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17 Fun Facts About 'Deep Blue Sea'

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Warner Bros

This so-bad-it's-good horror flick swam into theaters 15 years ago today. Here are a few things you might not have known about it.

1. The movie was inspired by a macabre experience.

When he was growing up in Australia, screenwriter Duncan Kennedy saw the remains of a shark attack victim, which had washed up near his home. "There was really not much left of him," Kennedy told the Los Angeles Times. He had nightmares about being trapped in a passageway with sharks that could read his mind, and channeled those dreams, and his childhood experience, into the script about sharks whose brains have been modified by a scientist conducting Alzheimer’s research, making them smarter and much more deadly.

2. They filmed with real sharks.

Most of Deep Blue Sea was shot at Baja Studios in Mexico, where the team constructed sets above the massive tanks that James Cameron built to make Titanic. There, the cast worked with animatronic sharks and used their imaginations to sub in for CG sharks that would be filled in later. But after the shoot at Baja wrapped, director Renny Harlin insisted that the cast head to the Bahamas to shoot with real sharks. Thomas Jane, who played shark wrangler Carter, was not thrilled: “I’ve been scared of sharks all my life, ever since I saw Jaws," he said in a DVD special feature.

Jane later recounted the experience for Entertainment Weekly"The first day, I was in a cage, but the next day, they swam me 30 feet down ... Then this guy yanks the breather off me and the water's churning with blood and guts and stuff ... It was so terrifying that I don't want to remember it."

3. The director made tweaks to the sharks to take on Jaws.


"The problem with approaching a shark movie," Kennedy told the Los Angeles Times, "is how do you do it without repeating Jaws?" Kennedy said that in order to “do Spielberg one better,” Harlin made Deep Blue Sea’s makos 26 feet long. In real life, shortfin mako sharks reach 10 feet on average (although specimens as large as 12 feet have been caught), and longfin makos reach as long as 13.7 feet.

4. The animatronic sharks were really believable.

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The filmmakers created Deep Blue Sea’s monstrous makos with a combination of visual effects and animatronic sharks. “My whole approach to this movie was, no more hiding sharks,” Harlin said in DVD special features. “This time you’re going to really see them. That’s a challenge. We’ve seen sharks on the Discovery Channel. We know what they look like, so our sharks had to be totally convincing.”

The special effects team, headed by Walt Conti—who built Willy in Free Willy and the snakes in Anaconda—spent 8 months on the animatronic sharks. “The number one thing about capturing sharks is getting their energy,” Conti said in the film’s production notes. “They're always cruising kind of slowly, then they snap and just go with this incredible burst of energy. In that way, most of the time, sharks are somewhat lethargic. So probably our biggest challenge was replicating that speed and energy for those lunges. Also, sharks' jaws actually float in their skulls, giving them a specific kind of motion. As far as I know, we're the first animatronics team to totally mimic the multifaceted jaw of the shark.”

To get the job done, the team watched video of real makos swimming frame by frame, then borrowed equipment and technology that’s typically used in 747s and built the sharks as self-contained units. The remote-controlled machines had 1000hp engines, weighed 8000 pounds, and swam on their own, without the use of external wires or apparatus, at up to 30mph. They built 4.5 sharks: Three 15-foot makos, which played the first gen sharks; and 1.5 generation-two sharks, which represented that first generation’s 26-foot-long progeny. The effect was quite realistic: “The first time I saw one of those animatronic sharks, I thought it was a real one,” Stellan Skarsgard, who played Jim Whitlock, said in a special feature created for the DVD.

“When they first brought [the animatronic shark] into the lab we were all in awe of the size of this machine,” Jackson recalled. “It was a real monster. I would walk up to it slowly and touch it and they said it felt like a real shark. The gills moved and it had a mind of its own sometimes.”

Harlin recounted one of those times in the DVD commentary. “[One shark] was sitting in [McAlester’s] room and just as we were getting the computer programming finished, all of a sudden it leapt up [and] went through the ceiling,” he said. “All these 2x4s flying away like matchsticks. It was a good warning for us. It gave us an idea of the awesome power of these creatures and how careful we had to be in terms of the cast and crew being close to them, and how the computer program had to have failsafe procedures so nobody got hurt.”

