The new action thriller 47 Meters Down is unlike anything stars Mandy Moore or Claire Holt had previously done in their careers. In fact, it's really unlike anything most actors have done. The film, out June 16, takes place in Mexico, where sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) push their boundaries in an excursion that involves cage diving in a shark-infested ocean. But their activity becomes life-threatening when the rope comes loose and their cage plunges to the bottom of the ocean. According to these women, the shooting process was as intense as the premise — mostly because the film explored uncharted territory by primarily filming under water.
"We were guinea pigs," Moore eagerly tells me at the Los Angeles press junket, with Holt agreeing by her side. "No one knew what effect it would have on actors for eight weeks of every single day consecutively under water... No one’s really made a movie like this before."
Beyond the physical and mental struggles of shooting, there was, of course, the uncertainty of it even working. "We didn’t know what it was going to look like. Was it working? Was all of this work for not? It’s a huge gamble — [one] we were willing to take," Moore says.
From physical strains to underwater panic, Moore and Holt braved the process, and admit to being stronger women because of it.
Given the obvious obstacles, why did the actors choose to pursue this movie? And why now? "I honestly am not often thought of for this genre," Moore says. "When this opportunity came my way, I really jumped at it."
Holt was drawn to the intensity of the story and the strength of the characters. "It was unlike anything I’d ever read before," she says. "I always look for the opportunity to play a character that’s layered and those opportunities aren’t as frequent, to play strong female characters."
They immediately saw the challenge, and it was theirs for the taking. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into," Holt says, "I’ve always tried to do things I’m afraid of to push myself."
Both agree it was the most draining job they've ever had. "I feel pretty badass after that. It was hard," Holt says. Moore recalls some of the physical challenges, ones that caused them to burn 1,500 calories a day.
"It was challenging on every level," Moore explains. "We had no connection with any other actors, our director. We had no communication with our camera crew." While Claire jokes that not worrying about dieting was "beautiful," the physicality had its difficulties to make up for it. "Your body has to withstand the rigors of multiple oxygen tanks a day for many, many weeks," she says.
And mentally, it took a toll on them as well. "It would hit me sometimes under there like, ‘I’m under f*cking water. I’m breathing under water," Moore recalls. "'What if my hose disconnects from my tanks? What if my mask malfunctions?’' she would think to herself. Holt recalls that the crew had difficulty getting the cage sides off a few times. Thus, especially in the beginning, both actors questioned it all.
"There were times when I was like, ‘Oh dear god, what did I sign on to? Did I have a contract? Can I dash?’" Holt says. "I genuinely didn’t know if we could. In the first few days, I could not see a path to finishing."
Moore jumps up, agreeing. "Yes! I remember that. The end of the first week, it felt like, 'Oof. What did we get ourselves into?'" But now, they look back as stronger women and actors because they pushed through the challenges.
"I feel empowered just that we got through the shoot. We have something to reference all of this work we all put in," Moore says. "I feel really proud of ourselves for doing that. I’m never gonna forget this experience for the rest of my life," Holt says.
Their commitment not only allowed the stars to prove it to themselves, but it also shows that all women are capable of such feats. "These opportunities are fewer than we would like them to be. That’s why it’s exciting to represent women like this," Moore says. "When put to the test like this, watching people rise to the occasion."
Being shark bait is hardly anyone's idea of fun, but facing it head-on and fighting to survive is definitely my idea of badass. Even if it is just for a movie.