47 Meters Down: Mandy Moore & Claire Holt On The Difficulties Of Shooting Underwater For 8 Hours A Day

In the film 47 Meters Down, sisters Kate and Lisa travel to Mexico and, after a bit of pressing, they go diving in shark-infested waters. Everything is all well and good until the cable holding their cage near the surface snaps, sending the pair hurling down to the depths of the dark ocean. Not only are they at the mercy of a group of great white sharks, but they also face a dwindling supply of oxygen. Can the pair make it out with their lives?

LRM had a chance to sit down at a roundtable with actresses Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, who portray Kate and Lisa in the new shark film. As one would expect with a film like this, shooting underwater comes with its own laundry list of problems. In this interview, the pair talk about underwater fears, Bob the shark, and the experience of long, eight-hour days underwater.

Have a look at the interview below!

Well, guys I’ve got to give you props. This movie gave me so much anxiety.

Mandy Moore: It did?

You’re underwater. You’re in scuba gear. 

Moore: Props for giving you anxiety. Thanks.

I was thinking the whole time. These poor actresses, what they went through.

Moore: No. Come on. 

Claire Holt: It was fun.

Moore: We wanted the challenge.

It seemed tough. I mean, I’ve been scuba diving, so I know the initial feeling is, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I mean, did you ever get that feeling?

Moore: Yeah. 100 percent. Especially the first time. We had a limited amount of dive training. We had a quasi-crash course where we spent a couple hours in a pool and then the next day, we were thrown into the ocean off the coast of Ventura and went on to open ocean dives. The first one, Claire, of course is athletic, fearless and she just zoomed down.

Holt: Reckless, I believe it’s called. 

Moore: I got 20 feet down and I was like, I need to come back up and the guy came up with me and I was like, I can’t do it. I eventually went down and then I did it again, but it was majestic. These kelp forests, 50 feet tall. It was gorgeous.

Holt: It’s such a foreign experience, I think. It was unlike anything either of us had ever done before. To not only learn to scuba dive and to have to sort of immerse ourselves in that world, we then had to try and give a performance that was authentic and realistic and navigate those waters with a face mask on. It was tough. It was exhausting, but by the end of it, I think we both really just relished in it and loved the challenge and we were tired, but it felt so rewarding.

With the challenge, what did you learn about your acting, acting underwater? It’s obviously different.

Holt: Very different.

Moore: It is different. I feel like there was so much more technicality involved than I expected because we were wearing these masks and they’re glassed front. There was often times where they’d be like, that was great. Can you do it again with your head tilted down or your head tilted up? You’re like, this thing is 20 pounds and then I have a 40 pound tank and VCD on. You know? You’re 20 feet.

Holt: You’re underwater. 

Moore: Everything is different. You’re just floating around, so it’s hard to feel grounded, for lack of a better term. You’re just like, I mean we really had to rely on one another. Is this over the top? Is it reading at all? Because we were just relying on our face. We can’t rely on the physicality like you would if you were just talking here shooting a scene. That was challenging. 

Holt: Yeah.

Moore: There’s no way to prepare for that in the morning.

Holt: Absolutely.

Moore: Before we go down and start shooting, we had this sort of rickety, ramshackle, little cage built and we would go in there and do sort of choreography of where we were going to go and then it would all change as soon as we got down there because it’s like, you can’t really plan for where you’re going to go or what you’re going to do. 

Holt: We tried to do a table read at the very beginning and it was quite disastrous actually because we had no idea how we were going to — I think perhaps [director] Johannes [Roberts] looked at us and was like, well this movie’s going to fail.

Moore: He was like, “is that how you’re going to do it?” I’m not kidding. Bless him. He’s a lovely man, but I was like, appalled. I was like, well.

Holt: I don’t know.

Moore: I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure it’s all going to just be elevated because we’re underwater and that’s going to add to it, but yeah?

Holt: I think when we got underwater, he was pleasantly surprised that we somehow sold it.

Moore: Sold it. Hopefully sold it.

How was it, I mean you obviously have the scuba experts just off camera.

Moore: Yes.

