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Shark Night 3D – How Sara Paxton & Dustin Milligan coped underwater

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Shark Night 3D - Sara Paxton
Sara (Sara Paxton) © 2011 Incentive Film Productions

Opening just in time for the long Labor Day weekend, Sara Paxton (The Last House on the Left) and Dustin Milligan (90210) star in the new horror film Shark Night 3D.

Paxton portrays Sara, who invites her friends to her family’s Louisiana lake island cabin for a few days of fun in the sun. But when star football player Malik (Sinqua Walls) stumbles from the saltwater lake with his arm torn off, the fun is over and terror takes its place.

Nick (Milligan), a shy pre-med student, finds himself taking charge, administering first aid and organizing a trip across the lake to take Malik to the nearest hospital – the only problem is the lake is filled with sharks.

Sara, you start this whole thing by inviting everyone to your family’s house. But you have some secrets they don’t know about.

Shark Night 3D - Sara Paxton and Dustin Milligan
Sara (Sara Paxton) and Nick (Dustin Milligan) © 2011 Incentive Film Productions

Sara: Yes I do, a secret from my past. My character is kind of a mystery at the beginning of the movie.

We know that everyone is going to her house for a really fun party, but as the story unfolds, a lot more information comes to light.

Dustin, what was it about this movie that attracted you?

Dustin: Kicking a bunch of shark ass in 3D was something I just couldn’t turn down. Every day was about waking up at five in the morning and going to fight sharks. The first two weeks of shooting we were in an eight-foot-deep tank.

I had never done anything underwater before and it was terrifying at first. I probably choked down a couple of gallons of water the first day. But it was really exciting and fun.

How was it doing all the underwater scenes for you?

Shark Night 3D - Sara Paxton and Dustin Milligan
Sara (Sara Paxton) and Nick (Dustin Milligan) © 2011 Incentive Film Productions

Sara: It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done physically. We had a mini dive-training course for the underwater action.

We had to learn to breathe through regulators, and there was someone with us underwater all the time to make sure we were okay.

You were in Last House on the Left where your character was horribly abused and beaten up. In this you are in a cage underwater. Which was the most difficult?

Sara: This was more physically demanding because we trained with Navy Seals and learned how to breathe underwater on a regulator and we’d be under there for 45 minutes at a time so that was demanding but fun.

On Last House it was more emotionally demanding, so I’d say that Shark Night was more fun.

Did anyone get injured shooting this?

Shark Night 3D - Dustin Milligan
Nick (Dustin Milligan) © 2011 Incentive Film Productions

Sara: I didn’t get hurt but Dustin did.

Dustin: Yeah. I got this scar [on my hand]. But it was difficult for both of us because we had the most stunt-heavy interactions with these sharks that were unpredictable at times.

The scar happened from me holding a rope doing something with Alyssa and something went wrong and I sliced my hand.

Sara: The camera guys were getting ‘bitten’ by the big shark a lot.

Shark Night 3D - Dustin Milligan and Chris Carmack
Nick (Dustin Milligan) and Dennis (Chris Carmack) © 2011 Incentive Film Productions

Dustin: Just by bumping into it, yeah. The fake sharks had real shark teeth. When I was underwater, I cold barely see.

Then I would hear this little veep and this thing would come swimming at me, looking just like a real shark. It was terrifying.

When we got into the lake, we worked with the hammerhead, which was vicious. This thing was trashing in the water and it was cutting us up. I got all kinds of scrapes from working with the sharks and doing all the stunts.

Sara: It’s really scary when you are [pretending to be] unconscious in a cage and the director, on the underwater sound system, is like, ‘Get closer to the mouth.’

When you’re underwater for that long, you can’t see anything clearly. You have no depth perception. When they brought out the sharks, they looked so real. They were flying at me with the real shark teeth. People are really going to be surprised at just how realistic the sharks are. The way they thrash around with their mouths open is dead on.

Dustin: There were actual deadly or creepy underwater creatures in that lake, snapping turtles, snakes, alligators. I stepped on barbed wire under the water on the last day. But it was a great time.

What was director David Ellis like to work with?

Shark Night 3D - Cinematographer Gary Capo, Sara Paxton, Director David Ellis and crew
Cinematographer Gary Capo, Sara Paxton, Director David Ellis and crew on the set © 2011 Incentive Film Productions

Sara: I honestly can’t say enough about David Ellis. He was so passionate; he got me so excited about the film. He managed to make every day a really good time even though what we were doing was intense and physically demanding.

Dustin: The guy knows action and he knows what he wants. He shoots quickly – bam, bam, bam. He’s really laid back, but still all business.

What scares you?

Sara: Cockroaches. Ewww. I’m really scared of them. I can’t even look at them.

Dustin: Remember [the TV show] Fear Factor? I’m scared of Joe Rogan (who hosted the show).

That guy is scary. He’s always juiced up and screaming into the mic on The Ultimate Fighting Championship.

He’s so loud. But no bad dreams about him.

How about dreams about sharks?

Sara: I was too exhausted. We were living the dream.

Which was the most exciting shark to you?

Dustin: Hammerhead has the most ludicrous look, that’s for sure. How is that practical for anything to have its eyeballs out there? (He indicated the sides of his head).

That makes no sense. The most bad-ass though? The Great White has ‘great’ in its name.

Sara: I liked the Tiger shark that likes to look over its shoulder. I think there are moments when the fake sharks are actually pissed off!

Dustin: In other films, it’s just been Great Whites swimming up and eating you and that’s so passé.

This movie has suspense like Jaws, but it’s fun and flashy and very quickly-paced and exciting. Not the traditional chomp, chomp!