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Film

'A Street Cat Named Bob' highlights truth behind homelessness and addiction

James Bowen's autobiography is one of the biggest best sellers centered around an animal. The moving story has now been adapted for the big screen, and opened in London on Friday.

Millions of people around the world have come to love the true story of a cat named Bob who managed to pull a busker, James Bowen, out of a life of homelessness and drug addiction. Bowen's autobiographical account of his friendship with the ginger cat became a global best seller five years ago, performing particularly well in Germany.

There were several other books that followed, detailing the times and adventures of Bob on the streets of London and turning the feline into Britain's sweetheart in no time.

British filmmaker Roger Spottiswoode has now adapted the moving story for the silver screen. Known for his thrillers and action movies like "The 6th Day" and the James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies," Spottiswoode is attempting to approach a more sensitive subject with "A Street Cat Named Bob."

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Frank Silva als Killer Bob von der TV-Serie Twin Peaks (picture-alliance/KPA)

Hard to believe: Bowen named his cat after the creepy character "Killer Bob" from the US series "Twin Peaks"

James Bowen struck up his friendship with Bob when he found the cat at the entrance to the assisted housing scheme where he was living as a slowly recovering drug addict in East London's borough of Tottenham in 2007.

Bob had apparently injured his paw and was in obvious need of medical attention.

Bowen took the cat to a vet and paid out of his own pocket to make sure its health was soon restored.

He spent all his money on Bob to get the cat back on his paws, and the two have been virtually inseparable since.

A cat as a therapist

Bowen says that the friendship with Bob gave him the strength to finish his rehab treatment and say goodbye to drug abuse once and for all. Having lived as a homeless person for 10 years, James Bowen finally managed to integrate back into society - thanks to his relationship with his little cat therapist.

Over time, the dynamic duo started to be noticed across London, as Bowen continued to busk around Covent Garden and in other parts of the city. Human-interest stories about the two published in tabloid newspapers drew attention to the unique friendship and eventually led to a book deal. The rest is history.

"He gave me reason to get up in the morning and to live my life instead of doing nothing. Now I am here and can speak for those who don't have a voice," Bowen said at Friday's opening gala for the film in Leicester Square in London.

Luke Treadaway als James Bowen beim Bob der Streuner (picture alliance/dpa/Concorde Filmverleih/A. Lambis)

Bob has become used to being the focus of attention - as at this book signing event in Berlin

Superstar Bob

But Bob's talents don't seem to end at caring for his owner. The gifted feline actually played himself in most scenes of the movie - with the help of six stunt doubles for the more physically demanding moments. It appears that no other cat than Bob himself could have done the role complete justice .

Bob's Hollywood career may or may not take off from here, but his attitude as a superstar is already firmly established: On opening night, Bob seemed to be reluctant to answer questions on the red carpet, hissing at and attacking a reporter's microphone.

However, as one of the most recognizable cats on earth and with new pals such as Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, Bob may be fully within his rights in demanding some royal treatment.

The Duchess works as an avid campaigner against addiction, and has been the patron of the charity "Action on Addiction" since 2012.

Premiere vom Film Bob der Streuner in London (picture-alliance/Photoshot)

Rubbing shoulders with royalty: Bob's new bestie appears to be Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, who is seen here attending the red carpet film launch in London

Insights into homelessness and addiction

The film adaptation of "A Street Cat Named Bob" is bound to provide great family entertainment, but also takes a critical look at Britain's growing problem with homelessness. According to government figures, there are 3,500 people sleeping rough on any given night across England; about a quarter of those do so on the streets of London.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people rely on assisted social housing schemes to avoid falling into homelessness, including many families with children. According to the charity "Homeless Link," there are roughly 5,000 people who approach local authorities each annual quarter seeking accommodation, many of whom present as homeless.

James Bowen hopes that his story will help shed light on misunderstandings about homelessness.

"A Street Cat Named Bob" opened in London on November 3 and is due to hit theaters worldwide in coming weeks and months. The film is scheduled to start in Germany in January.