Benjamin Mee Bought Zoo For Wife

Matt Damon might star as the main man in We Bought a Zoo, but Benjamin Mee really did it. Find out the sad inspiration behind the wild purchase.

Matt Damon stars in We Bought a Zoo

We've been obsessing over the new Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson family film, We Bought a Zoo. Like many movies, it's based on a true story — and now we're finding out about the inspiration behind the holiday flick.

"Shhh, I'm trying to buy a zoo," Benjamin Mee told his daughter, Ella Mee, when she interrupted him on the phone.

"No you're not, Daddy… you're only joking," Ella told her father. The little girl, now 8, told the UK Daily Mail about how her family's animal park came about.

How did the Mee family end up with four tigers, two lions, three bears, three wolves and meerkats? It all started with Benjamin's wife, Katherine Mee. Katherine's brain cancer was in remission when she starting buying the deteriorating zoo in Devon, England. She passed away at age 40, but Benjamin continued her dream and wrote about it in the book, We Bought a Zoo.

"I said I hoped this would be the worst news of their entire lives," he told the Daily Mail of his wife's fatal cancer. "That Mummy was going to die. Ella immediately cried. Milo stiffened and I could see him sucking it in. He said, 'I don't want to cry, Daddy. I want to stay strong for you.' But of all the places for Katherine to be ill, we were lucky. Some animals have babies and some die… it puts it into perspective. It's the cycle of life."

Now, they're relishing their story on the big screen — even if it is a little odd to see their life story play out on camera.

"I laughed a lot, as well," Benjamin said of the film. "When Matt Damon gets chased by an angry porcupine and lands on his bum in a bed of nettles… that happened to me. It feels weird!"

Image courtesy PNP/

Are you taking your family to see We Bought a Zoo this holiday season?


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Comments on "Meet the family behind We Bought a Zoo"

Sanny July 02, 2013 | 6:31 AM

I want to say congratulation from making a sad story a story of strength and of trying to stand up and help others . great work for you and whole your family as at your former lovely partner . Sanny of belgium

cheryl December 25, 2012 | 3:47 PM

I love this movie. Its sad about your wife passing after you bought it but knowing you made a difference for that zoo. Im glad you bought it. Thank you for buying the zoo.

Inga November 05, 2012 | 1:15 PM

I loved this movie and I live in El Cajon, CA near San Diego; both mentioned as being near the location of the zoo. I looked up the name of the zoo hoping that it truly did exist in the back country East of me. I wanted to visit. Unfortunately, I can't go to England. Wonderful movie!!

donna August 01, 2012 | 5:42 PM

I have watched this movie three times already. great clean family movie. i have enjoyed it so much. great choice of actors. love it. thanks for a great and touching movie.

Mandy June 02, 2012 | 8:23 PM

My 6 yr old son picked this movie out and I definitely think he did an excellent job!! We loved it :)

sassy April 08, 2012 | 2:39 PM

OH MY GOSH !!!! I do not know the great brains behind the person who gave that little girl Rosie a part in this movie but he/she should be praised! She is the most adorable and just breath taking little girl that would make anyone fall in love with this movie!!! Hands up to the whole cast, but both hands up to Rosie the little girl!

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