James Tupper has made a name for himself in such diverse projects as the hit HBO series Big Little Lies, the ABC series Men in Trees, and Revenge, the NBC medical drama Mercy, and numerous movies.
An aficionado of the sci-fi, thriller, and horror genres, he is starring alongside long-time pal Alicia Silverstone (The Baby-Sitters Club) in the new thriller, The Requin, about terror in paradise. It was directed by Le-Van Kiet (Furie).
The movie is about Kyle (Tupper) and Jaelyn (Silverstone) who arrive at a remote seaside villa in Vietnam for a romantic getaway only to be met by a torrential storm that reduces the villa to a little more than a raft.
Soon, the young couple is swept out to sea when a school of great white sharks appears. While her injured husband watches helplessly, Jaelyn must battle the deadly predators alone in the tense thriller that rides an unrelenting wave of fear.
Tupper says that he identified with his character in the movie because he felt like his personal safety was in jeopardy about a year ago when he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“COVID is a weird thing because you get it, and it started in my throat and went down into my chest, and I hoped my body could fight it off,” Tupper exclusively told Monsters and Critics. “In the morning you don’t know if you are going to wake up as one of the lucky ones, so that was immensely difficult.”
“My takeaway from that is to live every day and not try to just be on a project. Let’s try to slow down and live the life that we have and love the moments that we have. I have totally shifted the way I think about the world because of this movie and my experience with COVID.”
Monsters & Critics: What attracted you to this movie, The Requin?
James Tupper: I think every actor loves to do Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. In the back of their mind, they think it would be nice one day to be James Bond. It was a stunt film; it was a film filled with action stuff every day. I didn’t have to learn a lot about speeches. I just had to go out and play. That was a dream come true. It was a dream to be the action hero.
M&C: When you’re making a movie that is heart-pounding for me to watch, is it always heart-pounding when you’re doing those scenes, even though a lot of it is Hollywood magic?
James Tupper: Yes, it was hard. We were in the water. We shot chronologically, so the first few weeks or whatever we were dry on land, and after that, we got into the water. We just shot every day, 6 a.m. we’d get there, and you can’t wear a wetsuit.
All the people looking after us were in wetsuits, and they were hey James, good morning. You would dive into this freezing cold water. They had a guy checking our core body temperatures to make sure they didn’t drop below a certain level. A few times, it was dicey, and they got us out, and they gave us hot towels and hot water.
M&C: How cold was that water?
James Tupper: It was in the 60s. It was different all the time. Depended if you got out if there was a gusty wind; you’d get cold, and you’d dive back in. I wouldn’t say it was very comfortable to shoot.
M&C: How long was the film shoot?
James Tupper: A few months.
M&C: Where were you?
James: It takes place in Vietnam. We were originally going to shoot it in the water tanks in Rosarito, Mexico, where they shot The Titanic. Then it was too cold there. So, we went to Tulum, and then we went to studios in Orlando, Florida.
M&C: So, how do you feel about sharks?
James Tupper: I like sharks. Sharks don’t like us. They bite us, and they’re like ‘yuck.’ We’re like okra.
M&C: I used to live in Fort Pierce, Florida, and watched the surfers surrounded by sharks on what they called ‘perfect surfing days.’
James Tupper: They don’t want to eat us. They want to eat a seal. My question is why are these surfers dressing up to look exactly like a seal? Why don’t have they have a bright orange suit on or something? What are they thinking?
M&C: You knew Alicia Silverstone before this movie?
James Tupper: Yes. I worked with her in American Woman on Paramount TV. You won’t recognize me from that. I had big sideburns and a big mustache. It was really funny. I hadn’t seen her in four or five years.
I had a meeting with this director, and he wanted to do a film about her relationship. He wanted the shark to be something that happened. He wanted to explore an adult relationship. We started talking, and we got into some deep things. We had a three- or four-hour lunch, and then at the end of it, he said, I want you to do it. I think this will work. I think he knew that I had met Alicia before.
M&C: I hear Alicia influenced you to change your diet.
