Devon

We Bought a Zoo: Mee family in New York for premiere

Ben Mee and Matt Damon
Image caption Hollywood star Matt Damon plays Dartmoor Zoo owner Ben Mee (left) in the new film

A family from Devon have flown to New York ahead of a film premiere based on their life.

We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon, is about the Mee family's purchase of Dartmoor Zoo in 2006.

Ben Mee, 46, and his children Milo, 10, and Ella, eight, have flown to the Big Apple ahead of the premiere on Monday evening.

Mr Mee said: "I have no idea what it's going to be like going up the red carpet."

The film follows the story of the Surrey family's purchase of the zoo, which was closed by inspectors before reopening in 2007. It now has 220 animals.

Mr Mee said the family had simply been looking for properties when they first had the idea of buying the zoo.

'Glam-glitzy thing'

"We got the estate agents' details with lots of bedrooms, huge grounds and then, as we turned the pages of the details, lions, tigers, bears and wolves.

"Initially we just laughed and thought 'this is insane, nobody would buy a place like this and certainly not us'.

"But the more we thought about it, we thought 'someone is going to buy it' and we looked into it and realised that if nobody else bought it then the collection of animals would be largely euthanased."

Mr Mee said he hoped the film would entice more visitors to the zoo.

"The house down the road, Antony House, was used in the Johnny Depp film Alice in Wonderland and their business increased fivefold.

"If we get five times the visitors next year, that will be half a million people, so if half a million people do come here they'll want to stay somewhere.

"It should be a huge boost to the region which I'm really pleased about."

The film was based on a book written by Mr Mee.

The family spent some time in California meeting the actors on the set, although Mr Mee said the red carpet would be a new experience.

"If I ever see [on television] a sequence of that sort of thing I turn over. I'm not interested in that whole glam-glitzy thing and I don't know what you're supposed to do."

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