Just in time for summer, there’s a new shark attack movie! In 47 Meters Down, sisters Lisa and Kate (played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) and travel to Mexico for a vacation filled with sun, fun and adventure. Lisa needs some extra persuasion when Kate suggests that they go diving in shark-infested waters. Safe in their protective cage, the thrill-seeking siblings come face to face with a group of majestic great whites. Their worst fears soon become a reality when the cage breaks away from their boat, sending them plummeting to the ocean floor with a dwindling supply of oxygen. Yikes!
We caught up with the stars of the film at a press junket at a hoity-toity hotel in Beverly Hills, where the closest body of water was the swimming pool.
Dread Central: How long were you submerged in water, how long were you in a cage? It seems like it was very demanding.
Claire Holt: Eight weeks, eight hours a day. We had a week above water in the Dominican Republic, but the majority of this film, 95% or 90%, is under water and we did do that all. We had sort of a crash course in diving. We spent an afternoon in the pool and then we went off the coast of Mexico and did two open-water dives. Then we were really thrown in the deep end. It was tough and exhausting and really physically draining, but I think we sort of both really bonded over the experience and had each other’s backs. When you’re the only two people underwater who can communicate with each other, it’s …
Mandy Moore: Necessary.
CH: It’s necessary. You have to rely on each other. So it was grueling but totally worth it, I think.
MM: I don’t think either of us realized how physically taxing it was going to be, just all that time underwater. Even just like the littlest movements, or the seemingly simple days. We would get out at lunchtime, and I’m not usually a napper, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was so exhausted. You just expend so much energy. And there was so much screaming and hyperventilating and fast movements, and yeah, it was exhausting physically, and emotionally, I guess, in that sense too, in a way that I didn’t expect. But also I was excited about the challenge. Like Claire said, when we both initially read the script, it was like, “Wow, I’ve never seen a movie like this before that takes place primarily underwater.” In that sense we were kind of guinea pigs. Because no one knew, like, what effects is eight weeks every day underwater…
CH: Will they lose their sanity?
MM: Yeah, exactly.
CH: Came close to that at times. I was, like, “Are we going to die? What are we getting ourselves into?” But we’re here to tell the tale, so.
MM: I think we were both excited by the challenge. I mean, it would only be human nature to have a bit of apprehension, but I think we really trusted the process and trusted all of the crew and everyone working behind the scenes that they had.
CH: It wouldn’t be a good look if they killed the two actresses, so I think we figured we’d probably be okay. But you know, I was certainly apprehensive. I knew how hard it was going to be. I had had some experience underwater before, not scuba diving, but filming in a tank, and I knew how exhausting it was. So I was definitely nervous, but I think we also, by the end of it, had a real affinity for it, and like, it was calm.
MM: We could last on a tank of air down there, depending on how much we were exerting ourselves, for an hour, hour and fifteen minutes or something, so it wasn’t like tons and tons of shooting time, necessarily, underwater. But when we weren’t shooting, Claire and I were the only ones that could communicate with each other because of these masks. The rest of the underwater crew had the regular regulators and masks, so they couldn’t talk to us. The director had a microphone and we had an underwater speaker, so that’s sort of how we communicated with him. But we couldn’t really talk to anyone but each other, and so when we weren’t shooting we just would sort of float there and it was very meditative.
DC: How different is your approach to your performances underwater versus when you’re on land?
CH: It’s very different. I don’t think we really knew how it would be. We had the majority of our face covered by this mask. We didn’t know what would read, we didn’t know how big we had to be or whether it was too much, too little, and I think as an actor you’re always conscious of measuring your performance and having peaks and valleys. We really relied on each other with that. You know, “Was that too much? Did I overdo that, or could you read that?” It was really difficult. And the mask obviously has glass on the front, so the lights would reflect and you had to position your face in a way.
MM: It got really technical sometimes in a way that you’re not used to as an actor, because usually you’re like, “Ah, I don’t want to think about any of that chuff. I’m just going to do it.” But yeah, in this case there was a lot of, like, “Okay, we’re going to do that one more time, and tilt your head down, or tilt it back.” And you’re already underwater and everything’s so cumbersome. Those masks were 20 pounds.
CH: Your neck.
MM: ….it would hurt your neck, and the BCD and the tank were like another 40 pounds. I mean, granted, you’re floating, but it’s still [heavy].
CH: It was cumbersome, for sure.
MM: It was cumbersome. We would have like a little mock rickety wooden cage and we would go in and just do these bare-bones rehearsals and sort of figure out a bit of like choreography. But then you get down there and it all goes out the window. It just completely changes and you end up doing what feels right.
DC: Can you tell us about how this film was pushed back, then set for only DVD release, and now it’s a big theatrical movie?
MM: You never really know. You can’t really have expectations with projects sometimes, unless you’re doing some gigantic superhero studio movie and you know, “Oh, this is definitely coming out.” It’s always a bit of a gamble. For me, I wanted to be a part of this film because I’m not often thought of in this particular genre. And it was a physical, emotional challenge that I knew was unlike anything I’d ever had the opportunity to do before. Where it went from there was totally out of my control, so as long as I could participate and do my part and do my job, that’s all I was counting on. So it’s extremely gratifying to see that, like, at the last minute, [it’s coming out on the big screen].
DC: Are you fans of shark movies?
CH: Open Water I liked, but I wouldn’t call myself a shark movie fan, specifically. I’m a fan of really great genre films. I like to be frightened, I like to be on the edge of my seat, I like to feel nervous, I like to feel something. Any film that makes you feel something, I think does its job. And so that’s a classic, and … But I don’t think that I particularly am a shark movie fan, I just like good film, and so that was definitely one of them.
