In a year when 3-D has seemed to take over the multiplex — you almost can’t walk past the candy counter without dodging flying spacemen, fire-breathing dragons or Johnny Depp in a wacky top hat — “Piranha 3D” might win the award for most outrageous flick of them all.
It might simply be the bloodiest and raunchiest film ever to be presented in three dimensions. It was actually a running debate among the cast, when we visited the Lake Havasu, Arizona, set in June 2009, whether the movie showcased more blood or more boobs . No definitive answer was ever reached.
Directed by horror maven Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes”), the movie is the most high-tech installment of the “Piranha” horror/comedy franchise, a series spearheaded in 1978 by producer and schlock guru Roger Corman and then helmed by James Cameron in 1981. This time, the movie takes place during spring break, when thousands of hormone-addled college students descend on a sun-drenched resort spot just as an earthquake unleashes a swarm of prehistoric piranhas with a taste for blood. And boobs.
Unlike those unfortunate spring breakers, MTV News is not unprepared for these nasty fishies. We’ve been tracking the production for years and now present a blood-soaked (though still family-friendly version of our big-screen cheat sheets: everything you need to know about “Piranha 3D.”
Before Disaster Strikes
The script had been floating around Hollywood for years — Aja first read it five years ago — and made its way into the hands of several potential directors, including Chuck Russell (“The Scorpion King”), before Aja signed on.
“It’s going to be unique because it’s going to be completely in 3-D,” Aja told MTV News at Comic-Con in 2008. “I think people don’t realize the effect of all the elements coming out from the screen at you. It’s very traumatic.”
The film was supposed to go into production that same year but was eventually delayed because of weather and location concerns, as well as the general difficulties of shooting a 3-D film set on the waterfront. “There’s so many problems that we’re going to have to solve,” Aja told us early in 2009. “After doing a movie with mirrors where it was kind of like a nightmare to avoid all the reflections, making a movie in 3-D underwater and on the water is going to be the biggest challenge.”
But the production delays did not damper the filmmakers’ enthusiasm about the project. “We realized that, with the advent of 3-D, that we thought we could make the ultimate ‘Jaws’ for this generation,” producer Mark Canton (“300″) told us in early May ’09. “It’s a multi-invasion. You have the invasion of youth expecting to have that wild spring break, and then you have the invasion of this prehistoric, rather unpleasant species.”
By that point, the cast was in place: Elisabeth Shue as a local sheriff, Jerry O’Connell as an adult-entertainment producer, Jessica Szohr as a college student, Christopher Lloyd as a scientist and Richard Dreyfuss, returning to the water decades after his starring turn in “Jaws.” Production kicked off days after our chat with Canton.
Boobies and Blood
MTV News swooped into Lake Havasu in June, chatting with the cast and trying to wrap our heads around the madness. “The movie is going to be insane, because as much blood as it has, it has the equal amount of boobies,” co-star Paul Scheer laughed. “It’s boobies and blood. And we supply the boobies!”
“This movie is probably going to win the record of most dead people — and most blood and most nakedness and most everything,” co-star Kelly Brook added.
The shoot wrapped up at the end of the summer, and it wasn’t without its perils. “I get claustrophobic, so when we were in a boat, I was kind of halfway under water at one point and it was like a really small little cage,” Szohr told us. “I was freaking out, actually. I was like, ‘I can’t breathe! I can’t get out of here!’ ”
Before the summer-movie season kicked off in earnest, Aja gave MTV News a call to assure us that as bloody and breast-filled as we thought his movie was going to be, we had no idea what he had planned. “There’s going to be 3-D double-D boobs!” he laughed. “I want to know exactly how many different girls’ boobs are in the movie. I think it’s a lot. I think blood-wise, I have to get the final number, but we are beyond anything you can even imagine.”
Don’t Go in the Water
We got a few gruesome clues about Aja’s crazy plans when the first trailer dropped in May, delivering CG fish and lots of unclothed flesh, much of which the fish promptly chew to shreds.
A couple of months later, a few more clips popped up online, once again showcasing a ton of flesh and blood, a lovely boat ride that turns into a bikini-filled horror show, Shue going for an unexpected midnight swim and Szohr getting freaked out that “there’s something in the water!”
Indeed there is, Jessica. Indeed there is. “It’s a fun horror movie,” Scheer told us recently. “The same way when you saw ‘Jaws,’ and you were like, ‘Oh, this is fun.’ Lately a lot of horror is like, ‘I’m going to cut your toe off with this razor blade.’ This is going back to the date, fun horror movie.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Piranha 3D.”
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