It’s a tough role to essentially be the only character in a movie. It’s even harder when everyone expects the film to flop. But Blake Lively took on the challenge for her latest role in The Shallows, which sees her stranded just off the shore battling a great white shark.
After her mother’s death, Lively’s character Nancy is determined to surf at a secret beach that her mother once surfed at.
While out in the water, she is attacked by a shark, and manages to swim to a half-submerged rock for safety. But the tide is coming in and the shark is still circling.
“It’s about the power to survive; the power of will. When I read the script, I imagined, ‘What would I do in that situation?’”says Lively.
But she didn’t have to imagine – she was able to experience it. For a wide helicopter shot of her on the rock, no one else could be around.
“I’m sitting there, 200 to 300 metres from shore, waiting alone, in an aggressively rising tide, waiting for the helicopter with the camera to crest over the mountain. After a few minutes of pure solitude, the chopper came in, did the shot, and left me alone again.
“There was a good 30 minutes where it was just me, and I really felt the enormity of the situation. It was so beautiful and also so terrifying.”
Preparing for the role was both mentally and physically tough.
“There was a lot of endurance training,” Lively says. And scrambling around on a jagged rock meant scrapes and bruises all over.
“But, it made me proud to do this work,” she said.
While the film might enhance people’s fear of sharks, Lively says her character does not demonise them, and neither does she.
“Sharks are villianised,” she admits. “People think of them as scary, as cruel, as monsters, but they’re not that at all. The shark is a wild animal in it’s habitat.
“Nancy has a lot of sympathy for the shark, even as she’s fighting to survive. I think it’s pretty remarkable to find empathy and connection in such painful times.
“Nancy has this revelation when she sees that mankind has hurt the shark first,” she says, adding that audiences will understand the shark’s motive, his determination, his will and his desperation to conquer as his survival also depends on it.
Part of the film was filmed at Australia’s Lord Howe Island, an immaculate piece of ocean.
“It’s such a beautiful, pristine dot of land in the middle of the ocean. It’s a little hidden treasure. After this film, everybody is going to want to go there,” says Lively.
The Shallows opens on August 04