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

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - WORDS PHIL BROWN POR­TRAIT CHRIS PIZZELLO

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

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