5. Samuel L. Jackson was originally offered a different role.

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In the original script, there were two men in the kitchen; Harlin initially thought Jackson would play Preacher, the head chef. But Jackson turned it down, “because my agent didn’t like it or the part wasn’t big enough or something,” he said in DVD commentary. So Harlin cast LL Cool J as Preacher and came up with a different part for Jackson. “He said, ‘Now you’re going to be the richest man in the world, and you’re going to have the greatest scene in the movie, and it’s going to be a shock to everyone!” Jackson recalled. “He sent it back, [and the part] was Russell Franklin, and I was like ‘Yeah, this was great.’ I’ve done a lot of different things in movies, or had a lot of things happen to me in the movies, but nothing like what happens to me in this one.” (More on this later.)

Jackson told the Las Vegas Sun that he was motivated to take the part because “I watched a lot of monster pictures growing up and we would go home and someone would pretend to be Dracula or Frankenstein and chase us and we would run from them. This was an opportunity to finally be in a movie like that and run away from something that's bigger and stronger, with sharp teeth and claws. I got to say stuff like ‘Look out, look out! Go this way! Ahhh! Ahhh!’ Even though I didn't get to be that panicky.”

6. If you pay close attention, you'll see a special nod to Jaws.

In the beginning of the film, shark wrangler Carter, played by Thomas Jane, removes a license plate from the teeth of a tiger shark, then gives it to Russell Franklin. Take a closer look, and you’ll notice that it’s the exact same license plate taken from the stomach of the tiger shark that’s cut open in Jaws. Harlin called it “a little nod to the grand master, Spielberg.”

7. Harlin makes a cameo—and he was not a natural.

Getty Images

As the workers of Aquatica—the lab where the research takes place—are heading home for the weekend, you can see Harlin walking past. “I had a moment of temp insanity—a friend of mine was visiting the set and we decided to walk through the scene,” he said in DVD commentary. “It took 20 takes to get me just walking through it without walking into the other actors or falling off the dock. There’s a reason why some people should stay behind camera.”

8. An accident made it into the finished film.

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According to Jackson, working in the water so much wasn’t just unpleasant—it actually led to an accident that made it into the final film. “When we get Stellan [Skarsgard] hooked up to the helicopter and we're trying to get back to the elevator during the storm, the waves are supposed to rush in front of us and behind us,” Jackson recounted. “At one point three tons of water got thrown on us by accident and we got swept toward those cargo bays and everyone thought we were going into the drink and people were tumbling around this metal grating. … We scrambled up and kept acting. … Everyone was kind of (upset) because they hit us full on with three tons of water. That was not supposed to happen and we didn't have safety harnesses on and we were flailing around on this deck.” Still, Jackson said, “I thought that was pretty funny when I saw it in the final film. I said, ‘Oh, they kept that.’”

9. The parrot was not a professional.

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There wasn’t a huge budget on the movie, and in DVD commentary, Harlin said that there was “lots of discussion about should we have the parrot, should we not have the parrot” for LL Cool J’s character, Preacher. They opted to have the bird, but, Harlin said, “we couldn’t afford a Hollywood parrot—a parrot that is fully trained and comes with its professional trainers and does tricks and speaks on cue and so on. So we decided to go with a parrot from Mexico City.” The production actually used two parrots: one that was good at flying, and one that was adept at sitting on LL’s shoulder.

10. Deep Blue Sea reused some props from other films.

The plane that McAlester and Franklin fly out to Aquatica had been used in the Harrison Ford-Anne Heche film Six Days Seven Nights; Harlin had it repainted for Deep Blue Sea. The facility’s red escape sub had previously been used in another Samuel L. Jackson movie, Sphere.

11. The filmmakers used tricks to make the sets look like they were underwater.

Some of the sets were built on top of the Baja Studios tanks, and were designed to submerge. Others were built on soundstages, so the production designers put fishtanks full of water outside portholes and lit them to make it appear as though the facility was underwater.

