In 2017, Moviehole visited the set of the science fiction action thriller “The Meg,” being directed by Jon Turteltaub (the “National Treasure” movies, “Last Vegas”), in New Zealand. We spent time with stars Jason Statham (“Spy,” “Furious 7,” “The Expendables” films), comic superstar Rainn Wilson (“The Office”), Australian film and TV sensation Ruby Rose (“John Wick 2”, “xXx : The Return of Xander Cage”) and Turtletaub.
A deep-sea submersible—part of an international undersea observation program—has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific…with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew—and the ocean itself—from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below…bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.
Do you have to practice not giggling on set?
Yes, I’m a big giggler. And also Jon [Turteltaub] is very funny! Our director is too funny for serious scenes sometimes. It’s like ‘and you’re all gonna die’, and we’re like ‘ah!’ Because he just says these things to make us laugh, and he’s like always testing us.
Can you tell us about your character?
Her name is Jaxx, she has really cool hair, and she is the engineer on the vessel and she basically designed all of the gliders, all of the equipment, all of the technology that everyone’s using. So she’s kind of a very very smart, scientific gal and she’s sort of dedicated her whole life to marine life and to the ocean.
I have fake tattoos on over my real tattoos because I wanted them to be more themed to the film. So this is like an Octopus. Oh, this was just easier to put on. We just wanted to make it seem more like she’s kind of like a deep sea fanatic and that’s why she’s so knowledgeable and so passionate about the whole thing.
Did you work with the costume people and design people to design these tattoos?
Yeah, we designed this one together. We had some ideas for here, but because I have tattoos we had to cover them and put new ones on so we didn’t want to spend too much time. Because originally my idea was that I’m gonna have like just marine life all over me, 12 hours a day, and then I would wrap. So we kind of met half way, and the hair I designed because I wanted her to look different to the other three characters I’ve just played back and I kind of got this from a mixture of Angelina Jolie in “Gone in Sixty Seconds” and “Hackers”. I feel like my character reminds me of her in “Hackers”, where it’s kind of like you don’t really know why but she’s just so good at that one thing – hacking, clearly. But yeah she’s just got that sort of – not that Jaxx has got any kind of maniacal side or that she’s kind of manic – but she’s definitely very focused. So I just kind of liked the idea of it being like a little rat. Just kind of obsessing over things.
If you’re playing an engineer, do you have a lot of scenes where you talk engineering stuff??
I feel like she’s more on the computer side of engineering. So no spanners – apparently they’ll be gone in 2020! It’s more, I have a lot of my screens, my desk, the areas that I work from are very heavy on data. And I wanted to know what everything meant because I’m a little bit like Jaxx and I didn’t want to be staring at something that I didn’t know what it meant. But I think when I said that they were just like ‘how long have you got?’ ‘Like, all day!’ And then half way through I’m like ‘you know what, I think I’ve got it – tanks and oxygen levels and, yeah, that’s enough, that’s enough for me!’
Do you have any tech jar gin heavy lines that were a ??BIT TOUGH??
Oh yeah. I mean we all do, but it’s fun, the only trick with having really scientific words that you wouldn’t usually have in your dialect usually is by the time you get to like the 90th take – not because I need 90 takes because I’m really bad, but because when you have six or seven people in a room, so you’re doing over the shoulders and you’re getting close ups and then another close up and then one of just your eyeball – you say it so many times it just becomes letters in a row next to other letters, and you’ve just got to really remember – because you don’t have – you’ve got to assign each thing a meaning. And then that makes it a lot easier, because we could have this conversation for twelve hours and know what it means but when you’re saying things that you’ve never learnt about and are kind of unusual, you start to think ‘did that make any sense? Did I say, was I even speaking?’ But me, Rainn Wilson and, I would say probably Cliff [Curtis] have all experienced days where it’s almost twelve hours on one sort of long monologue type situation, and then it’s everyone’s reactions. And we just start so strong, so you we’re just sprinting through it, and then we orget that we’ve got to do a marathon, by the end of it we’re just like ‘a shark! something to do with a shark. and water. I think it was cold water!’ You know. But it’s quite fun. It’s very funny.
