James Tupper Discusses Sharks And Alicia Silverstone In The Requin - Exclusive Interview

Among the luxuries missed around the world when the COVID-19 pandemic ensued was viewing new films at the movie theater. While the pandemic remains ongoing, most theaters across the U.S. are up and running again and also making new content viewable each week just like in the beforetime. One of the latest to hit theaters is "The Requin," a film that follows other sea-based thrillers like Blake Lively's "The Shallows."

"The Requin" follows a married couple — Jaelyn (Alicia Silverstone) and Kyle (James Tupper) — who suffered a miscarriage at birth and have now spent most of their money on a vacation getaway to Vietnam in an attempt to heal. There, they surround themselves with delicious food and friendly faces, but a violent storm rips their water-bound villa off from the rest of its structure and casts them out to sea. They're forced to deal with dehydration, a broken leg, and, like the film's name suggests, starved sharks.

Luckily for us at The List, we got the chance to sit down and chat with Tupper, whose previous credits include "Big Little Lies," "Joe Dirt," and "A Million Little Things." He spilled new details not only about the filming of "The Requin" but also how he met Silverstone and the obstacles he overcame with this movie.

James Tupper on working with Alicia Silverstone

First up, what can you tell us and tease about the ["The Requin"]?

The shark is a metaphor, until it's actually chasing you in the water.

It seems fun, or not so fun.

I never had so much fun. We had so much fun shooting this. It's a bonding film and that happens between actors. Me and Alicia [Silverstone], we were in a COVID bubble and battling sharks, and that was just enough to make us lifetime friends.

Had you met her before the movie or was this your first time getting to build this relationship with her?

I worked with her on a little known television show called "American Woman" on [Paramount Network, and the show aired in 2018]. She was terrific. We got along really well. I was a recurring part on it and she was the lead. When this movie came up, I don't know if she said, "I want to work with him," but I ended up getting a meeting with the director. We had a three-hour lunch and he hired me from that. So I don't know how much [of a] hand she had in it, but she's always been terrific. We're close now. Both of us had our kid there, too. We're all in the bubble for it.

You didn't have to go through a traditional audition process or anything?

No, my body of work probably did it. I read the script and we talked about how I would do it and what was up, and I showed him a little bit. He's very bright because he wanted to make a film, a shark film, where you really get a chance to meet these people and find out what they're about. There's an issue in their relationship and they're working through it. Eventually, you forget that it's a shark movie and then suddenly ...

Speaking of that, the film really centers on the shared trauma between the two of you. We don't necessarily get to know as much background or as much other information about the characters. How did you approach bringing this character to life, given that we really only focus on that trauma?

We worked very specifically on all the stuff that happened. All of us understood exactly what happened. It's still water, but we understood the depth of it. When I started talking to him about it, we investigated ... what happened before it even started. You're right, it never comes out, does it? You understand that all that stuff is going on for both of these people. That's very attractive for an actor. That's very fun to do.

On how Big Little Lies prepared him for The Requin

It seems like you definitely got a lot of freedom with the character, really.

We did. Although, I do think it's the way a regular person would handle the situation.

In a similar way to your character on "Big Little Lies," a lot of his work and his arc was really tied to his marriage. How might your role on "Big Little Lies" have prepared you for this role?

That's really interesting, I never thought about that. I think of them as very different. Nathan on "Big Little Lies" is struggling so hard to fit in with all the rest of the people, wanted so desperately to be seen and respected. With Kyle, I think he's at the end of his rope within a relationship and he doesn't know how to go forward. He doesn't know how to explore it anymore. It's such a massive disappointment that they've suffered such a huge family loss, that he's just trying to figure out what is going on with his wife. Nora Ephron has this great thing she said: "Nobody ever really understands what's going on in a relationship, including the two people that are in it." I feel like Kyle is suffering from that. He can not figure out what's going on with his wife and how to reconcile it.

Your character suffers both from a broken leg and from stepping on coral. His other foot is also not working the best. How did you bring that to life? Had you experienced anything like this before?

I broke my leg for it. [Laughs] No, I was just kidding. A little method [acting]. "Does anyone have a hammer?" ... I've always really liked physical things. Some actors are really good vocally and then some are really good physically. I've always been on the physical side. I like dancing, and I like moving my body, and I like figuring out how to make that really feel real. It was really fun to do that.

How the film almost starred a younger couple

I will say that's one thing, you definitely, you can feel that in your character, you can feel the pain he was in, really.

Thank you. I think it's critically important because it forces her to become the one that's driving it.

This film ... I think it benefits from having such a small cast. What do you think the benefits are of having a small cast that really focuses on just this couple versus, do you prefer working in a small cast or a large cast? What are the benefits there?

Do you know what I like, really? Working with people that can do nuanced things, and Alicia is one of those actresses. It's the same with the "Big Little Lies" women. Everybody could do really special things. When I was doing "Big Little Lies," I felt like I was in the halftime of the NBA locker room in the final. Everybody could do special things with the ball, amazing things. You work at a scene, and it's a bit like jazz music. They can often do stuff and play and you just never know what's going to happen. It was really fun. 

I think if the film works, that's the area that it works in. [The director] wanted to hire actors that have been doing it for a while and understand how to do it and really know how to play and make scenes come to life. He did that intentionally. He wanted that. He originally thought of it as for 22, 25-year-old actors, and then he's like, "No. It would be better if it was people that were in a relationship with a lot to lose." A little bit older.

James Tupper on experiencing hypothermia while filming

Necause this film is both about a series of shark attacks and a natural disaster all in one, what challenges, if any, were presented to you when filming such atrocious things?

They took my temperature, I was hypothermic. We had to take breaks if our core temperatures dropped below ... We were in the water day after day. I remember at one point, they were like, "Okay, James, the camera's under water. The divers are there, just jump off the platform." I was shaking. They'd say, "Just do it, just do it, just do it." The physical challenge of shooting it played into the film a little bit to make it feel really real. The shark is a metaphor until it's chasing you in the water. By the way, why do they have to have a large shark? This is my fear before I started shooting, I was like, "What if they had a live shark and they put me in the wrong pool."

That would be insane.

Was this fear an irrational fear that I had?

I can see why, though, honestly.

It was fun.

You can catch James Tupper in "The Requin," now playing in select theaters and available to rent and purchase on demand.