Henri is not your typical feline companion. In fact, Henri explains in great detail why he loathes humans and any typical cat behavior, including that of his furry roommate.
His contempt for everyone around him has gone viral on YouTube. His three uploaded videos combined have reached more than eight million views. One of Henri’s most viewed videos, Henri 2: Paw de Deux, earned the existential cat the first people’s choice award at the Internet Cat Video Film Festival this year.
But Henri is more than a cat with a monumental disdain for his owner and feline roommate’s mediocrities. He is an actor.
Henri’s name is actually Henry and the 8-year-old Seattle native was once a shelter cat. He is actually quite content with the meaning of his life, according to his director and human uncle, William Braden.
“Before he became known for these shorts, he was content being a house cat that drank purified water and ate high-end treats,” said Braden.
Henri’s film debut came about because of Braden’s class assignment while attending the Seattle Film Institute in 2006. With a due date nearing, Braden decided Henry was the perfect muse. The award-winning short was shot, edited, narrated and written in 11 days.
“I thought only film students would see it. YouTube just came out and something like this going viral wasn’t expected,” said Braden. “I chose Henry because he is the most easygoing, laid back cat, and he is always purring.”
That’s a far cry from the Henri that can be seen giving longing looks into the camera and back out the window.
Braden said the art of getting his now A-list actor to work involved a number of tricks including loud claps to get Henry to run and reverse shots to capture a sorrowful look.
There was a moment when Braden tried to get a certain shot and Henry had a bit of a diva meltdown.
“It had been raining the whole day, and when he saw the rain had passed and his cat door was still closed, he called it quits” says Braden.
But Henry did come to his senses and returned to the set the next day.
Braden’s decision to make it a black-and-white film noir-style short with dubbed French narration and English subtitles added layers to it and made it interesting for people who don’t care for cats, he said.
“Henri just couldn’t have contempt for humans,” he said. “He had to have it for cats, too, and that’s what made it work.”
The short’s popularity has inspired merchandise of the famed cat and items such as shirts and laptop skins are available on the Henri, Le Chat Noir website, which brings in $1,000 a week. Henry has also received swag from companies like Friskies.
A new short will be released right before Halloween to kick off Henri’s growing contempt for holidays he finds to be a nuisance. The list is infinite.