James Tupper: I was just a regular guy on the show and the first day she’s like, ‘Do you want to do vegan with me,’ because we were in a bubble. I agreed and three days into it, my body changed, and all the inflammation went away. Everything became very regular. I was sleeping really well. I’m like what is going on?
It wasn’t even that I was eating things I didn’t love. I was eating French fries; I was eating fun things. Every meal my body could just easily process. It was just filled with fiber. And we quit having dairy. It was unbelievable. The difference even in the first week was unbelievable. You don’t have to wait a long time to feel it.
M&C: Do you and Alicia talk about parenting a lot because I know she’s a really devoted mom.
James Tupper: We both had our children on the set. They were together. They were in the bubble together the entire time. We would go shoot, and her son, Bear, and my son Atlas would be hanging out together and become very, very good friends. I would do beautiful photos of them wrestling around the park every day. They would do online school, then they would come to set after we would have lunch or whatever, they would watch the shooting.
My son is 12 years old, and he thinks I’m cool. I know that’s never going to happen again. He saw the trailer for this, and it’s been shared like 900 times on TikTok with his friends. He’s like, dad, you’re actually cool.
M&C: Do you think Atlas wants to go into acting or writing or directing?
James Tupper: He wants to be a tennis player right now. He plays tennis every day.
M&C: I see this movie as a metaphor. We’re living in these troubled times of COVID-19 and other things happening to us, and maybe we need a little wake-up call to, like you said, to slow down and see what our priorities are.
James Tupper: When you said that, I relate to that. It’s just a big change. Then you’re forcing yourself to ask, what is it I want from this life? What am I doing? What’s important? How do I figure out how to love this moment and not have anxiety?
Just love it and take care of it. Tonight, I’m taking my son to play tennis for two hours. I had to stop all the stuff that you’re doing and just do that and just enjoy that. Honestly, you think it’s going to go on for years, and you just don’t know.
M&C: Is there a philosophy you find kindship with in terms of how you live your life and embrace each and every day?
James Tupper: Did you ever read the inspiring book Tuesdays with Morrie?
Yes, I also interviewed the author, Mitch Albom.
James Tupper: So, the student asks Morrie, what is it that you would do if you had an extra day? He goes, ‘I’d wake up, I’d go to school and I would teach a class, I’d go for coffee,’ everything he did in his life. And the student asks him wouldn’t he go to Jamaica or an exotic place? And he’s like, ‘No, I would just live one more day and I’d have just one more chance to enjoy it.’ That’s the key.
M&C: Who inspires you to be your best self?
James Tupper: I was really inspired probably the most in my whole life – do you know Jean-Marc Vallee? He was a director; he did Big Little Lies. He passed away on Christmas day this year. To me, he was an inspiration. He lived his life; he was still creative, and he was such a force of nature. He did it all with such love and kindness. It was unbelievable.
M&C: That was an extraordinary series; everyone is still talking about it.
James Tupper: It was great to be part of it. It’s amazing
Why do you want my readers to see this movie?
James Tupper: I think this movie is a relationship drama. Nora Ephron has this great thing. She said, “nobody really knows what’s going on in a relationship, including the two people that are in it.”
I think Kyle is trying to figure out how to have a relationship and deal with loss and heal with his wife, and then along comes this great force of nature that knocks on their door. And they’re forced to figure out, to reckon with what’s really important in their life. I would watch it because I think that’s a really fun ride.
M&C: Do you know what your next project is?
James Tupper: I don’t have the next project right now. I’m taking a little break.
M&C: Are we learning as a society after COVID and after all this lockdown and illness and problems?
James Tupper: Yes, I think we are. I think we’re figuring stuff out. I like this idea that where everybody suddenly wants to do a romantic comedy. That’s what everybody is talking to me about. That’s fun. You don’t want to do dark stuff. Maybe the whole population is looking up, looking towards love, wants inspiration.
M&C: What is your definition of success?
James Tupper: Being awake, being alive, enjoying your moment right now. Not later, not in 10 minutes. Now! That’s success!
From Saban Films, The Requin is in theaters, on-demand, and digital.
If you want to read about more thrilling content check out Exclusive: Audra McDonald tells tales of lovers, lockdown, and Zombies