, ‘He’ll never write you back.’ ” But Haggerty got a reply.
"[The pope] wrote me the most wonderful letter back [saying], ‘Not only is the Vatican praying for you, but I’m sending a rosary to every Catholic church in the world so you’ll get strong.’ . . . I even got his personal phone number to call him up.”
Haggerty, who has never had an agent or a manager during his long Hollywood career, said people just seem to like the character Grizzly Adams. The moral of his movies? “Families should stick together and learn from nature,” Haggerty said.