We’ve had a look around the set. I’d imagine it would be quite physically taxing as well. You’re such a busy actress. How do you prepare, mentally and physically?
I haven’t really got that bit down pat yet. The good thing about this film, and I’ve been lucky actually on all of my films, is that we do use some green screens and we use some sets, but we also go on location. So being on an actual boat, on the ocean, and then actually being able to do scenes there mean that when we do some other pickups here [in the studio] we’re not having to go ‘what’s it like being on a boat? Let’s all just rock… Yeah, that seems like what we’re supposed to do! Like, wind in our hair!’ It’s like, we know what it’s like having spent three or four weeks out on sea. And it’s a good mix, because I love being on location, and in New Zealand especially, it’s so beautiful, like we’re catching a boat to another boat that gets us to our third boat, and it’s like ‘is this how we commute? Like why can’t I do this with every job?’ But at the same time, you know, when the sun is out and, being near Australia and New Zealand we have quite a strong sun here, slash when the wind and the rain is out, you’re like ‘I want to be back on set!’ A then when you’re on set you’re like ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have the sun shining.’ So you always want the opposite to what you have. But it’s not – compared to the last three roles I’ve done – physically it hasn’t been as taxing. Just because I’m not having to run around and it’s a lot more, you know, gidgets and gadgets and fidgeting and whatever, but there’s a couple of little bits where I get to go on a stroll… A very very fast stroll! And I get to swim. And it’s cold. But that’s fun. I did almost drown the other day, but you know, where’s the publicist for this thing? She here? So, that was fun! It was a very cool scene where, it was, poor Rainn! Basically I end up in the water – and I don’t think that’s a very big give away being a ??? (7:48) I feel like, you know, a few people get wet a couple times – and I end up in the water and there’s this little bit where Rainn just has one thing to do… Just one job Rainn!
It must be reassuring to have someone like Jason Statham on set…
He wasn’t there when I was drowning! Yeah. Where was he? Where was he! Uh, he’s unreal. He’s a very cool guy. Yes I do feel much safer in Jason’s hands than Rainn Wilson’s hands! I’m just speaking from personal experience here. But yeah he’s a fit guy and he’s a very very hard worker so he’s just always on set. He’s in obviously a lot of the film and then when he’s not he’s working out and he’s training and we do stunt training and the rest and it’s, I always enjoy working with people who are as addicted to working – workaholics – as I am.
And how is it working with Meg?
Look, Meg is a very lovely sweet kitten. That’s what I tell myself. It was funny because when I first met Meg – sounds like I’m talking about when I got married!
Is it nice to be working closer to home?
It is. It is, I was a little bit, the only bummer about working in Australia or New Zealand – but I totally totally am on board with it and I agree with it, but it’s just one of those things – is you can’t bring your dogs. So like, I totally understand why, but it’s the one thing I miss the most when I’m travelling and doing films, is my dogs. So that was a little bit, knowing how long I’d be committing to this film for and wondering how often I would be able to get back because I’m in it a lot and we work every single day and we work very long days. So I knew that I would have less time to just nip back and see them. But it’s actually worked out good, because it means that I’ve forced myself to see my mum, who is just as important as my dogs! And for a moment I had forgotten. And I’ve visited her a couple of times and I love my mum so much, so she’s really happy that I’m here. And I keep forgetting that I have friends as well! And they’ve come and visited me and being in Auckland is very contrast to the craziness of LA, so it’s very like just it’s so chill like walking down to the local shop and eating at the cafe and just goin shopping an it doesn’t feel like the pressure and all the attention you get in LA, so it’s nice. But it’s a little bit like, it’s so close to home which is great, but it’s not home yet, it’s still another couple of hours! But I have friends here too, and honestly the cast is so close, and the crew, we’re all really close. In fact John was supposed to take us go carting this weekend but I think he pulled out because he knew I’d win!
The guys have a chess competition…
Oh my god! Please. This movie could have been done in a month! And instead everyone’s like ‘yes!!!’ I’m like ‘what? what? what?’. ‘Oh no I just won’ I’m like ‘again? Chess? We’re still doing this?’ It started on day 3, we’re now on day, like, 50 and now everyone’s playing chess!
Thank you guys
“The Meg” is released next week.