How minimally did it reduce your anxiety to be under water with all this tank and equipment? Did it help at least with the anxiety? Like, f**k it. We’re still under water and there’s still a possibility of mass cracking.

Holt: It helped. It certainly helped knowing that you had a team of professionals six feet that way that could hand you a regulator if something were to go wrong or get you out. Also, what we were doing and what Mandy mentioned, we were kind of guinea pigs in this and no one had ever done this before. We were doing everything that you weren’t supposed to do when you dive, which is hyperventilate and panic and sudden movements, swim aggressively. You’re supposed to be really calm and measured when you’re underwater, so even though we knew that we had people right there, we didn’t know the effects of really doing that and what that would have on us after the shoot or at night time or during. I don’t think anyone really knew. We were apprehensive, I think because of that, but it helped to know that we had medics and professional divers and people there. Also, our camera crew was so experienced. They’d done so much work underwater. That really helped too.

Moore: We were only 20 feet underwater, but we were still 20 feet underwater, and there would be moments where we would be shooting or those in between very quiet, meditative zen moments where Claire and I were just sort of like floating there waiting to shoot and I’m like, “I’m fucking underwater and breathing underwater. This is really weird.” It would hit me sometimes. Whoa, we’re acting underwater. What if my oxygen just shut off? What if my gauge, I’m not reading it correctly and I’ve run out of air? Your mind just sort of starts to play tricks on you.

It was real what we were watching?

Moore: Yeah. A couple times.

Holt: I would go home at night and be genuinely nervous. I think my health related anxiety has gone up exponentially since on this film because like, am I going to die in my sleep? Is something going to happen? Is my lung stretched out? It was quite scary, but I’m still here.

The guys said you really had the heavy lifting in this movie. They just had to like.

Moore: That’s very nice of them.

Do you have anything to say about that?

Moore: We’ll take it.

Holt: We’ll take it, yeah. It was really exciting for both of us, I think to be challenged with these roles.

Moore: Yeah. To see a script with two empowered heroines, in a way, it’s great. These opportunities, for me, never come around. I’m never thought of for a genre like this, so I jumped at the opportunity and Claire was already involved. We met each other and just got along instantly. I’m just proud to be a part of it.

Yani had mentioned that after they got off the boat, they’d go tour the Dominican Republic and go for seafood. At some point, were you just like, that’s it, no more fish? I just want chicken.

Holt: We had steak, didn’t we?

Moore: Yeah, we did.

Holt: We had some, it was really more difficult in the Dominican, but we had to eat a lot to sort of keep our energy levels up there to perform. Every night. Mandy and I would do dinner together
every night. We’d trudge down and eat our steak or salmon.

Moore: We were so tired.

Holt: We were so tired.

Did you have time to really look around?

Holt: No.

Moore: No, unfortunately.

Holt: We worked a lot.

Moore: We pretty much just worked. The guys had a lot more free time to go run around.

Holt: Yeah, they had a sweet deal, I think.

What was the longest time period that you spent underwater?

Moore: We would spend about six or seven hours a day under water. Come out every.

Holt: Come out every, well oxygen tanks would last about an hour to an hour 15 minutes, depending on how much we were exerting ourselves. We would do a tank, come up. Have a cup of tea. Have some chocolate, something. Give it a little bit of a break and then go back down.

Moore: Then we would go back down. We would go, once we went down, we would stay down until it was time to refill our air. That was sort of the rule. It’s like, once you’re down, you’re down there for an hour or an hour and a half sometimes.

And how long was the shooting scheduled?

Moore: About 8 weeks.

Holt: 8 weeks, yeah.

Were sharks in water always a fear in your life and you’re kind of going to this being like, okay, I’m going to face my fear kind of thing?

Holt: Certainly for me it was.

Moore: Really?

Holt: You had a different fear, I think.

Moore: I found it, I find it far more terrifying the prospect of drowning, of running out of air. That, to me, when I read the script like, my heart was in my throat the whole time. Sharks are terrifying certainly, but I found that sort of twist on things far scarier.

I read that there was a man with a plastic shark head.

Moore: Yeah. Bob, the shark.

Bob, the shark. How funny. How long did it take to get over the laughing part? There is a man with a plastic shark head.

