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Blake Lively loved ‘matching wits’ with shark in ‘The Shallows’

Blake Lively attends 'The "BFG (Big Friendly Giant)'" premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 14, 2016 in Cannes, France. | Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

NEW YORK — When told her new film “The Shallows” (opening Friday) would have audiences “on the edge of their seats” in terror, Blake Lively said, “There were some moments at the premiere when  people were not even on their seats! There were scenes that you could sense literally lifted people — as a group — out of their seats going, ‘Ah!’ or ‘Wow!’

“I loved that and seeing that reaction. I’m glad to see that worked. After all, this is a thriller.”

The actress laughed as she explained that even she had a bit of a momentary fright during the New York premiere screening the night before this interview, “even though I obviously knew what was happened next [in the movie] and shouldn’t have been startled at all. A friend came up to me in the middle of the film and touched me on the shoulder to get my attention — and I really jumped.”

“The Shallows” focuses on Lively’s Nancy Adams character — a brilliant medical school student who has taken a break following her mother’s death, after a long, tough battle with cancer. Adams decides to head to a very isolated beach in Mexico where her mother loved to surf. When Adams’ traveling companion bails on her — she decides to go surfing on the lonely beach by herself — soon unwittingly drawn into a battle of wills with a Great White shark, whose feeding grounds is in the water off the beautiful beach.

Lynn Harris (from left), Jaume Collet-Serra, Blake Lively, Matti Leshem and Óscar Jaenada attend the "The Shallows" world premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on June 21, 2016 in New York City.  |Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Lynn Harris (from left), Jaume Collet-Serra, Blake Lively, Matti Leshem and Óscar Jaenada attend the “The Shallows” world premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on June 21, 2016 in New York City. |Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

“We didn’t have a stunt double for me until the last two weeks of filming, so a lot of what you see in the film is really just me,” Lively said. “I did have a surfing double for the whole time,” pointing out that while she did know how to surf — her character is a top-notch expert surfer. “However, I ruined my mom’s life by telling her that wasn’t me, in fact, doing all those cool surfing moves. This movie was an athletic event as much as it was an acting performance. It was like training for a marathon, but a marathon is a few hours on one day. This was 13 hours a day for eight weeks, with no lunch breaks, in four-foot waves, straight through the whole day.

“Then on top of that, there is the emotional back story and the emotional story of the present — just trying to stay alive. It’s not easy matching wits with a Great White shark! So, there was a lot of things to juggle. I had no co-star. It was scary, but rewarding as well.”

While there are only a handful of other actors in the film — all in very minor roles — Lively admitted she did have a significant, non-human “co-star” — a seagull who is with her through much of the movie. Lively nicknamed the bird, “Sully, and thanks to being in this film, he’s a member of SAG [the acting union].”

As for sharks, Lively also learned a lot about them, “largely thanks to the fact we had shark expert Paul de Gelder working with us on this film. He has a show on the Discovery Channel. He lost his arm and leg in a shark attack, but he spends his time trying to protect sharks in the wild — even though he lost two of his limbs to sharks,” said the actress.

“While we villainize [sharks] in films — including our film — they really aren’t bad creatures. They are simply creatures near the top of the food chain doing what sharks do. They are natural predators. They are sharks being sharks.”

Joking about her character in the film, decked out in a fancy wetsuit designed for surfing, Lively said, “You’re in the wild and you’re dressed as a seal in your wetsuit. What? You’re then surprised when a shark mistakes you for a seal? In other words — lunch!”