12. Jackson’s big death scene became an instant classic.

Harlin really wanted to surprise the audience, and to do that, he took a cue from Alien. “Most of the cast is unknown, and the only person we really recognize is Tom Skerritt,” Harlin explained in DVD commentary. “He was the captain, and when things start going wrong, we relied on him ... he’s going to lead us to safety. And then halfway through the movie, he gets taken away, and it’s a shock and you don’t know what to trust.”

So Harlin cast Samuel L. Jackson early in the process with the intent of killing him off, and made the rest of the cast relative unknowns. “We cast Sam in this part where he’s very powerful, very smart, he’s the oldest of the group. You really think, he’s a movie star. He’s going to take care of business, he’s the one we can rely on, he’s going to be saved,” Harlin said. They made the character’s speech long and corny and pompous on purpose. “I knew the audience would be groaning and saying ‘Oh, come on, this is pompous,' but it had to be pompous for the surprise to work,” Harlin said. “It had to take you to a place where you get a little uncomfortable and start squirming in your seat, and saying, ‘Oh, these filmmakers are stupid, they think we’re going to buy this whole story.' It’s just a little too much. And just when we get to that place, we’re going to take everything away that you believe, and everything that you thought was going to happen in this film, and then you have the audience hooked.”

13. In the original ending, Saffron Burrows’ character lived...

But test audiences, who saw the film less than a month before it was to open in theaters, hated it. “Basically what had happened was that the audience felt so deeply that the scientist character, the woman who was behind the whole experiment with the sharks, that it was all her fault,” Harlin said in 2013. “In their minds, she was the bad guy … I remember us all sitting down and going, ‘Holy sh**, we are in trouble. How do we fix this?’ It was my idea, I said, … ‘When she falls in the water, what if she doesn’t survive? She gets eaten by the sharks and L.L. Cool J is the hero. Everybody likes him, and Thomas Jane.’”

The team did a quick one-day reshoot in the Universal Studios tank. “We did some CG work on the sharks and stuff like that,” Harlin said, “but it was a super fast fix and it saved the movie because the audience got what they wanted.”

14. ...And LL Cool J’s character was supposed to die.

“He was originally going to be shark meat quite early on,” Harlin told the Reading Eagle, “but he was so good we kept him around.”

The rapper-turned-actor did many of his own stunts, and Harlin said he also complained the least out of all the actors. “LL was really determined to do a good job on the film, to do whatever it took to make it work,” the director said in DVD commentary. “LL was pretty great. He had some very uncomfortable situations because he really has to come face to face with the sharks a lot and even ends up in the shark’s mouth at the end of the film, but he was always game, he was really determined to show that he was not a rap artist who wanted to do little movies but he’s a real actor who wants to do something really powerful and interesting.”

15. LL Cool J channeled a shark in the music video for the movie's theme song.

He had a hard time putting in the contact lenses for the "Deepest Bluest (Shark's Fin)" music video.

16. There are a number of shark myths in the movie.

Harlin asserts in DVD commentary that “a lot of this information regarding sharks is very very accurate. Obviously because it’s a movie we take license with some of the stuff they’re doing [in terms of the Alzheimer’s research]… the fact is, sharks have been used a lot to study and find out why these creatures have been around for 400 million years, why they never get cancer, why they never sleep, why they never stop moving.” And maybe it was accurate, at the time. But now we know that sharks do get cancer, and although they don’t sleep like humans, they do have periods of rest. The idea that sharks never stop moving comes from the thought that they need to keep water flowing over their gills, or they’ll die, but that doesn’t apply to all sharks.

Deep Blue Sea’s makos somehow develop the ability to swim backward—and as one character notes, that is, in fact, a physical impossibility. No matter how big a shark's brain is, that's not going to change. You can enjoy a more thorough takedown of the film’s “science” and leaps in logic here.

