Richard Dreyfuss in a boat. Nubile partygoers stalked by a toothy, swimming predator. What sounds like the Steven Spielberg masterpiece Jaws is actually Piranha 3D, a tongue-in-cheek horror film from director Alexandre Aja (High Tension). Helping Aja contain the centuries-old threat onscreen is Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames, Jerry O’Connell, and up-and-coming actor Steven R. McQueen. The young star of the CW’s Vampire Diaries spoke to FilmCritic.com about Comic-Con, his fear of the toilet, and the oil tanker that pumped gallons of fake blood onto the Piranha set.
Q: So I read that nearly 1,000 characters die in Piranha 3D.
A: It’s something like that. I think we used more blood than any movie ever has. We actually had an oil tanker standing by, so fake blood could just be pumping out all day. [Laughs] It’s so funny, man. I went from Disney, which caters to a youthful audience, to The Vampire Diariesand now Piranha. It’s fun to see the different ways I can entertain different audiences.
Q: And Jerry O’Connell’s private parts actually float off the screen in 3-D.
A: [Laughs] Yes, that actually happens. You know, this is one of those movies where it’s just so much fun. It’s a mix between Jaws and Snakes on a Plane. You have a sincere family story happening with talented actors like Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, and Ving Rhames. But it’s such a surreal situation. Our director, Alexandre Aja, is great about bringing a seriousness to situations. But he’s also made a little change in his normal pattern by adding a level of humor that we didn’t see in High Tension or The Hills Have Eyes.
Q: Do you think modern horror audiences have a stronger stomach for gore and violence?
A: Well, our violence is definitely over the top. Some of the attacks are scary, but with most of them you can’t help but just crack up. You feel bad for laughing, but, when a cord cuts someone in half, the way that it happens is comically done. It feels like it references early Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Q: Did you ever have actual fish to look at, or was it always CGI?
A: It’s all CGI. We had a model, so we could see what the piranhas were going to look like. And they are based on a prehistoric type of fish. Obviously, though, they are a little bit more amped up.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current 3-D movement?
A: I think that, with any sort of change, we’re always initially scared of it. But I feel like it will catch on, because it adds a whole new element to storytelling. People go to the movies to escape their problems and live in blissful ignorance for two hours. I think that extra dimension helps pull you into stories, helps you get a little more lost.
Q: Jaws actually kept people out of the water. Will Piranha 3D do that as well?
A: Oh, probably not. Great whites are really out there. Piranhas are in the Amazon, but not really there for people to see. I have a big fear of sharks. I wasn’t even able to sit on the toilet after seeing Jaws for the first time. But with Piranha, it’s such a surreal situation that I don’t think it will keep people out of the sea.