The Shallows airs tonight on Channel 4, following Blake Lively’s character Nancy after being attacked by a shark on a deserted beach. The shark was brought to life through CGI movie magic, but the metal buoy that acts as Nancy’s last hope and the injury she sustained from it were both incredibly real.
The Shallows shows Lively’s character facing seemingly endless obstacles, challenges and pain, as she tried to survive what was meant to be a cathartic surfing adventure.
Australian pro-surfer Isabelle Nichols acted as the body double for the actress.
Despite Nichols’ presence, Lively did not have a stunt double for the majority of the film, with producers praising her willingness to attempt anything.
Lively noted during The Shallows press tour that “every single day” of filming was “stunt heavy”, meaning she did the majority of the gruelling stunts and underwater acrobatics.
One such stunt was in the climatic final face-off between Lively’s character and the great white shark, in which she climbs onto a metal buoy.
Buoys are not the most stable of ocean infrastructure, and in the film Lively can be seen trying to pull herself up only to get smacked straight in the face by the metal structure with a spine tingling crunch.
This slip-up, the injury and the crunch were all unscripted and unfortunately very real.
Lively explained in an interview with Fox shortly after the film’s release: “There’s another scene where the buoy falls down and I pull myself up and I crack my face and I’ve got this bloody nose. That was real.
“That wasn’t planned. Real bloody nose, real crack.
“That was really awful and scary.
“When I came up I thought either I’m going to pass out right now or I’m going to continue the scene and be so awesome and bad**s and proud.”
A stunt double was ultimately hired for the last two weeks of filming but the recording of Lively’s accident is still in the released film.
Co-producer of the film Matti Leshem confirmed this in an interview with Cosmopolitan in 2016.
He noted “that’s real blood” while also praising Lively’s professionalism and drive to continue shooting with the injury.
Leshem added that Lively “would do stuff that you’d think you’d need a stunt person for”.
Additionally, the producer noted that she had an “uncanny ability to hold her breath” whilst filming underwater scenes, calling her “superwoman”.
Lively also recalled that being the only human character in a large majority of the film left her alone on a rock 300 yards away from shore with little or no people around when shooting on location.
Filming of The Shallows largely took place in an Australian movie studio and Lord Howe Island, which had never been used as a film location before and has a population of roughly 400 people.
The unique island is only 11 square miles, with Leshem noting “it is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen” despite its lack of cell service and infrastructure.
The island is also a world heritage site, complicating the production process even further as the island does not even allow vehicles, leaving most of the cast and crew using bicycles.
They were also warned not to harm any animal on the island, which saw the art department looking for crabs that had died of natural causes to accessorise the set.
Production received a specific warning for Muttonbirds, an endangered species which were nesting in the same location as the film.
The Shallows airs tonight at 11pm on Channel 4.