17. Deep Blue Sea was the first movie Stephen King saw after he was nearly killed in an accident.

“My first trip out after being smacked by a van and almost killed was to the movies (Deep Blue Sea, as a matter of fact; I went in my wheelchair and loved every minute of it),” he wrote in Entertainment Weekly.

5 Film Transitions Worth Knowing

You see them every day, on TV shows, the news, and in movies, but how well do you know the most oft-used film transitions? Here are the big five:


The dissolve is an editing technique where one clip seems to fade—or dissolve—into the next. As the first clip is fading out, getting lighter and lighter, the second clip starts fading in, becoming more and more prominent. The process usually happens so subtly and so quickly, the viewer isn't even aware of the transition. The above video offers a great overview of the cut, with examples.


This transition is the opposite of the dissolve in that it draws attention to itself. The best example of the wipe is what's known as the Iris Wipe, which you usually find in silent films, like Buster Keaton's or the Merrie Melodies cartoons—the circle getting smaller and smaller. Other wipe shapes include stars, diamonds, and the old turning clock.

The Star Wars films are chock-full of attention-grabbing wipes. Here are two good examples from The Empire Strikes Back. The first shows the clock wipe; the second, the diagonal wipe (pay no attention to the broken blocks at the start of the second clip—that's a technical glitch, not part of the film).


As the name implies, in the basic cutaway, the filmmaker is moving from the action to something else, and then coming back to the action. Cutaways are used to edit out boring shots (like people driving to their destination—why not see what the character is seeing or even thinking sometimes?) or add action to a sequence by changing the pace of the footage. My favorite use of the cutaway is in Family Guy, where the technique is used to insert throwaway gags. Here's a great example:


The L Cut, also called a split edit, is a very cool technique whose name dates back to the old analog film days.

The audio track on a strip of celluloid film runs along the side, near the sprocket holes. In the L Cut transition, the editor traditionally cut the picture frames out of the strip, but left the narrow audio track intact, thus creating an L-shape out of the film. A different camera angle, or scene was then spliced into the spot where the old picture was, so the audio from the old footage was now cut over the new footage.

Of course, with digital editing, one doesn't need to physically cut anything anymore, but the transition is still widely used, and the name has remained the same.

Split edits like these are especially effective in portraying conversations. Imagine how a simple conversation between two people might look if all we ever got was a ping-pong edit back and forth between the two people talking. The L cut allows the viewer to read the emotion on the listener's face, as the dialogue continues over, as we see in this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:


The fade in and fade out usually signal the beginning or end of a scene, especially if the filmmaker is fading to/from black. This is the most common, of course, but fading to white has become trendy, too. The opening title sequence from the HBO series Six Feet Under featured many fades to black and a couple brief fades to white. The very last bit in the sequence fades slowly to white, and is my all-time favorite example of the transition:

King Features Syndicate
11 Things You Might Not Know About Blondie
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For close to 90 years, Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie has been a constant in newspapers around the world, reaching an estimated 280 million readers in 55 countries. Despite its title, most readers are probably more familiar with Blondie’s husband, the sandwich-consuming Dagwood. Check out some facts about the comic’s origins, its feature film franchise, and a very unfortunate incident involving a dirty word that rocked Blondie's readership to its core.


An illustration of Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead of 'Blondie' comics fame
IDW/King Features Syndicate

Before Blondie debuted in 1930, cartoonist Chic Young had attempted to create a female-driven strip without a lot of success. Titles like Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora were some of the more unfortunate ideas, with Young preoccupied by the notion of having a vapid leading lady. For Blondie, Young initially pursued the “dumb blonde” stereotype before dialing down the chauvinism and allowing the single, mingling Blondie Boopadoop to appear at least as intelligent as the succession of boyfriends courting her in the strip. Later, Blondie would become the voice of reason [PDF] to fiance Dagwood Bumstead’s bumbling presence, inverting the gender roles of Young’s previous strips.


