Q&A with Blake Lively for survival horror thriller ‘The Shallows’

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Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl,” “The Age of Adaline”) stars in Columbia Pictures’ taut thriller “The Shallows” as Nancy Adams who is surfing on a secluded beach when she finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark. Though she is stranded only two hundred yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of wills, requiring all of Nancy’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fortitude. Lively talks about “The Shallows” in the following interview:

Q: What made you say ‘yes’ to “The Shallows?”

Blake Lively: I’ve always been attracted to the idea of doing an isolation film because it’s such an acting challenge and this film in particular is not only emotionally incredibly demanding but also incredibly demanding physically and the idea of challenging myself, both inwardly and outwardly, and having to hold the screen for 99 per cent of the time, for better or for worse, was really exciting and terrifying and I know if I’m scared to do a movie then I have to do it.

Q: What was your reaction when you first read the script?

Lively: The script was such a page-turner. It was incredible how quickly it moved because immediately you put yourself in that scenario and you think ‘what would I do if I was isolated and I was being hunted by a great white shark?’ But also the idea of being only 200 yards from the shore made it that much more exciting and nerve wracking because hope is right there, it’s so, so close and that is so much more exciting to me than having her in the middle of the ocean because it gives you such a strong will to survive when you see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s just no way to get there, and the only thing stopping you get to safety is a great white shark.

The Shallows movie

Q: Let’s talk about filming. You filmed on a real beach and then in the water tank…

Lively: We filmed in a beautiful place called Howe Island for two weeks and no one has ever shot there before and it will be incredible to bring it to the screen because it just looks like heaven on earth. So to get to shoot there was really special and they put a rock out 200 yards from the shore and they were doing helicopter shots and no crew members were allowed to be anywhere near me because they would be in the shot so I was out there in the middle of the ocean by myself. There were a few divers under the rocks but I really felt alone and I got a real sense of what that would be like. And then we spent the rest of the movie in a giant tank – which is basically like a giant swimming pool – at Movie World (on the Gold Coast) so there were rollercoasters all around us and I was in a tank with four foot waves and using my imagination to fill in the blanks of great white sharks and ships and buoys and you name it.

Q: Were you a good swimmer before you started the film?

Lively: I took 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.

Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures' THE SHALLOWS.
Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS.

Q: Why do we love movies like this? Audiences are thrilled, scared and engrossed by survival thrillers. What does that say about us?

Lively: 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.

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

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