Sharks are never
far from the news – whether it's a rare catch off the coast of New York
City, or attacking swimmers en masse off the surfers' shores of
But in The
Shallows, young-though-experienced surfer Nancy Adams (played by a
leggy and tanned Blake Lively), is unexpectedly gnashed and seriously
injured by a marauding Great White shark off the shore a beautiful but
isolated Mexican beach. She gets trapped on an outcropping of rocks 200
yards out in the shallow waters – too far to swim to the shore, but
close enough to try and devise an escape before the rising tide.
Once a full-time
medical student at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine, she had gone to
surf at this beach called "Paradise" – a place her recently-deceased
mother had visited years before – when she get stranded. She has to
safely get back to shore without being attacked again, forcing a contest
of wills and wiles.
In the Deep by Anthony Jaswinski, this survival-horror thriller
has been realized by Catalan film director/producer Jaume Collet-Serra.
The film is primarily a one-hander for the 28-year old Lively, who last
starred in the sci-fi fantasy, The Age of
Born in Sant
Iscle de Vallalta, Catalonia, on March 23, 1974, Collet-Serra began his
career as an editor before directing music videos and TV commercials for
companies such as PlayStation, Budweiser, and Verizon.
In 2005, Collet-Serra
landed his first feature film, House of Wax, through The
Matrix producer Joel Silver. A remake of a 1953 horror classic, it
was a financial success, despite negative reviews.
Since then, the
42-year-old directed the 2009 psychological thriller Orphan, and
the very successful action-thrillers, Unknown, Non-Stop, and
Run All Night – all starring Irish action star Liam Neeson. Thanks
to such a track record, he formed production house Ombra Films. Using
money from StudioCanal, the small company began making low-budget
English-language horror movies, with an eye toward up-and-coming Spanish
led him to replace director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk,
Clash of the Titans) on this project, a very focused and simple
drama, which relied both on a convincing performance by Lively and an
effective sense of danger from this injured, pissed-off female Great
exclusive one-on-one interview was conducted at the Crosby Hotel just
before the film's opening.
When you were
making this film, did people call it a surf movie or a shark movie? What
did you call it?
Did you look at
other survival movies or shark movies or anything else?
Why would I have
to look at survival or shark movies?
When the script
was introduced did you ever say, "What would I do in this situation?"
It's a very hard
position to extrapolate yourself into and put yourself into that
position, because I have no experience in the water. It's not like when
I did Nonstop. Then, I had a genuine fear of flying, airports and
getting searched. I knew that world well because I travel so much. Here
I know nothing. I can't do it from reading a script.
I had to go
there, look at the location, design with all the elements together, then
work it out once I was there. [I had to] feel the environment. There are
people who are experts with sharks, or experts at surfing or at being
medical advisors. The script already had a great base of what could
happen, I just had to make it plausible.
I had to find an
actress who would fill the screen with her presence, who we would care
about. Blake did a wonderful job with that. I knew that was the secret.
If she can [hold] the movie together, then the rest is going to be fine.
The rest was easy because that was the hard part.
was mentioned early on?
Very early on.
It's one of those things. You know how it is. You have a wish list –
maybe it's a possibility, maybe it's not. She was at the top of the list
for a while. Then we finally got to talk to her and had a long
conversation over the phone. She had just done two movies, had a baby,
and then these men ask her to go to Australia [New South Wales] for a
I said, "It'll
be fun, I'll make it easy for you." But obviously I was lying. She knew
what she was getting into. She liked the challenge of doing something
different, something physical. She is a physical person and wanted to
show that. She also wanted to carry the movie. So we worked on the
character, because obviously when you have only one character you have
to tailor it to the actor.
Did she need any
She did get
training and preparation. But you can't prepare [for everything...]. The
same thing for me – you can only do so much. The circumstances are so
extreme that you can only hope.
things you added to the script, like with the shark?
It was there,
but it was different. Well, not different. It's the same story, the
original script. But because it's a script that people have to read and
not see, it has a lot more information in it that once you start
shooting, you don't need to have in. You just [have to] get it.
The whole story
with her mom [who had died], it became much more simple. You don't want
to overwhelm the story. I really wanted to have a big metaphor, which
is: the shark equals fear. Whatever your fear is. It's mostly for young
people. It talks about a certain time in your life.
"If I was just thrown into the ocean and I'm shark food...?"
That's not the
metaphor [smiles]. The metaphor is that there's a certain time in
your life when you're subconsciously looking to find who you are. You
cross certain lines and boundaries which, if you come out alive, you're
a stronger, better person. You can't do that through the rest of your
life, because you will go through pain and put other people through
pain. That's why it's a young people's story.
thing she's dealing with is her mom... I didn't want it to be so heavy
that people – especially young people – couldn't say, "Oh it's my first
year of college. I'm afraid of doing this. I've had a fight." Anything
where they can project themselves into a situation where they have to
find inner strength to fight.
The way I
related to it was to put myself into the same situation. How would I
survive? But maybe it's because I'm old...
What if you
don't have earrings? [Sharp pointed ones which Blake's character uses to
sew up her huge shark bites]. You're not a medical student; it's a very
did you learn that you could apply to the situation? Or already know?
