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The Documentary That Nearly Got Hayden Panettiere Banned From Japan

You may know Hayden Panettiere from her work on hit shows like "Nashville" or "Heroes." If you're a gamer, you might even recognize her voice from her role in "Until Dawn." What you might not know about the actor, though, is that she has also lent her hand to documentaries, including 2009's "The Cove."

"The Cove" was directed by Louie Psihoyos and features Richard O'Barry, who worked with dolphins in the 1964–65 series "Flipper." While making "Flipper," O'Barry witnessed the mistreatment of many dolphins on set and even had a dolphin named Cathy commit a form of suicide in his arms due to the stress she was experiencing in captivity (via PBS).

Following that experience, O'Barry became an advocate for cetaceans in captivity, which is why he got involved with "The Cove." The documentary is an exposé on the mistreatment and slaughtering of dolphins with a specific focus on Taiji, Japan — an area where dolphins are captured to be sold live or killed for meat (via Dolphin Project).

So where does Panettiere come into play? Well, in a Cinema.com interview, Panettiere revealed that she is an animal lover and advocates for dolphins and whales: "I got involved with the whale and dolphin causes because I grew up [being] a big fan of animals. It's the way I was raised. I love animals." Because of this, Panettiere was approached to be a part of "The Cove," and she agreed, handing over some personal footage to the film. Little did she know the trouble this would get her in. Here's what happened.

Japan issued an arrest warrant for Panettiere

The footage Hayden Panettiere gave to "The Cove" is from a trip she took to Japan in 2007 that stirred up a lot of controversy at the time. During the trip, Panettiere and five of her friends attempted to intercept the capturing and slaughtering of a group of dolphins (via Today). However, according to the report, the group's efforts were blocked: "The fishermen used the boat's propellers to block the surfers' way and used a long boathook to try and push them away." Panettiere and co. were forced to head back to shore, and the dolphins were slaughtered.

Following this interaction, an arrest warrant was issued in Japan for Panettiere and her friends for "violating international commerce." Panettiere was seemingly unafraid of this warrant, though, telling Today, "Obviously this issue has generated defensive behavior on the part of both the Japanese [a]uthorities and [f]ishermen." Two years later, she stood behind her actions, saying in a Cinema.com interview, "I would rather go back in that water and stand in front of those animals again than do any PSA ... or go to any meeting. I did it once. I'll do it again."

Fortunately, Panettiere also revealed that her legal troubles with Japan are over, stating, "I had a meeting with the foreign minister, who said I was welcome back anytime."