MM: I think this movie sort of goes above just being a shark movie. I know that people have a job to do in selling things [as a certain genre] but what initially attracted both of us to this was, and what I find far more terrifying, is the prospect and premise of drowning, of running out of air and it’s a race against the clock. Like, that to me, ugh, is like my greatest fear. That’s far more terrifying than sharks, which are terrifying enough. And I love that this film, it’s about a confluence all those things. It is just an absolute tragedy. It is a horrible confluence of events that lands these girls at the bottom of the ocean, trapped in a cage with no control and very little way to make it to the surface and survive.
DC: Were there any moments that felt a little too harrowing?
MM: I was scared when you had to take off your mask and your BCD.
CH: Yeah, that was pretty scary.
MM: She was such a badass about it. She was like, “Oh, you need it again? Oh, one more time?” But literally, she took off her mask …
CH: It was the oxygen. Something happened.
MM: But we’re 20 feet underwater, which is still 20 feet underwater, and she took off her mask and she took off her BCD, and then swims through the thing and I hand it to her. And you did that so many times, and then you have to be able to get your mask back on and clear it in order to breathe again, and so… I don’t know how you did that. I was really freaked out for you.
CH: I was pretty nervous at the beginning when I thought about doing that. But like I said, we just had really great people around us and I knew that I would always be safe, and I knew that someone may be there to stick a regulator in my mouth if I couldn’t clear my mask, or if I was running out of air. We were really well taken care of in that sense. Then also, you know, Johannes [Roberts, the director] would absolutely understand if we were like, “You know what, this is enough. We’re too tired or we’re too exhausted.”
MM: Yeah. No one pushed us outside of our comfort zone.
CH: But it was tough for sure.
DC: So, have you done much diving since?
CH: Hell, no!
MM: No. I think it’s going to take a couple years to go back in the water.
CH: Yeah, I think I’ve done enough diving to last a lifetime, but never say never.
DC: You did mention Open Water, and there’s another movie from the ’70s called The Deep, with Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte. They’re swimming, the actual actors are swimming underwater with the wildlife and sharks. In Open Water, there were real sharks there. Now, if that was the case here, would you guys have taken this movie?
MM: Yeah, I think I would.
CH: Yeah. I did, in my first film job as a mermaid, there were actually sharks. We would be thrown into the canals in Australia, and there were sharks in the canals. They had this magnetic rod that they would put in the water that they told us was supposed to deter sharks. I don’t know if it worked or not, but they convinced me to do it. So I think, you know, they have equipment that can send magnetic signals out to get rid of them. And if that were the case, I’m sure we would’ve had a go, right, Mandy?
MM: In theory, now.
CH: What a great way to go out, by the way.
MM: Yeah, pretty epic.
CH: It was quite a different experience, because with H2O [the mermaid movie] we didn’t have any oxygen. It was all reliant on us being able to hold our breath. It was grueling, physically. It was a lot of swimming, and we would shoot 10 hours a day sometimes in the tank, so I knew how exhausting it was going to be and I knew how much it takes out of you just to be in the water and to sort of deal with that and the elements all day long. The thing that was difficult about this was, it was so performance-heavy. When I was playing this mermaid, you know, it was just swimming and looking graceful and, you know, picking up a shell. So this was a little different, and I think it was I guess more taxing, because to go through the physical grueling side of it. But it’s also exhausting to perform and scream and cry and give over so much of yourself in that way. That was more difficult, I think.
DC: The film relies very heavily on you two, obviously. How did you get that remarkable sister chemistry?
MM: It was really easy.
CH: Yeah, it was. Truly. Mandy and I bonded straightaway. I think we just really connected. You are not often fortunate enough to find someone that you genuinely care about, to work with. I think it was natural, and I hope that that came across on screen, because I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else.
MM: Yeah, me too. It was just pretty instant. We were doing this dive training together, and I just immediately was like, “Oh, thank God.” Because I’m going to be underwater with you for eight weeks and you’re the only person that’s going to have my back, and I’m going to have your back.
DC: What do you two think it is about shark films that keeps bringing people to the theaters?
MM: I think it’s just the mystery, you know, the aquatic life is… I think it’s a world that, relatively speaking, is quite unknown to most of us. And I think they’re just utterly terrifying creatures.
CH: Yeah, the unknown is frightening in any sense, and so something that has the potential to really do a lot of damage like a shark, and then not knowing a lot about it and not being able to see, I think that’s just really frightening to people.
47 Meters Down is in theaters June 16, 2017.
Directed by Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door), the underwater thriller stars Mandy Moore (“This Is Us,” A Walk to Remember), Claire Holt (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals”), Yani Gellman (“Pretty Little Liars,” “The Young and The Restless”), and Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises).
47 Meters Down comes out June 16th.
On the rebound after a devastating break-up, Lisa (Mandy Moore) is ready for adventure while on vacation in Mexico. Even still, she needs a little extra persuasion when her daring sister, Kate (Claire Holt), suggests they go shark diving with some locals. Once underwater in a protective cage, Lisa and Kate catch a once in a lifetime, face-to-face look at majestic Great Whites. But when their worst fears are realized and the cage breaks away from their boat, they find themselves plummeting to the bottom of the seabed, too deep to radio for help without making themselves vulnerable to the savage sharks, their oxygen supplies rapidly dwindling.