Moore: We insisted Bob, the shark sort of take a break.

Holt: It was too much laughing. It was like, come on.

Moore: Yeah. It was like, we don’t really need that. We can conjure up a shark in our imagination more so that this weird plaster guy with a poor man there operating it, swimming behind me, could go very fast. It was like, this isn’t going to work. Yeah.

How big is the tank?

Moore: Not that big. It was like, 20 feet deep. 

Holt: It was about, it was a little longer. It was probably, well I’m going to do meters now. Maybe 20 meters across. A little less.

Moore: The one in London was quite small and the Dominican.

Holt: Was large.

Moore: Much bigger.

Holt: But shallow. So there were 2 different sort of, the idea for shooting part of it in the Dominican was that the water color was lighter, so we shot.

Moore: Stuff that was sort of closer to the surface and on the surface.

Holt: Yeah. We shot in the Dominican.

Moore: In the outdoor tank.

Holt: 47 meters down, we shot in London, in tank in a little warehouse in Essex. The Dominican tank was definitely a lot more pleasant, but yeah. We spent a lot of time underwater.

Were you guys able to improvise anything or the script?

Holt: A lot of it, we did.

Moore: Yeah.

Holt: There was a lot of that and I think that was what was so great about Johannes in that sense. He wasn’t necessarily married to the words and if we felt something or went somewhere, he was totally open to that.

Moore: Yeah.

Holt: You know, a lot of it is just us trying to figure out way down at the bottom of the ocean.

You shot this prior to your…Enormous TV show,

Moore: Yeah, we shot this 2 years ago.

…which I think you’re probably going to be, if you’re not already, nominated for Emmys for this.

Holt: Heck yeah, she is.

Heck yeah. You got that right.

Moore: Very kind of you.

Is it sweeter, because there’s such expectations for this film and social media’s really going crazy on it?

Moore: We’re just so thrilled that’s it’s coming out and seeing the light of day. I mean, we were hours away from it just coming out on a DVD shelf. You know, you’re a part of a project like this and everything is outside of your control, other than the job that you’re able to do. For myself, I hadno, we had hopes that it would come out in theaters, but really no expectation. I was just excited about the challenge of like, I want to check this off my list. It came at a time in my life where I was hungry for, I’m ready to get out of LA. I need to get out of my head and just dive into something, and the fact that [Entertainment Studios founder Byron Allen] saw something in this movie and it’s fortunate to come out, we’re really proud of it. We really stand behind it.

The last few times I talked to you was at Universal and also at TCA. For the show. Just secretly, between us girls, what is your expectation for the whole Emmy thing? Because there’s so much talk about it.

Moore: I know, I mean I think all of us are really hopeful that the show gets recognized. That would be beyond our wildest dreams.

Well, it still is extremely recognized. That’s for sure.

Moore: Exactly. I mean, just the embrace that the world has shown the show is beyond anyone’s expectations ever. We’re just really grateful to have a job that we love.

I remember asking you at TCA, does this signal a next step in your career? Obviously, it’s a giant leap rather than just a next step. How does it feel now, being on that next step?

Moore: I mean, I think it’s what you hope for as an actor. You come into this industry and if you’re lucky enough to find any success ever, you’re in the tiniest percentage of the group of people working in this business. Yeah. I’m fortunate that I’ve continued to somehow work, you know?

Holt: She has such a great attitude. That’s why she works. Because she’s wonderful to work with.

Moore: You’re very kind.

Holt: Beyond talented.

In the movie, your character, you want to slap because she’s frantic and you’re the calm one. So, in real life, how do you think you’d react?

Moore: Don’t you think you would be freaking out too if you had no diving experience?

As far as like, I mean I think I would side with her. Okay, I’m going to calm down.

Holt: No, I don’t think you would. You get under there and it is an entirely different beast, being in such…

Moore: So out of control.

[Holt’s] character tries to calm the situation down.

Moore: For sure. I mean, she was doing the right thing. I just don’t know if I would do that in real life.

Holt: I imagine you would have to because you would die otherwise, but I mean, how does anyone handle a crisis or an emergency? I think you hope that you would be able to pull yourself together and get through it. That, for sure would be terrifying.

