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INTO THE BLUE

Diving In
Director John Stockwell enjoyed considerable success guiding the surfing adventure Blue Crush, which was set amidst the crashing waves of Oahu, Hawaii. A longtime surfer as well as a diver, he found himself drawn once again to work in and under the water when he accepted the offer to helm Into the Blue. "There was something about going back on to the water, as well as going underwater, that was a real challenge,” says Stockwell, who also directed the romantic drama Crazy/Beautiful. "I thought the script for Into the Blue had real drive and originality. Also, I like being on the water, and 70 percent of this film was designed to take place on or below the waterline.”

After scouting locations in such places as Florida and the Cayman Islands, the filmmakers settled on the Bahamian island of New Providence, home to the colorful capital city of Nassau, as their setting. Although the other areas had their plus points, explains producer David A. Zelon, New Providence brought together all the necessities for an arduous sea-based production.

"We came here for the crystal clear water quality and the sharks, which are in almost every scene,” says Zelon, "as well as for the unmatched beauty of the island and the wealth of skilled workers and actors in Nassau. We wanted a very natural look, and John wanted to use as many Bahamians as he could to create a natural feel for the film.”

One of the first Bahamians recruited aboard was veteran shark and diving expert Stuart Cove, who has brought his underwater expertise to such marine-based productions as Thunderball and Flipper. Even for an old salt like Cove, the demands of Into the Blue at first seemed a bit daunting, he confesses.

"In terms of underwater scenes, the only other movie I can think of that comes close to this was Thunderball,” says Cove, whose dive operation, Stuart Cove's, is one of the largest in the Caribbean. "But Into the Blue has it all — free diving, sharks, airplanes crashing into the sea, huge fight scenes, and almost half of the filming took place underwater.”

The filmmakers employed many of Cove's boats as well as his guidance, making use of several of his launches and employees throughout the six months of production. Cove says he was impressed by the film unit's concern for safety and conservation. "The most important thing for me in taking the job was: ‘Are they going to be environmentally friendly?'” Cove admits. "I'm happy to say that in my 25 years of film work, this has been the most environmentally friendly group I ever worked with. They also hired the most Bahamians to work on the film, which was a boon for the local economy.”

One of Stockwell's main concerns about shooting underwater was how long his actors could stand the water temperature. Even though the film was set in the temperate seas of the Bahamas, most of the filming took place during the comparatively chilly winter months. "January through March are warm by most standards, but the water temperature is only about 70 degrees,” says Stockwell. "That means the actors, especially if they are free diving in board shorts or a bikini, are still going to feel hypothermic after only about 20 minutes in the water. The actors would definitely be suffering for their art.”

The fast growing sport of free diving is similar to snorkeling in that the swimmers wear snorkel masks but closer to scuba diving in that they voyage into deep water for extended periods. Beginners venture as deep as 30 feet for as long as 45 seconds. More "extreme” and experienced divers go much farther down — the current record being 335 feet — for several minutes at a time.

Choosing an athletic cast that would be able to quickly adapt to the largely underwater environment was Stockwell's most serious task. He was looking for performers who would be at home in the sea an

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