TOKYO – TOKYO (AP) — The former dolphin trainer and main character in the Oscar-winning documentary about the dolphin hunt in Japan said Tuesday he has invited Daryl Hannah and other Hollywood stars to the village of Taiji to prevent the killings from starting again.
Ric O'Barry, whose documentary "The Cove" has been canceled in Japan following threats against movie theaters, said Hannah had confirmed her trip to a music festival in Taiji he is organizing in September.
Other celebrities who have already voiced their support for his cause include Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Jason Mraz, Chris Tashima and Robin Williams. They all appear in a public service announcement in support of "The Cove."
The former dolphin trainer for the "Flipper" TV show believes his trip to Taiji last year with journalists, including The Associated Press, which brought international attention to the hunt, helped pressure fishermen to refrain from culling dolphins. This year he said he wants to bring 1,000 people to make sure the hunt doesn't start up again.
"We all go there and have a good time, and support the economy," he told AP Tuesday at a Tokyo hotel. "It's not confrontational. We bring frisbees."
In recent weeks, theaters in Japan have canceled screenings of "The Cove," which had been planned for release later this month, after getting a flood of angry phone calls and threats by nationalists, who oppose the film as a denigration of Japanese culture.
Some of the protesters have been shouting slogans through loudspeakers at the Japanese distributor's office. The threats have led to the cancellation of some of O'Barry's speaking engagements during his current trip.
Only a handful of people in Taiji, a quiet town of 3,500, hunt dolphins, which are sold to aquariums or eaten. Although O'Barry has visited Taiji many times, the residents and fishermen have told AP that they resent the movie as outside interference in their lifestyle.
O'Barry said scientific data show that dolphin meat has high levels of mercury, which could be toxic if consumed in large amounts, and urged people to stop eating it for health reasons.
He said he would offer monetary help to anyone in Taiji and the surrounding region with symptoms of mercury-poisoning and promised to make sure they get tested.
A Japanese government lab test of Taiji residents, released last month, found dangerously high levels of mercury, but no one was diagnosed as ill although some were advised to cut back on eating dolphins.
Mercury poisoning, which is extremely risky for fetuses, can cause tremors, numbness, mood swings and impaired movement in adults, and can be fatal.
"The Cove" and O'Barry last week received an enthusiastic reception from more than 250 students at Wakayama University, located near Taiji village.
Kevin Collins, who invited O'Barry as part of his English-presentation class, said the exchange was lively.
"I think I understand his message, and I think I know how his message is being perceived by Japanese," Collins said. "The Japanese think he is attacking their tradition."
O'Barry says all he wants is a dialogue, including helping Taiji fishermen find alternative ways of making a living. He apologized if the secret filming tactics of "The Cove" have offended some people.
"But I make no apologies for my cause," he said. "Many of my friends love the country of Japan, and they all ask the same question: Why do you need to slaughter dolphins?"