The Meg, a story of a bloodthirsty 22-metre prehistoric megalodon who returns from extinction only to attack a research submersible and trap its crew, will finally hit the big screen on August 9.
But sink your teeth into this: For two decades, the sci-fi horror adaptation was stuck in developmental hell, picked up by studio after studio and eventually left in limbo.
When author Steve Alten released his magnum opus, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, in 1997, Disney was the first studio to show interest. After that fell through, New Line came on board in 2008, but again, nothing materialised. Fans of the book were still passionate — and so was Alten, who went on to write five more books about Meg.
Now, with director Jon Turteltaub at the helm, the film is getting its long-awaited release. It stars Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson, Li Bingbing, and Ruby Rose, who is optimistic about the film’s potential impact.
“I think you can never predict how people are going to receive a movie. Obviously, I pray and hope that they absolutely love it and they feel like it’s a good depiction of the books that they just so much love. Steve [Alten] is really proud of the film, and that’s really important,” said Rose, speaking to Gulf News tabloid! over the phone.
“They’ve waited a really long time to see the books get turned into a film, and the CGI and the effects were absolutely extraordinary. It blows my mind how far technology has gone,” she added.
Having ridden plenty of waves back home, the Australian actress was no stranger to the film’s deep-water setting.
Rose plays ocean-obsessed engineer and scientist Jaxx Herd — a character that wasn’t written into the original books.
“It’s funny, she sort of disappeared and came back in the script, as well. I think they were looking at her being a boy, and then they changed their mind and said no, we’d rather that it be a female character,” said Rose.
“It was important to have female representation there. She just has a different personality to the other characters; she’s incredibly brilliant. The technology she creates, the tools that we need, they all kind of come from her and her brain. Her love for the ocean is extraordinary.”
Rose, once a megalodon and dinosaur fanatic as a child, wanted to bring to the surface — quite literally — Jaxx’s love of the water. She decided to change her own tattoos temporarily to include an octopus, a whale and a shark.
“I feel like I was sort of born to do a film in the water, being born and raised in Australia, surfing a lot when I was younger and swimming in the ocean every weekend. I always felt like the ocean was a second home. We had a tank [on set] as well, but if I had the choice, I always chose the ocean,” said Rose.
The cast trained heavily, diving from different heights of diving boards into an Olympic-sized pool and swimming with their clothing on.
If Rose were ever to face a 22-metre shark in the real world, she might be prepared now, but would call Statham, a former competitive diver, to help: “Jason is a very qualified diver and swimmer, with extraordinary talent in that department. He’s also tough as nails.”
Rose spoke highly of her cast mates, calling Statham “such a lad”.
“He’s such a funny guy, he really makes you feel comfortable from the second you meet him; he’s very down-to-earth, very hardworking,” she said.
“Li Bingbing is absolutely beautiful and so kind and sweet. It’s really fun to work with her and talk about her experiences being one of the biggest movie stars in China. Rainn Wilson is very, very, very funny. He’s got a very dry sense of humour that I love. He always had me laughing on set.”
ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE SHARK?
Growing up, shark sightings weren’t foreign to Rose, but they didn’t faze her as much as they fazed her mother.
“A couple of times, I actually went swimming even though I knew there was a shark in the water. My mum said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t go surfing today, there’s a shark in the water,’ and then I went to the beach, and everyone was surfing, so I hopped in,” she said.
She recalled the shark as ‘a very, very big great white’.
“I wasn’t particularly scared of sharks, I’m still not particularly scared of them. They do a thing in Australia, where an airplane or a helicopter will sound an alarm to tell everyone to get out of the water. When I got out, my mum was standing there, with her arms crossed staring at me, so disapproving,” she said, with a laugh.
The difference between those days and now, Rose added, is that sharks weren’t as hungry back then.
“There was more food for them to eat, they were in their habitat. Now that the climate is changing and there’s less food in the ocean, [it’s] out of pure necessity, not because they’re predators or because they’re trying to attack humans, but just because they don’t really have much of an option,” she said.
Rose, once a host of Australia’s Next Top Model, shot to fame in America three years ago, thanks to Netflix and Orange is the New Black.
She took on three consecutive action films, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, xXx: Return of Xander Cage and John Wick: Chapter 2, before taking a brief detour into comedy with Pitch Perfect 3.
“I think that just by nature, having a really active childhood and being somebody that did partake in a lot of extreme sports like snowboarding, surfing, riding motorcycles and boxing, my physicality and the way that I can play a role always seems really authentic to a character if it’s action,” said Rose.
Though there were a lot of stunts involved in The Meg, playing Jaxx Herd wasn’t a cut-and-dry action role for Rose; it demanded a more thorough characterisation than, say, if she was playing an assassin.
“Playing an engineer, a scientist, meant that there was more to her than just the sheer amount of stunts. It was actually nice to be able to play someone who’s meant to spend most of their time in the office, but it doesn’t quite work out that way,” she said.
“As an actor, your dream is always to read new scripts that tell different stories. It’s sort of not about what genre so much, but what story you’re wanting to tell. I would only be satisfied as an actor when I’ve done every genre and every challenge.”
Did you know?
In the books, the Meg is a massive albino version of a great white. However, in the film, the creature is a textured grey-brown colour. Megalodons, believed to have gone extinct 2.6 million years ago, have several rows of exceptionally large teeth. The Meg producer Belle Avery made over 20 trips to China during the development of the film, and each time, was stopped by customs due to a seven-inch megalodon tooth she carried in her bag.
Don’t miss it!
The Meg is out in the UAE on August 9.