long would you have to spend in the water at any one time?
were days when I would spend 12 hours in the water because we didn’t
break for lunch. Someone would swim out and bring food and while
they were moving the camera we would eat out there so most days
were all day in the tank.
many days did you have to spend in the water?
single day of the shoot I was in the water. We probably had two
days where we weren’t in the water and that was the opening
scene but other than that we were in every day.
did you prepare?
there was the training and prep work and emotionally I talked to
a lot of people who had been attacked by sharks. I watched a lot
of YouTube videos of what that was like and I watched interviews
(with survivors). Paul de Gelder (author, former Navy diver and
shark attack survivor) helped me so much. He is an incredible man
who was attacked by a bull shark and he was a Navy Seal as well
so he was really equipped to handle a life or death situation like
that. And hearing about his experience and also his respect for
sharks was probably the most rewarding and critical piece of knowledge
that l learned because that to me is the most dangerous part of
this film – the fact that people can really make sharks the
villains but they are just trying to survive as well so it was neat
to talk to him. I talked to some medical students, I talked to some
doctors about what my injury would be like – what it would
feel like, how you would fix it, how a tourniquet works, all the
physically, too it was a lot of prep. For training I worked with
Don Saladino in New York who is an incredible man and then when
I got to Australia I was just doing it on my own. Actually, I would
run work out sessions with whoever would join me because I really
needed the motivation so (hair stylist) Rod Ortega would come and
join me now and then, just blasting Beyonce and doing a work out
or we would go for hikes on Lord Howe Island, which was incredible.
you a good swimmer before you started the film?
swimming lessons for a film I did called All I See Is You so I was
prepared because of that but it was really about paddling on a surf
board and I had some great surf instructors help and teach me. Was
I a good swimmer? I was fine. Did I improve? Definitely! I was so
much faster and stronger by the end of the movie and it was so much
easier. I was swimming though four foot waves in our tank every
day and that was a real struggle and there were very long takes
where the camera is on a big crane panning me through the water
and there were take after take after take and it was really exhausting
and I noticed my stamina was up by the end, I had muscles in weird
places that I never had before. It was neat to hear our water safety
crew go ‘wow, you’ve grown a lot stronger and you’re
a much better swimmer..’ Also, I was a terrible diver before
this film and so I learnt how to dive and that was cool. I always
felt safe in the water but I was much more confident the better
I got at it.
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you surfed before?
I’d surfed with my brother-in-law, Bart Johnson, who is a
great teacher, and then I also surfed with the incredible (Australian
surfer) Rob Muchado who is one of the best surfers of all time.
We surfed tandem on a boar so I didn’t really do anything
except get dragged along (laughs).
there were crew in the water with you? Did Juame get in the water
never got in but I heard that one day he got in – I wasn’t
there so that’s just a rumour (laughs). But yes, there was
a lot of crew in the water. There was a water safety crew but we
also had two amazing crew members who with the bird wranglers of
my amazing seagull, Sally, our hairdresser Rod Ortega was paddling
in the water trying to do hair touch ups and try and keep it consistent
because those things you think ‘oh hair, that’s easy’
but it moves around so much and to keep continuity he had his hands
full. Tami Lane, our amazing make-up artist, was jumping in the
water pouring blood on me and fixing my prosthetic cut and yeah,
you name it. So there were lots of crewmembers in the water all
of the time and that made it more fun – it was like a very
aggressive pool party (laughs).
us how Juame works?
is very passionate. He’s Spanish and he’s very, very
detail orientated and very visual – he storyboards the whole
movie before making it so you have a lot of confidence because you
know that he knows exactly what he is going to make and on a movie
like this that is really important because story, timing rhythm
is critical; you can’t just have meandering moments. This
is a movie where your heart should be beating faster and faster
every moment and it’s also physically demanding not only on
me but the whole crew that it’s nice to have someone who really
knows what he is doing each day.
the film will use CG for the great white. But was there a model
you could see and act with?
the crew had a fin that was true to size, which was sometimes helpful
and sometimes comical when he would swim around me and circle and
sometimes he would get dizzy and disorientated and hit the wall.
