In a span of fourteen plus minutes, Shark Bait actress Holly Earl covered her acting origins, passion for Malta, swimming for 12 hours, and gaming past (with Flavourworks’ Erica). She also discussed her love for the features Chef and Some Like It Hot. Check out the video and audio versions of our conversation below!
I can take or leave shark movies, but since it is directed by One Shot filmmaker James Nunn, I gave it a shot. The 87-minute centers on a group of spring breakers (led by Holly Earl) who are stranded in the middle of the ocean in Mexico. With a couple of jet skis as their protection from a shark attack, their chances for survival are pretty much slim to none.
You are not going to watch Shark Bait for a multi-layered plot, but that said I actually enjoyed the character dynamics among the friends and enjoyed how the movie played out. The shark sequences were really well done and adrenaline fueled, and there are a couple of sequences that I will remember (one which features Earl staring down a shark with a knife!). It was a pleasant surprise all around, and I recommend Shark Bait if you want an entertaining and effective shark thriller. Rounding out the ensemble are Jack Trueman, Catherine Hannay, Malachi Pullar-Latchman and Thomas Flynn.
Speaking of surprise, I had no idea that Holly Earl is a huge cinephile and gamer. I forgot to ask her about being an artist, but the good news is we covered a ton of ground in the allotted time.
Shark Bait is now in theaters and available On Demand. Here is the interview:
I want to see every James Nunn film after being impressed with One Shot. From your perspective, what was it like collaborating with Nunn?
James is amazing. He’s a visionary. He had such a clear vision for this film. When I met him, I went in and auditioned with James and we just had a ton of fun in the room. He was pretending to be a shark.
He really gets stuck in when he’s directing, which I love in a director. That kind of helped me see what the film was going to be like and get a picture of it. You never know with a picture of this scale (where) you’re filming on the ocean what it’s going to be. But James is lovely and he took us early in rehearsals so we all knew what we were doing. He had a very clear vision of what he wanted.
You need that when you’re out in the ocean and out in the elements. You need a solid director who knows what they are talking about. And he absolutely does.
As I was watching your film, I kept wondering if you were really out shooting in Malta or had most of your scenes on a sound stage. It looked like an arduous shoot.
Reading the script you kind of know what you’re getting into, but you don’t know until you get there. What it’s actually going to be like to be in the ocean, swimming 12 hours a day.
I think when I got the call that I got the job I was like, ‘Okay this is it, I’m going to have to get in shape.’ I got a personal trainer. I needed to get going on this, not just for the visual aspect but for the actual fitness and stamina of it.
Because I knew I was going to be swimming (and) diving. I was going to be doing stunts. It had just been a lockdown so i hadn’t been as active as I probably usually would have been so I had to step up my game and get ready for this film. It was extremely physical, but fun.
I love transforming myself for a role. By the end of shooting I was definitely in the best shape I have ever been in my life and I wish I could have kept on to that. But I think you need to be swimming for like 12 hours of the day to be in that peak physical fitness.
We all trained really hard and went through it for this film.
Malta is such a beautiful country. I had never been before. It’s quite a small country which is really nice. You can kind of see everything . . . I feel like I know Malta really well and I would always go back there.
I feel like I have genuine friends there now which is really nice. The coastlines are beautiful and the sea is lovely. It’s warm and it’s sunny. The people are lovely.
The teams that they have out there – like the diving team – they were always taking care of us in the water. Making sure we were safe and comfortable.
And the stunt team – they were amazing. You can see the stunt in the trailer where the two jet skis crash – that’s them. I got to do some of it but they made us look really bad ass which I’m appreciative of.
I love Malta. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Can you talk about that hero shot in the trailer where you are holding the knife and the shark is coming at you?
Yeah, just seeing that shot because obviously the shot wasn’t obviously there when . . . thankfully it wasn’t there. But yeah, even when I saw that shot I went “whoa, I look pretty cool.”
When you’re in your own body, you don’t know how you’re looking. You’re like kind of trying and doing that (note: she makes a stabbing motion with her hand, just like that Shark Bait scene).
I wanted to make it look epic. I wanted to make sure that she looked like she could take on a shark – that she could go one on one. Because you need to believe it, right? You need to be able to believe that this person is capable.
Setting up those kind of shots because you are not stabbing anything, but I have a pretty vivid imagination so it wasn’t very hard. Also just being in the sea, you are very aware of everything that is potentially swimming with you. That also ads to the genuine fear of filming something like this.
Check out the audio version of the Holly Earl interview on CinemAddicts:
When did you start as an actress and has your motivations changed over the years?
I started really young. I think I was about 3 or 4. And my sister did it before me. I think initially I didn’t know about acting and I didn’t really know about moviemaking. When you’re 3, you don’t know about that kind of stuff.
But I remember seeing her on set and it was a bit like “Oh she’s doing that, I want to do do that, that looks really cool.”
And then I stopped and went to school and I remember I got really into films. I was watching old, classic Hollywood films. I was a little bit in love with Marlon Brando so I started watching A Streetcar Named Desire and through that, watching Vivien Leigh’s performance and being just amazed by the whole thing of it.
When I was a teenager, I was buying DVDs all the time whenever I could. I was watching actors’ interviews. I was in love with the whole thing of it. There was just this one day when I was watching something and I thought, ‘I could do that.’ I can’t remember what the scene was but I just remembered the thought in my brain and being like “I can do that, I want to do that, I have to do that.”
