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Does Year By The Sea have Karen Allen’s biggest stunts since Indiana Jones?

Karen Allen in Year By The Sea
Joan (Karen Allen) takes some time to herself in Year By The Sea

Okay, Year By The Sea isn’t as intense as Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Indiana Jones classic had Allen escape a flaming bar, chased in an Egyptian marketplace and trapped in an airplane cockpit.

In Year by the Sea, Allen goes clamming, swims with seals and rows a boat. That’s still not easy. Even the rowing could potentially aggravate a shoulder injury from doing yoga arm balances (she adds, getting hit by a wave in The Perfect Storm aggravated it too.)

“I don’t find rowing particularly hard,” Allen said. “I have a little bit of an issue in one of my shoulders from some past injuries so I was a little worried about the rowing. In fact, it was fine. We were quite close to shore. Maybe if you were really out to see and it was really choppy, windy weather or something but I didn’t do a lot of that rowing.”

Karen Allen and Year by the Sea costars
Joan (Karen Allen) makes some seaside friends

There was still some movie magic in wide shots, but give Allen credit for handling the oars.

“There are a couple of shots where someone stood in for some major, major rowing far out to sea because we didn’t want to injure my shoulder worse than it already is injured,” she said.

In Year by the Sea, Allen plays Joan, an author who takes a break to rediscover herself. Living in a seaside cabin, a lot of that self-discovery happens in the water.

“I have great respect for the water,” Allen said. “I love being at the sea. I love being in the sea but I have some trepidation about deep water. I have no desire to scuba dive. I have no desire really to swim in very, very deep water which I have done from time to time. I have to really keep my wits about me to not be a little overcome with fear.”

In real life, Allen’s father was a sailor so she has much experience with water. Swimming with seals was new for her.

Karen Allen winter run in Year by the Sea
A winter run, one of Karen Allen’s many “stunts” in Year by the Sea

“Seals aren’t easy to play with,” Allen said. “They want to keep their distance. I don’t know if there are seals that are human friendly or not but these were all wild seals on Monomoy island. They would allow me to get so close and no closer. I would say 30 or 40 feet, they would sense me even if they were sleeping. There’s nothing I would’ve loved more if they had let me come up close and touch them, but there was no way that was going to happen.”

Amateurs should probably keep their distance from seals too.

“Even though Joan writes about swimming with seals, it’s very dangerous to get in the water with seals,” Allen said. “Even though they probably wouldn’t deliberately be aggressive, they weigh 800 pounds. They’re all muscle. One flip of their tail, which they wouldn’t necessarily do to harm anybody, they could knock you unconscious in a New York second.”

Watch Karen Allen swim with the seals and row to shore in Year by the Sea, now on VOD.

Fred Topel has been a journalist since 1999. Over the decades he’s written for About.com, Hollywood.com, CraveOnline, Rotten Tomatoes and Slashfilm. Fred brings Monsters and... read more

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