Your immediate reaction is ‘goodness gracious, is he OK?’
And then he comes up and he’s fine and everyone is laughing
– and it’s hard to stay terrified when everyone is laughing
hysterically. So there were some Vaudevillian moments on set. And
then there was this big plastic one (shark) that was not scary at
all but the visual effects team needed it for one shot for water
displacement but 99.9 per cent of the time it was just me having
to use my imagination.
you have a nickname for the model?
his nickname was Sid because my character is Nancy and Sid killed
Nancy…That’s a little Chelsea Hotel reference for you
great white is an extraordinary animal. Did making the film give
you a greater respect for these animals?
an incredible experience. I went diving with a great white shark
conservationist, Michael Rutzen and that experienced changed my
life and changed my perspective on sharks in a big way. I got to
see how majestic they are. We look at them and see apex predators
and villains and we really are the apex predators and villains –
look at how many sharks kill people per year and how many people
kill sharks per year and the comparison is outstanding.
humans, really are the ones to be afraid of and movies like this
are dangerous because they make sharks the villains so I think it’s
really important to use this as a conversation to say that both
are trying to survive and you look what is happening with global
warming where sharks are being pushed more into shallow waters,
which increases the chance of interaction with humans and sharks
and that’s very scary for people but it’s most scary
for the sharks because they are facing extinction and if you look
at sharks being at the top of the food chain in the ocean and if
you remove something from the food chain – especially at the
top – that can effect our whole planet and the ocean covers
most of our planet, so look at what that does to everyone. So it’s
really important to protect and respect these creatures and it’s
fun to watch a thrilling movie like this but it’s also really
important to get to know them because they are really majestic beautiful,
beautiful animals and they are more rad than dinosaurs – the
dinosaurs didn’t make it and these guys did.
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do we love movies like this? Audiences are thrilled, scared and
engrossed by survival thrillers. What does that say about us?
I think we love movies like this because
we immediately put ourselves in that scenario. When there are two
apex predators going against each other – human versus shark
or human versus nature – it’s very rare that any of
us would be in that situation but we all think ‘if I was in
that situation, what would I do? Would I survive?’ And I think
what is incredible about human beings is that they are resourceful
and they pull things out of their hat that they didn’t even
know that they knew to stay alive and you put yourself in that scenario
and you sort of hope that you would do the same. Even if you are
ill equipped and you think you wouldn’t survive you don’t
just give up – human beings don’t do that, they fight
even if they are not fighters, and I think that’s what’s
really cool and exciting and encouraging. And you know, this kind
of movie is fun and it’s electric in a great way.
career is clearly going wonderfully well – you are in Woody
Allen’s Café Society, which opened the Cannes Film
Festival, starring in Marc Forster’s psychological thriller
All I See Is You and then you make The Shallows. Is that the kind
of diversity you’re looking for?
I always look for diversity and I always look for movies that will
scare me – ones that I feel are incredibly challenging. I’ve
had a really cool year from working with Marc Forster playing a
blind woman and that was a very raw movie that was the exact opposite
of this being very pre-planned. Ninety per cent of the movie was
improvised and I had great co-stars that I got to play off of. The
Woody Allen movie was also some improvisation but that was a 1930s
movie and it was more fast paced and comedic at times. The Marc
Forster movie was very heavy and then here is this shark movie which
is all me and blue screens to act against and it’s thrilling
and it was an acting challenge in a completely different way and
it was a physical challenge, too. And that’s what I look for
– movies that I feel like I can’t not do, that’s
really my barometer because I have such a wonderful family and person
in my life that I think ‘OK, if I’m going to ask my
family to come with me to the other side of the world it has to
be something that I would really regret not doing’ and that’s
how I decide what I’m going to fight for and what I’m