At this year’s virtual San Diego Comic Con, Tanya Raymonde, Nathaniel Buzolic, Emerson Brooks, Reina Aoi, and Bren Foster, along director John Pogue and screenwriter Dirk Blackman, shared what it was like on the set of the soon-to-be-released Deep Blue Sea 3. The panel was super positive, with the cast having nothing but good things to say about each other and the movie.
Blackman said that when writing the script, he and the executives “didn’t want to do another underwater lab kind of thing”, and was inspired by the compact island of Santa Cruz del Islote off the coast of Columbia, to write a movie about an island that’s sinking into the ocean due to rising sea levels, wanting to make the film topical by including the theme of climate change. The opening scene of the film is of the protagonist, Dr. Emma Collins (played by Raymonde) vlogging about the effects of climate change not only on the island, but the whole world.
Pogue said that his goal was to capture the tone of the original 1999 movie, but that he also wanted to undercut the earnest moments with a balanced amount of humor. Buzolic asked Blackman what his inspiration for his original draft of the script, and Blackman described his original idea as “Pirates of the Caribbean meets Captain Phillips.” He also said there was a fight scene in the movie inspired by the 1977 movie The Deep.
The set in the film largely were located in the lagoon in Cape Town in South Africa, with the scenes shot in “360.” To film the underwater scenes, the production team partnered with the Frog Squad, a South African film production team specializing in marine in diving support. Pogue said that safety on set was the most important thing to him. Actor Brooks (“Shaw”) mentioned that none of the cast knew how to scuba until dive five days before shooting, and that they had to become certified before filming began.
“John took me aside and said ‘this is gonna be quite a lot’…he was right…we were always wet,” said Raymonde, and remarked upon the very cold water they had to swim in.
Pogue and the cast had quite a task communicating during the underwater scenes, since the air regulators the cast wore while submerged made it hard to hear Pogue over the speakers. “Once you suit up…once you go under, it’s kind of a pain to come back up and get notes and go back under,” Raymonde said.
“I think we had a great crew and you guys were really on your game,” added Pogue. “We spent a lot of time talking this through, especially knowing the communication was going to be difficult in the water. So the process was that we just had to be really specific about what emotions we were feeling, what actions were happening, where the sequence was going…it was like letting your offspring off into the world.”
Pogue also talked about the impetus on the actors doing their own stunts. “During the casting process, one of the things we talked about is doing your own stunts. This is not the kind of movie where we stop things and bring in the stunt doubles. We rounded out the cast with a lot of professional stunt people…it was very important that we see [the actors’] faces, we see [them] experiencing what’s happening in the action.”
Naturally the sharks in the film were CGI. It was a challenge for the actors to act with empty space. Buzolic said that he would practice with a brick wall to prepare. “It’s all in the eyes,” he said.
“John has such a strong vision of what the sharks were gonna do and how we should respond with the sharks,” said Brooks. “So it looks like we’re responding to real sharks when there are none…I think that’s a testament to just how clearly you understood what you wanted to see on screen, John.”
Deep Blue Sea will be available on VOD on July 28th.