Later tonight, 47 Meters Down swims its way into theaters everywhere, and the action-fueled horror movie has had quite a wild ride so far. It was originally set to be released on home media last summer, only to be picked up by Entertainment Studios and become destined to hit big screens everywhere this weekend.

During a recent press day, Daily Dead had the opportunity to chat with two of the co-stars in 47 Meters Down, Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, Stranger Things) and Yani Gellman (Urban Legends: Final Cut, Stoney from Jason X), who play a boat captain and potential suitor to one of the film’s heroines, respectively. The duo discussed what intrigued them about the project, the challenges of making the film, and recalled 47 Meters Down’s unusual journey into theaters.

What was it that initially attracted you to this project? Had you seen any of Johannes [Roberts'] prior films?

Matthew Modine: I was not familiar with his work, but he sent me the script. It was one of those things where, there was a movie my friend Kiefer Sutherland was in called Phone Booth, where he was predominately on the phone for most of the film while that guy was locked in the phone booth, and it was directed by Joel Schumacher. This film reminded me of those elements that made Phone Booth so great. It was a horror film, a suspenseful film, but without that supernatural thing that horror films have to have in order to work.

I had long talks with Stanley Kubrick, while we took two years making Full Metal Jacket, about why horror films are so popular and what is the attraction there. We boiled it down to, after many discussions, that if there’s something evil in the world, something like a vampire that comes back to life, then there’s some hope and promise of there being something good after it. So, we put ourselves through this horrific trauma in hopes that there is good, and maybe that there’s life after death. I think it also ties into the same reason people go to church.

Did you make any connections to this project and the seminal shark movie that most fans think of as one of the very best, Jaws? Both approaches are very grounded in reality. 

Matthew Modine: Well, this was a horror film without the supernatural. It is something that could happen, might happen, does happen, and I just thought that it was really suspenseful. I love Peter Benchley’s book Jaws, and it was so incredible because the presence of the shark was so mysterious. It was quite different in the film—the shark seemed to have a consciousness and an agenda, that it really wanted to get that boat and those people on the boat. But in Benchley’s book, it was more of a mysterious force of nature, and I think in that way, this film could be perceived as similar.

This film is super ambitious and Johannes really seemed to put a few of you guys through your paces. Is there anything that you shot while in production that didn’t make it into the final version of 47 Meters Down?

Yani Gellman: We haven’t actually seen the film, just a few clips here and there. I’m actually looking forward to seeing it with an audience. When we were making it, I wasn’t exactly sure how they were going to pull it off because so much of it happens under the water. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a film where so much of the drama takes place underwater, so a tremendous amount of work has been done in post to make this world and environment look as real as it does.

I’m just totally stoked to see what it’s like with an audience and to see what they do. We actually filmed a couple of different endings, so we’re not exactly sure how it ends, either. But there is one in particular that we really like, so we’re hoping they went with that, but we won’t know until we see the film.

Yani, you’re no stranger to the world of horror. Can you talk more about how your character functions in this film? 

Yani Gellman: Yeah, I’m a bit of a canary in the coal mine in this [laughs]. I go down with my other boat hand, Santiago [Segura, who plays Benjamin], to test the equipment and show that it’s safe, so we go down and there’s no incident. We come up and it’s time for the ladies to go in, and that’s where the story kind of takes a turn. I’m guilty really of just trying to make time with Mandy Moore’s character and getting them out onto the boat and try and show them a good time. If anything, I’m mostly just guilty of a love crime more than anything.

Did you guys have to do any kind of special training to prepare for 47 Meters Down? Did Johannes take you out to swim with sharks or anything like that?

Yani Gellman: Well, we never went out swimming with sharks, but we did take a scuba diving training course. Matthew has done a lot of diving, but I am new to all of this, and working on this film was one of my first times scuba diving. So yeah, I got a bit of a taste for it, just enough to know that it’s something I’d love to continue doing.

It’s just a whole other world down there, where you’re almost on an alien planet—the colors, every element takes on new meaning, whether it’s hearing your own breath or feeling your heart beat or communicating with other people. It really makes you appreciate these things we take for granted up here on land, and you can’t be anything but changed by going down there. Your appreciation for marine life just goes through the roof and it really opened my eyes to how important and fragile those environments are, and how much we need to do in order to protect them.

The release of 47 Meters Down has been kind of wild, especially since the movie got pulled from its home release last summer as it was on the way out to be sold in stores. How wild was that for you guys, not knowing just what exactly was going on with the film? 

Matthew Modine: It’s kind of a fantastic story. This film was made under the Harvey Weinstein/Bob Weinstein low-budget feature model, where they were doing this project for a certain amount of money. I don’t know much about The Weinstein Company, but I do know they had some films that hadn’t done well. They were very pleased with this movie and Harvey invested another million dollars in the visual effects, too, but still decided it was best to release the film in DVD form.

It was in the trucks, boxed up and on its way to the stores with a different title, and our new distributor Byron Allen saw the film and loved it, and said this has the potential to be a huge summer movie. He called Bob Weinstein or Harvey—one of the two—and told them that he wanted to buy the movie. They told him that if he wanted to buy the movie, Byron had to come up with the money at that moment because this film was in boxes and being distributed to big box stores the next day.

So Byron took a gamble, found the money, bought the film, and here we are. And I think, in this case, Byron’s got a shark by the tail because my father was a drive-in theater manager, and this is the kind of movie my father prayed for during the summer months. It just has this crowd-pleasing fun popcorn movie feel to it, and those types of films do very well in the summer months.


In case you missed them, check out Heather's review of 47 Meters Down and her interview with co-stars Mandy Moore and Claire Holt.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.