Interview: Elisabeth Shue Talks ‘Piranha 3D’

There have been some pretty exciting films out this year, but there is one in particular that we’re all pretty excited about, and that’s the upcoming Piranha 3D. We recently had a chance to sit down and chat with star Elisabeth Shue (Back to the Future Part II, Leaving Las Vegas) about Piranha, gore, humor, and sex.

The Flickcast: Since seeing the trailer, this has been one of our most anticipated movies of the summer. In your own words can you give us a brief recap of Piranha 3D?

Elisabeth Shue: It’s not like anything you’ve seen before. It’s basically a roller-coaster ride of gore, and humor, and sex. It’s genuinely terrorizing, but also a lot of fun, and I’m very impressed they were able to find that medium where they could be both. Spring Break in America is so crazy and over the top, and you take that and add thousands of prehistoric fish eating them—it can’t but be incredibly fun.

FC: And your character is the sheriff who tries to maintain control while all this is going on…

ES: Yes, I’m trying to save people, and I don’t do a very good job, because so many die and in ridiculous and crazy ways.

FC: What attracted you to the project? This seems like such a radical departure from your previous work…

ES: Yes. In some ways. What Alex(ander Aja) wanted was to get lots of actors who did iconic movies in the ‘80s and ‘70s. You have Richard Dreyfuss who was in one the greatest movies of the 1970s—Jaws—who is playing (his character) Matt Hooper.

FC: I noticed that there are two people in this whom we haven’t seen in a while and whose names leap out from the poster—Richard Dreyfuss, yeah, and Christopher Lloyd, whom you worked with on Back to the Future—and is Lloyd playing a callback to his earlier character, too?

ES: Oh yes, Christopher Lloyd is very professor-ish and playing that crazy scientist. He’s the one who tells us about the piranha (Elisabeth takes so much delight in pronouncing this word, that the italics had to be included). So it does have that throwback to big, fun ‘80s movies.

FC: But you were also in Leaving Las Vegas

ES: But not in the ‘80s. Then I was in movies that had a much more popcorn feel to them. And I wanted to check this out. The title is a bit tough to get over, and when you tell people that your next movie is Piranha 3D, well…yeah, but I knew I was in the hands of a very good director and starring with a lot of wonderful actors, and even though the story is camp, acting in it, I wanted to be committed as someone who wants to save her family. I didn’t know if that would tonally work, but it does, and I find that fascinating

And that’s what attracted me. I like those movies, and I was in them—Back to the Future, Cocktail

FC: What’s the atmosphere like working on a horror film, compared to your previous films?

ES: You don’t get the kind of intimacy that you would working on a teeny-tiny movie with a small crew, and you’re sitting in a small room pouring your heart out. And here we’re all in huge boats, and there’s a large flotilla, and cranes and thousands of extras, entire trucks filled with blood, dead bodies everywhere. So it definitely had a sense of largeness to it. We would talk to the director through bullhorns—and in 112-degree heat. But you have to get over that, and overcome the differences.

And, actually, a month later, I got a part in a small movie with Abigail Breslin that’s been entered in the Toronto Film Festival. And I play her mom, who’s a meth addict who abandons her child. So I get to go from Piranha 3D to this small movie

FC: I was going to ask about your future projects.

ES: I’m right in the middle of shooting a movie with Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone. It’s sort of a Psycho meets Disturbia and produced by Aaron Ryder, whom I worked with on Hamlet 2, and Mark Tonderai, who did Hush. And it’s a small, independent movie that I’ve had a lot of fun doing. So, things are looking up.

FC: You seem to be pretty diverse in your roles, have there ever been any characters from some of your previous work that you would like to return to?

ES: I would always have loved to return to Sera from Leaving Las Vegas—you could spend your live exploring a character like her. I got to play a great character in Don McKay with Thomas Hayden Church, which few people saw. You know, there’s a lot a roles that you try to make the best of and make the characters as interesting as you can, and then there’s a few that you are so grateful to get and learn so much about life through, and, yeah, about yourself.

And there was one more called Amy & Isabelle that I was in about nine years ago, and that’s the kind of character that keeps me going.

FC: Well, that about covers our questions, but one last thing: Can you give us your best “Oh dear, I’m going to be attacked by a piranha” scream?

ES: I actually never scream in the movie, but Yeeeeek!

Piranha 3D opens August 20th.

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