Alicia Silverstone On Surviving The Shark-Infested Waters Of The Requin [Interview]

When Alicia Silverstone debuted on the scene with 1993's "The Crush," audiences knew immediately that they were witnessing a superstar in the making. A certifiable teen queen thanks to her beloved performances as Cher Horowitz in "Clueless" and as Batgirl in "Batman & Robin," Silverstone has continued a wonderful career as an actor, activist, and vegan cookbook author.

Nearly three decades since her debut, Silverstone is wading into new career territory, starring in the shark survival thriller, "The Requin." We sat down with Silverstone to chat about rethinking the way we view shark movies, breaking new ground for women's representation in survival thrillers, and the experience of shooting an entire movie in freezing cold water.

"It's not the shark's fault, nor is it her fault."

You're alone for a lot of this movie, so I'm wondering what it's like to prepare for a movie where you've got to act against yourself?

I think it's such an interesting story and I was so excited to be a part of it. Le-Van Kiet is a director that I really admire. I saw two of his films and I really thought they were beautifully done. And he captures women in such an interesting way, his style. He says he has no style, but I see a very clear style in his films that I have seen. So I was just there, ready to just dive into this ocean and be completely at his mercy, really. That's what I was there to do. And so I was so turned on and inspired by it all and being alone, it didn't matter, really it was about the circumstances. This character had lost her baby at birth, so she's really struggling, she's trying to recover. And she has PTSD and her marriage is falling apart, so they've come here to try and fight for their marriage and what they end up doing is fighting for their lives. I don't know, it was really exciting.

I know that you're a vegan and you're such an ally and advocate to animals, so was it hard to get into the headspace of somebody who may have to kill a shark?

When I read the script, I felt really emotional when the shark comes at her and she shoves the coral in their eyes, but she does it to survive. I remember feeling, "Oh, poor shark." That was my reaction. But when you put yourself in the circumstances of a shark trying to kill you, you do have to survive. It's human versus human or a shark versus human, it doesn't matter. Someone's about to kill you, you have to survive, right? And it's not the shark's fault, nor is it her fault, it's the circumstances they're in. I'd like to think, and the director as well, that it's our environmental damage — it's all that humans have done to just be neglectful and dismissive of what's happening with climate change and just continuing to waste and be unconscious about what we do. What we do matters. So yeah, the sharks need more, they're not getting what they need. They smell blood, they taste blood — it's in the ocean. And [the husband] cut his leg and so they're coming for the blood, right? They wouldn't bug us if that hadn't happened. It's all a series of very unfortunate events.

"We just gave our all, everyone did."

Absolutely. I agree with you completely on that one. To pivot slightly, anybody who's done a shark movie has talked about how hard it is to act in the water, but your character is not just in the water, she's also dealing with such a serious trauma. I'm curious, what was the harder element? Was it getting into that head space or was it the fact there was water everywhere?

I mean, it was freezing, it was absolutely freezing. And so trying not to chatter my teeth and trying not to shiver was really hard, and trying to do that while staying present to the story. That's the hardest part — is just the physical constraint of being absolutely freezing. We were in freezing cold water and it was late October so we went into early November on that movie, so it was just, we were cold! And the stuff that we shot in the pool was towards the middle of November, so it was just really, really cold, but like I told you, I love the director and I was so excited to be there. I felt like we were all doing this little movie that we felt so passionately about. And we just gave our all, everyone did. We all believed in it and were committed to it. I wore the same clothes every single day, and they were freezing cold and they had to be wet. I had to put wet clothes on and that just sucks, but when you're so passionate about what you're doing, it doesn't really matter.

"I liked the idea that she was a real woman thrown into these circumstances."

Oh, wow. That's intense!

The set medic pulled me aside and took my temperature and said, "She has to step out for a while and get warm, because her temperature's dropping too low." Things like that would happen and I would get hurt physically, because I would put my whole body into things and I'm not a muscly girl, I'm not in shape. I should have been training for this for a long time, but I did not. But I liked the idea that she was a real woman thrown into these circumstances, that it was not a muscle woman like in "The Terminator," who's ready to take it, because that's not what the story is. The story is about a very vulnerable woman who has just been pregnant recently, so she shouldn't be in rocking shape.

I'm really glad that you brought that up, because I've watched a lot of shark movies and a lot of these "women vs. shark" survival movies are usually about college-aged women, and they're usually in a bikini, and this is not that movie. Do you realize how groundbreaking that this performance is in the shark movie canon?

Well, I didn't realize that, because I haven't seen any of those movies, so thanks for telling me! I did realize how wonderful it was that it was middle aged people who are suburban in their bodies, meaning both of us are in decent shape, we're healthy people, but we're not going to the gym all day long every day. Do you know what I mean? So when they would say, "Hey Alicia, can you do this?" I would look at what the stunt double was doing and I'd go, "Yeah, I could, if I had three months of exercise, yeah I could." And then I'd go, "But I'll do it." And I would do it. I remember going to bed one night and my whole body was throbbing head to toe, and I was like, "Oh my God," and I couldn't see a masseuse or a chiropractor, because it was Covid.

"It will be a ride, and an exciting adventure."

Yikes! Oh no!

And I was like, "This is so stupid. This is so stupid." And it hurt really bad, but then I got over it, I was fine.

Oh, well thank goodness you were fine! We're just about out of time so my final question is this: what are you hoping audiences take away from this film?

I think it's a really compelling story. I think it's really emotional. I think that you might cry. You will be at the edge of your seat. You will be in a panic. You will want these people to live and it will be a ride, and an exciting adventure.

"The Requin" is available in theaters and on VOD on January 28, 2022.