Claire Holt dives into a deep-sea adventure
In the dubious tradition of Jaws and Deep Blue Sea, Claire Holt overcomes her fear to dive into an adventure at the bottom of the ocean
Australian actor Claire Holt’s latest role involved facing her worst fears. In 47 Meters Down, the 29-year-old from Brisbane, who is now based in Los Angeles, is trapped underwater with killer sharks circling. Her acting in the film had a tad more veracity than usual, she says. “It was all my worst fears come to life,” says Holt by phone from LA, where she has been based for the past eight years. “I was terrified of sharks as a kid and have remained terrified my whole life. But I have faced my fears now.”
Holt stars in 47 Meters Down with her new best friend, US singer-songwriter and actor Mandy Moore, who plays Lisa, a young woman ready for adventure after a devastating breakup. She and sister Kate (Holt) travel to Mexico, where they are talked into going on a shark-diving excursion on a boat skippered by Captain Taylor, played by Matthew Modine.
The independent British production, written by Johannes Roberts (who also directs) and Ernest Riera, opened in Australian cinemas last week after mixed reviews in the US and UK. It has grossed $US52 million ($65.6 million) worldwide and was the most successful independent film of the season in the US.
Holt says it doesn’t have pretensions. “It does exactly what it is supposed to do,” she says. “It is a perfect mix of entertainment and thrills. We’re not trying to win any Oscars here.”
The shark terror ensues after the holidaying sisters are lowered into the Pacific Ocean in a rickety cage. Underwater in their scuba-diving gear, they get close to great whites – a little too close, because their cage breaks away from the boat, plummeting 47m to the seabed. To their horror, the sisters discover they are too deep to radio and a rapid ascent might lead to a deadly case of the bends, or being devoured by the sharks. Horror film buffs will know that in space nobody can hear you scream, and it’s a little bit like that underwater, too.
The film is a new addition to a popular genre that includes Jaws, the mother of all shark movies, as well as Deep Blue Sea, Open Water, The Shallows and, more recently, the preposterous Sharknado series.
“I’m hoping we’re closer to Jaws than Sharknado,” Holt says. “This film is quite original and when I read the script I couldn’t put it down. I was already a fan of Mandy Moore’s so when she came on board that was great, and now she’s one of my closest friends. Matthew Modine is great, too, a real character and so kind and gentle. I was a fan of his as well.”
So Holt was in good company, which was just as well because the shoot was tough – save for the outdoor scenes, which were shot in the Dominican Republic. “Three weeks there was like a holiday,” Holt says. “We lay in the sun and had a good time, which was much needed after five weeks underwater in a tank in England.”
The underwater photography was done in Essex, outside London. “It wasn’t the most pleasant experience,” Holt says. “I had to do a crash course in scuba-diving beforehand. During filming we were underwater for most of the day and doing all the things you’re not supposed to do while diving, like moving suddenly and hyperventilating. It was exhausting work and we were very wrinkly afterwards.” (The “sharks” were CGI-created beasts added afterwards.)
Being at the bottom of the ocean seems appropriate for an actor who got her big break in 2006 starring in the Network Ten children’s television series H2O: Just Add Water. “Underwater acting seems to be my niche,” Holt jokes.
Holt moved from Brisbane to LA to further her career with the blessing of her parents Ann and Geoff.
She has since had a range of roles, including as Rebekah in The Vampire Diaries. Last year, she was cast in romantic comedy The Divorce Party and she recently starred in a pilot for new US thriller series Doomsday, which has been picked up by the ABC network in the US and will start shooting in Vancouver in January.
She made a quick trip home to visit family in Brisbane two weeks ago, but was on a plane back to the US by the time 47 Meters Down opened here. “There wasn’t an Australian release scheduled when I booked my flight,” Holt says. “So I’m really excited that everyone is going to get to see it.”
47 Meters Down is screening at Village Cinemas at Glenorchy