Your performance was part of the movie that caused anxiety because you’re freaking out and you’re freaking out the audience too.

Moore: Sorry. That’s the idea. That was the point.

That was the point of the movie. It’s a horror movie, but it’s realistic.

Holt: I think it is more thriller, right? Than horror?

It’s more thriller than horror.

Holt: It is more thriller.

You didn’t know each other before this. I expect you’re best friends now.

Holt: We’re like sisters really, honestly, truly. I could not have asked for a better person.

Moore: Likewise.

Holt: To do this with. It really was a bonding experience and we had to rely on each other and we had to be there for each other. We had to check on each other.

Moore: And I think it’s funny because we sort of fell in line with our characters. Like, maybe more in line than we both realized. Claire is an adventurer and a go getter. She doesn’t take no for an answer. We’d get done with shooting for the day. She’s like, okay I made us dinner reservations. Okay, I found a Pilates class for us to go to. So on the ball and so organized. I’m just lazy and quite and shy and I would have just like… had I not been working with somebody who was like, this is what we’re doing, and I would have probably eaten by myself everyday in my hotel room and not gone out and explored the city. In that sense, I was also so grateful. Like, I’m with someone who got me out of my shell and I get to experience this with. Yeah. We had so much fun.

Holt: We had a great time. We got to run around London together in the summer time, which was really fun.

When you watch a film like this, outside looking in, how much of a happy ending do you want it to be? Because this one is 50, 50.

Moore: A little mixed. Yeah.

Holt: It’s so funny. I always want a happy ending when I watch a movie. I’m one of those weird people who is real annoyed…

Moore: That’s not weird.

Holt: …When it doesn’t all get tied up in a little bow, but I think the thing that drew us to this film was it may not potentially be that without giving, I don’t know.

Moore: It may not end the way you expect. Certainly, I think you go in with a certain amount of expectation with certain kinds of films and I’m with you. I like certain things, in a certain sense, wrapped up in a bow.

After 8 weeks of being in the water 6 hours a day, how long did it take you to either get back in the ocean or swimming pool or anything? Or it’s been 2 years and to Hell with it, I don’t care anymore?

Holt: Well, I definitelygot back in the ocean quite quickly and I went swimming quickly. Don’t get me to scuba dive, because I’m not going to do that. Well, maybe one day. But I don’t know. I think we got really used to it by the end and we had a real affinity for the water. We enjoyed it. It was nice to sort of be able to go to the beach and relax versus scrambling around.

Moore: Also, while shooting something, this is a silly detail, but as girls, we usually have to get there early and we have to go through hair and makeup and it takes a long time. This is like, we showed up with wet hair, put some conditioner in our hair, put a little lip balm on and then got in our wet suit and her bathing suit and we shot. It was so nice. I was like, I want to do every project like this. There’s no one coming in every time to fix your hair.

Holt: We were all underwater, so we were fine.

No makeup?

Moore: We had a little concealer on, but not really, no. You’re under water, so your face is still getting wet in that mask.

So, you want to go from being Rapunzel to live-action Little Mermaid?

Moore: No. I would see the movie. I don’t want to do it.

What’s next for you guys? Any updates on your singing career?

Holt: Singing career. Me, I am actually, I’m not sure what’s next. I’m at a moment in my life where I think I’m going to see what comes to me and I’m enjoying reading material. You know? You never know in this business, what’s coming up and what isn’t. I will be watching Mandy on This is Us. That’s what I’ll be doing.

Moore: You’re a sweet friend.

When do you go back in production for the show?

Moore: In July. Next month. Yep. And singing, I don’t know. I am fortunate enough to do a little bit of singing on the show. I don’t know if I will next season, but I don’t know. There hasn’t been a ton of time to do music stuff.

47 Meters Down is in theaters now!

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Nancy Tapia

Nancy Tapia has been an interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review Media since 2011. Former UCLA Bruin specializes in Operations Management. Covering entertainment has been an unexpected lively journey. Always open to the next, new experience. From solo traveling to adding a new peak to her personal 100 Hike Challenge. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @inancytapia

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