You've lived near the water, right, growing up on the Spanish coast?
Yes, I was on
the coast. Obviously you lift things you already know, like the power of
the ocean and nature. We were able to witness... We'd build a set there
and the next day it was gone.
I was thinking
about knowing about the high tide and low tide and what you could adapt
to. Did you find people reacted that way? Would you have thought you
would be lost if you were there?
I would have
thought I was lost because of the medical aspect of it. I once cut
myself and saw my blood and nearly fainted. Personally I'm a very
fragile being. I'm not strong like that. I would completely freak out.
certain people, especially medical students, that could deal with this
situation even if it was their first situation they had to deal with.
Afterwards, their resourcefulness [would kick in]... if I survived the
wound, I'd have the imagination to try something crazy enough that might
this element about the stupidity of youth in
Run All Night
so that seems to be a theme here as well. She should have known better
than to go out to the water by herself. She's a med student!
it's very much a movie that has to be taken from one moment in your life
where... you're not yourself. We've all felt like that. The beauty of
the place – it gives you a false sense of security. If the beach was
dark and gloomy, then of course. Or if the guy with the truck was a
weird guy, then obviously she'd look dumb. But if not, she wasn't going
to go back to the water.
She was going to
surf, go back in. So she talks to her father and her father is like,
"Please come back." She doesn't answer. Her action is answering her dad
by saying, "I'm not ready to come back." When she answers the surfers –
"I'm going to do one last one" – she does it as if she's answering her
dad. She's there because she's not ready to face her life, and that's
what gets her into trouble.
set up the movie with these beautiful surf shots. Were you thinking
about fooling the audience with these shots?
that goes to this movie knows [that's not all there is]. But in a movie
like this, that you know you're going to have a terrible time as an
audience because you're going to suffer, you have to have some energetic
fun stuff at some point that makes you understand what she went all the
way there for. If you just have a girl with a surfboard, she gets one
wave then she comes back... It's like, "Why did you go all the way there
– just for one wave?"
But, if you see
that "this is unique" [you'd go for it]. Now I know a bit about surfing
and shooting those images. It's very unusual to be alone or practically
alone with two people with a perfect wave like that. It's impossible.
That island actually was the one place where you can do that.
When we were
there really was no one else there. It's one of the rare spots in the
world where you can do that. The waves are real. They're there. We were
alone. We're not blocking anyone from surfing. There's just no one
At least you
didn't have to borrow Steven Spielberg's shark.
I'm sure I could
have used it.
using puppets for a moment there?
We didn't have
puppets. We had shapes that did water displacement. If a splash comes
from out of the water, we had a big balloon come out. If a shark was
falling down to the surface we had a big cylinder come down. We had
shapes. We had a fin break through the surface, and a Seabob. It was
realistic water interaction, but the shark was CG [computer generated].
I was hoping a
dolphin or porpoise would rescue her – like when we see them in the
waters before the shark appears.
leaving. The crabs were leaving. The birds were leaving. Everybody is
leaving. She should have interpreted the signs. Every surfer knows that
if dolphins leave, then you should go too.
shark advocates are saying sharks get a bad rap in these movies, and
that conditions push these sharks to act crazy this way like global
warming is drawing more of them to the shores.
That's what we
try to say in the movie. The movie is a metaphor.
You don't think
that you've given sharks a bad rap?
I don't think
so. I mean, this shark is injured. It has a hook [in it]. We make it
clear [we're] not demonizing the shark. The shark was probably hurt and
tortured by humans. That's why it's not acting like normal sharks do
[which is to usually stay away from humans]. We're not saying sharks act
like that. We're saying that this shark has been injured. People will
understand that when they see the movie. And if they can't understand
that, then I can't help them.
I just wanted to
make sure that shark advocates know you're sympathetic.
sympathetic. I really admire and respect the sharks. I think they're
beautiful, majestic creatures and should definitely be protected because
they're nicer than we are for sure.
things forward for the use of seagulls in films.
She's the best
seagull in movie history. She deserves an award for seagulls.
What did you
learn about seagulls working on this? Will you use seagulls in other
hopefully. But all of the seagulls were pretty dumb except one. I
learned that they're pretty much useless except that one.
Does this mean
you're going to do more films with animals or not?
I've shot with
animals a lot in commercials. I've shot with every animal possible
the device on the helmet which recorded the surfers a GoPro, or a Sony?
It was a GoPro.
Has GoPro seen
They gave us
permission, of course. You have to go through getting clearances.
They must have
been excited to see a new application for GoPros to be an emergency
As long as we
used their cameras to shoot the real footage and not trick it, and have
the graphics be exactly as it is, we had their permission to use it. So
the GoPro footage was shot with a GoPro.
there ever a moment when you wanted to throw in a tiny hint of the music
Wouldn't that be a funny inside joke?
An inside joke
is when only a few people know about it.
How does this
film bode for the future of your career?
We'll see what
happens when this film opens. For right now, I'm doing another movie
with Liam, this time in a train. I don't know if it's coming out next
fall. We're going to have a whole box set with me and Liam...
What is it about
your bond with Liam Neeson?
We just love
making movies together.
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