Directed by Jon Turteltaub, The Meg is a blockbuster B-movie with action, thrills, and Jason Statham punching sharks. What more could you want from a summer blockbuster? Apparently not much, as the film has been taking the box office by storm since its release.
Co-stars Jason Statham, Ruby Rose, and Li Bingbing talk sharks, filming in New Zealand, and what audiences can expect from the film.
QUESTION: What drew you to The Meg?
JASON STATHAM: The first thing I consider when reading a script is whether I can do justice to the role. The Meg played to my fascination with the underwater world and to my love of scuba diving. So, it was very appealing to me – and a nice change of pace. It’s probably the first movie I’ve done in a while where I’m not running around with a gun (laughs).
I love scuba diving, and because there was so much underwater work, I knew I could do justice to this role. And it came with some nice perks: during some time off from production of The Meg, I went diving in Fiji and hand-fed some bull sharks. That was the pinnacle of my scuba experiences over the past ten years.
I dive recreationally. Whenever I am near open water and have the time, I try to stick on the mask and fins. It’s incredibly peaceful, especially when you’ve reached the point where you can become comfortable underwater. You can get fingertip close to creatures you’d never see anywhere else. As you become more experienced, you begin looking for dangerous elements – like sharks.
Scuba diving requires a fair amount of discipline, concentration, and confidence. Filming underwater sequences can be very tricky, and my experience as a scuba diver continues to be a big help in these situations. I learned to scuba dive many years ago, when I filmed The Transporter. My progression towards scuba certification was unorthodox because I learned to dive in a cave. My instructor back then was a tough military type, who was a bit “off book”— sometimes he’d rip my mask off, with no warning. It was an intense few weeks, but it really got me hooked. I’ve always been into movies about the water, and fascinated by the world of free diving, which I was introduced to by watching the film The Big Blue. It was amazing how those divers could travel six hundred feet underwater on a single breath. It’s phenomenal and seemingly impossible – but they do it.
QUESTION: What kind of set does director Jon Turteltaub run?
JASON STATHAM: Jon is a real comedian. He is an absolute pleasure to be around because he never takes things too seriously. He has the entire weight of a big movie resting on his shoulders, but he’s always about having a good time on set. We had such a laugh making this movie, and a lot of that was due to Jon.
QUESTION: You are part of a big international cast that represents China, the U.S., the UK, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. Did that have any impact on your experience making the film?
JASON STATHAM: In my career, I often work with an international cast and crew, and I have always enjoyed it. It is a proper reflection of society. Working with an international cast, especially with actors from China, is familiar to me. I’ve made many movies with Jet Li, and a lot of the martial arts choreography teams that I worked with throughout my career have been Chinese.
QUESTION: What were some of the highlights of working on The Meg?
RUBY ROSE: Working on The Meg was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had on a film. It was really special. For me, these kinds of films are the most enjoyable ones to work on. Being Australian, I love the water, the marine ecosystem – and sharks. It was fun filming in New Zealand, in the ocean, on a boat, and doing stunts, and working with a great cast.
QUESTION: A film of this scale also must come with unique challenges. Can you talk about those?
RUBY ROSE: We were in the water for a long time, especially during the last week or two of production. I didn’t know how much more water I could take [laughs]! It was intense. But when we finally wrapped those scenes, I wanted to be back there, in the water because it is exciting, despite the physical challenges of always being cold and wet. It helped a lot that we had a great crew and cast. I would go back into that water right now.
QUESTION: The actors had some prep and training for those swimming and water scenes. What was that like?
RUBY ROSE: We trained in an Olympic-sized pool with several diving boards at different heights above the water. We had to become stronger swimmers, swim in our clothing, and learn to dive. I had so much fun doing all the diving and jumping, that everyone quickly realized that I could easily handle those kinds of stunts, and I think I ended up doing more action than was initially planned for me.
QUESTION: Who impressed you the most of your cast mates as far as their swimming or athletic prowess?
RUBY ROSE: Jason Statham’s commitment to doing his own stunts is incredible. He’s a former competitive diver, and he moves so quickly in the water, and is incredibly fit. I loved talking with him about some of the craziest stunts we’ve done, and what we love about doing action scenes. His physicality is amazing.
QUESTION: What do you hope audiences experience when The Meg opens in cinemas around the world?
RUBY ROSE: They’ll experience and enjoy a big action thriller, popcorn film. It also has some interesting things to say about marine life, the food chain, and the environment. So, along with all this epic entertainment, there’s a viewpoint about the ocean that will really resonate.
QUESTION: What attracted you to The Meg?
LI BINGBING: I was drawn to The Meg because it was a total challenge for me. It challenged my mind, my body, and my fears. I had to prove to myself that I could do it. And I love the adrenaline rush. But… the real reason is that I got the chance to pilot a Glider [submersible] for the first time.
QUESTION: Were there any moments on set that stood out for you?
LI BINGBING: Since I am playing a marine biologist, and I wanted to be convincing, I did a lot of research on shark habits. My character Suyin has an underwater encounter with sharks, so I also trained in scuba diving.
QUESTION: What was it like working opposite Jason Statham?
LI BINGBING: Working with Jason was amazing and always a lot of fun. We hadn’t met before The Meg. I thought the crew would officially introduce us, but there wasn’t time to even meet before we started filming. We finally met when Jason was going to costuming and I was going to the bathroom. We bumped into each other, he smiled, gave me a big wave, and said, “Hi!” Then, I said, “Hi!” and then we said it together.
Jason is very different from the characters he plays. When he smiled, I thought “Oh, he has the nicest teeth!” because I had never seen Jason smile in his films. Later, I told him that I am not a native English speaker, so I needed to rehearse many times before we filmed our scenes. He was so sweet and supportive, and kept saying there was no way he could have done this film in Chinese!
QUESTION: Did you enjoy working in New Zealand?
LI BINGBING: New Zealand’s weather is totally unpredictable and can sometimes be really cold. In a ten-minute period, it can snow, rain, hail, sleet, and then be sunny. But it is a beautiful country that I really love.
Thanks to the rainfall, everything in New Zealand is beautifully green. The natural beauty made me feel so relaxed, even with the challenges we faced during filming.
QUESTION: What do you hope audiences experience when they see The Meg in cinemas?
LI BINGBING: I want the audience to experience a wonderful, fun and exciting deep-sea adventure, and at the same time understand how amazing nature truly is, and that we should all respect nature.
The Meg is in New Zealand cinemas now.