And then that sort of took me into my adulthood as an actor rather than being a child actor which is different because I know more of what I’m doing now hopefully. I try. I try my best.
Along with trying your best, it’s great how you are exploring different genres like Shark Bait and also the game Erica. Can you talk about that experience with Flavourworks?
Oh it’s so good. I love EricaI loved working on that. I mean this is why I love being actress. The different things I get to do.
Who asks us to fight in Malta and pretend they are fighting a shark? Not many people can say that and not many people can say they’ve been in a full motion video game being this character that people can play.
Every time I spoke, I had seven different things to say. It was such a massive acting challenge. It was another one where it was quite difficult while we were doing it because it was long days because I was Erica and you’re playing through me.
It was a lot of me being on set and because of the type of game where it goes into different scenes depending on what you choose. So we had a different bunch of stuff to shoot. But I love that challenge. I love working on set and not knowing where the day is going to take you.
And that thing of having seven different things to say every time you speak in a scene that then leads onto multiple different endings is so really intense in itself.
I’m super proud of that game. It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve worked on. I loved working with the Flavourworks team. I think they’re amazing and I’d love to do more game stuff. I’m a bit of a gamer myself. I think that definitely helped with what to do with Erica and the learning process of actually being in a game.
Other new films that came out this week include The Innocents and Pleasure. Listen to our latest episode of Find Your Film:
Does it really enhance your viewing experience when projects like Shark Bait and Erica have great scores (Austin Wintory did the score for Erica).
I haven’t actually seen Shark Bait yet – I know it has amazing music and I can’t wait because music gets me into it even from an acting perspective.
If I need to get into a role, a piece of music can drive my performance sometimes if I need to get into a certain mood but with Erica getting Austin Wintory on board. Austin is such a talent – obviously of the legacy (title) Journey. He’s amazing. He’s such a nice guy as well. Super talented. And we were so lucky to get him on board. Yeah. (A) Legend.
You’ve been asked this so many times, but what did you have to do to get in shape for Shark Bait?
I got the call and I called up a personal trailer and (said) “I need to get in shape for this role, can you help me.”
I hadn’t really done any weightlifting before so we did a bit of that to build the muscles. We didn’t have a long period of time – I think it was only 3 weeks I had to get in shape after a long lockdown of eating a lot of pizza and Doritos and not really thinking about what I look like because I wasn’t leaving the house.
Just binge watching a lot of TV shows and then suddenly getting the call that you’re going to Malta and going to be in a bikini so you need to be physically at the peak of your fitness because this is going to be a challenge. I started lifting weights beforehand but once we started film, the swimming sort of took over and I really didn’t have to think about it.
Because when you’re swimming 12 hours a day, you’re going to get fit. It’s just going to happen. You’re going to burn so many calories. It’s just inevitable. I think I was at my peak fitness by the end of filming.
Lifting six foot co-stars unto jet skis – I’m a tiny little woman so . . . I don’t like to say tiny little woman because I’m strong! But I’m only five foot.
But lifting my six foot co-stars, that was quite hard. So I had to build up some kind of guns (Earl flexes her muscles). I don’t know where they’ve gone – they disappeared magically. I felt kind of badass doing it and it was a great experience to get to kind of train.
I’ve never really done a physical type of role before. I played Synth once (in Humans) but that wasn’t fitness physical – that was more like body movement physical. That was more choreography. So (Shark Bait) was a whole new challenge for me.
It was so much fun to have an excuse to do that.
You mentioned Brando and Leigh. Can you name one of your favorite all-time films?
Favorite all time movie? My favorite film is Chef. I love Chef. It’s not like the most serious Scorsese film or anything but I just love the lightheartedness of it. I love the relationships that are in that film.
And I’m a massive foodie. So anytime there’s food in a film and it’s shot so beautifully in that film. I feel like I can put that film on any time. I can watch that 10, 12, every single time. Do you know what I mean?
I think when I can watch a film over and over again, those are the films that really resonate with me.
I do love old movies still. One of my favorite films as well is Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe of course, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon. It’s got one of my favorite movie moments ever which is the end scene.
I think it’s been long enough time that I can say – I think he says “Nobody’s perfect” at the end. I’m not really spoiling it because of context. It’s just one of the best ending lines I’ve ever seen to a film ever. So clever.
Can actors still learn from watching Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. Or is that acting from a time gone by?
Absolutely. These are guys – that was their livelihood. They have honed their craft. A lot of them were brought up in the Hollywood system to be these actors. Jack Lemmon is a fantastic comedian. That is something that you are naturally – most people are naturally born with it. They are that funny.
And then Marlon Brando just kind of started it all didn’t he with (A Streetcar Named Desire). You watch that film and you see all those performances in that film, you can see that in a film today and you would (say) “Wow.”
Vivien Leigh’s performance in that film is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a film. Ever. She’s amazing. I love her.
Holly thank you so much for your time. You are one of the biggest cinephiles I’ve come across!
No way! That’s a compliment. That’s amazing. Thank you!
Here is the YouTube version of the Holly Earl interview (it runs 11:18). The Full Video version is available for our CinemAddicts Patreon members (that video, including my intro, runs 18:57):