For the debut of Blondie, Young’s syndicate, King Features, launched an aggressive mailing campaign in an effort to entice newspaper editors to pick up the strip. Editors first received a letter “announcing” the engagement of Blondie and Dagwood, which was followed by protestations from the Bumstead family and eventually a cardboard suitcase that cautioned them not to peek inside. Naturally, everyone did. Inside was a paper doll cutout of Blondie wearing lingerie, with her “wardrobe” (more paper doll clothing) included.


He might strike you as incapable of tying his own shoes, but there was a time when Dagwood Bumstead carried real potential. Instead of his current working-stiff incarnation, Dagwood was originally heir to his billionaire father’s railroad fortune. But when he married Blondie in 1933, the Bumstead family effectively disowned him, fearing Blondie was only out for his money. The couple’s move to the middle class was Young’s way of acknowledging the fallout of the Great Depression.


With the Bumstead family highly skeptical of Dagwood’s plans to marry Blondie, the would-be groom decided to earn their blessing by going on a hunger strike that played out in real time. For 28 days, Dagwood refused to eat and grew frail until his family finally consented to the marriage. The narrative stunt drew the attention of new readers, raising Blondie’s profile on the comic pages.


A 'Blondie' comic strip with Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead in bed together
King Features Syndicate

For a good portion of the 20th century, it was seen as proper to depict married couples on television or in comics as sleeping in twin beds, eliminating any hint of carnal activities happening off-screen. (Or in this case, off-panel.) But Young thought this was juvenile and insisted that Blondie and Dagwood appear sleeping in the same double bed. Perhaps not coincidentally, the two had their first child, Alexander, in 1934.


While Blondie and Dagwood got along without incident, the same couldn’t be said for another couple featured in the strip’s early years. One of Blondie’s earlier suitors, Hiho, married girlfriend Betty and the two became supporting characters in the strip. Hiho and Betty had what could be considered a tumultuous relationship, with each threatening to punch out the other on a regular basis [PDF]. Young eventually phased the two out, replacing them with far less volatile Bumstead neighbors Herb and Tootsie Woodley.


After the atomic bomb was dropped twice to bring an end to World War II, American citizens understandably grew skittish about the ramifications of wielding such power. To ease their minds, the U.S. military partnered with Young to produce 1949’s Dagwood Splits the Atom, a “fun” booklet that sees the character shrunk down in size to help readers understand atomic power and nuclear fission. Although other comic characters like Popeye appear, it’s Dagwood who has the honors of blowing a neutron into a uranium atom in order to split it.


Although Young’s son Dean had been working on Blondie and was prepared to take over writing duties when his father passed away in 1973, newspapers weren’t so sure. According to Young, more than 600 papers canceled the strip when his father died, fearing it would suffer a drop in quality. Young persevered and eventually won over the naysayers, reclaiming space in the papers and adding several hundred more. (Currently, Young writes the strip and artist John Marshall illustrates.)


In 1938, with Blondie firmly entrenched on the comics pages, King Features and Young agreed to license the strip to Columbia Pictures for a series of live-action feature films. The movies were shot quickly and economically with stars Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake portraying Blondie and Dagwood, respectively. The studio produced 28 features between 1938 and 1950. Attempts to adapt the comic to television were less successful. A 1954 pilot was unaired, while a 1957 series lasted just one season. Another 13-episode iteration was produced in 1968-69, with Bruce Lee appearing as a karate instructor in the last episode.


With their relatively trivial subject matter, comic strips rarely have the potential to offend. A 2004 Blondie entry proved to be an exception. In the strip, a character uses the word “scumbag” to describe a baseball umpire. Readers wrote in to Dean Young to lodge complaints, with Mr. Young and his proofreaders apparently unaware that “scumbag” is a euphemism for a used prophylactic.


A 2005 'Blondie' comic strip featuring a number of other comic characters
King Features Syndicate

Before shared universes were a thing, Blondie’s 75th anniversary strip published September 4, 2005 had a cameo from virtually every notable comic strip character past and present. As Dagwood and Blondie hold up a cake—shaped like a sandwich, naturally—they’re surrounded by Ziggy, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Dilbert, and dozens of others. In the weeks leading up to the strip, the comics pages were full of Blondie references and sight gags.


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