[Fantastic Fest] ‘Piggy’ Filled With Incredible Heart and Wonderful Terror

To highlight the release of Maneater, star Nicky Whelan chatted with iHorror on how the film was made.

The latest killer shark film, Maneater, shows no mercy and does a splendid job of delivering a high body count. This film has received gaping reviews, many are hating on it, but I plan on showing this film a little love. The film is not overwhelming or astounding, but I had a great time! Right away, the audience receives death and wastes no time setting the story up for more. The question is asked early on, “who will live and who will die?” Director Lee isn’t camera shy and has no qualms about lingering over the gore caused by the massive shark. 

We’ve all seen different variations of Great White Sharks throughout our favorite shark movies; some are better than others. This shark does change quite often throughout the film, the look, and the size quite noticeably, and this still did not stop me from having a fabulous time. Sometimes you do your best with what you have; I respect that with cinema, and I am just a sucker for shark films, ha! 

I believe sometimes we don’t watch killer shark movies for the plot or characters, but it’s a pure bonus when we get something more! 

Despite many of the cast members being picked off one by one, some very quickly, there was some character development, especially with Jessie (Nicky Whelan). Jessie had just come out of a long-term relationship, and her friends dragged and “made” her come to this tropical paradise with them. The story is kept relatively simple, and sometimes it can become a bit cliché, but hell, I didn’t mind; it was a bloody good time! 

MANEATER is now available in theaters, digital, and on-demand from Saban Films. 

Synopsis: Jesse and her friends’ idyllic island vacation turns into a gruesome nightmare when they become the target of an unrelenting great white shark. Desperate to survive, she teams up with a local sea captain to stop the vicious maneater before it strikes again in this heart-pounding thriller.

I had the privilege of speaking with star Nicky Whelan (Jessie) from the film. Nicky was a blast, and I hope I can talk to her again about her future projects. We spoke about Maneater, of course, and touched upon her work with Rob Zombie, upcoming features, and Halloween traditions in Australia (where she grew up). Check out our conversation below; you’ll be glad you did. 

Conversation With Actress Nicky Whelan

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Nicky Whelan: Hi, Ryan. 

iHorror: Hi, Nicky, how are you? 

NW: I am well, thank you, love; how are you? 

iH: I am doing good; thank you so much for taking my call today. I have a few questions; first and foremost, I enjoyed the film. I enjoyed the characters, and it was what I was looking for; it fit in well with my weekend watch, and there were many great things about it. The cinematography was gorgeous; it was beautifully shot. A couple of the characters I did care about, especially Captain Wally, I was so upset when the shark ate him. Both of your characters had such good chemistry; I was hoping there would have been something. 

NW: I think in the earlier script, there was something that was going to happen with our characters, and I do not know why it didn’t go in that direction; something had changed in the script. To be honest with you, I liked how it didn’t turn into a romantic story, and it came more about the independent vibe that my character got to have and the father/daughter connection that was developed with the Trace Adkins character [Harlan]. So it’s interesting that you say that, yet I like the way we went with the ending because it wasn’t your typical sort of ending; I kinda liked it.

(L – R) Shane West as Will Coulter and Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

iH: It was different. It was great either way. When you got attached to the project, was it a normal interview, or was there anything special about you getting attached? 

NW: You know, I’ve worked with those guys before, and they sent me the script, and I was like, ‘oh my goodness, a shark movie, let’s do this.’ Shark movies are great; they come out all the time and have a huge following. People have either made crazy ridiculous ones or realistic ones; people have a thing for shark movies. I was like, ‘okay, let’s give this a crack,’ and it was in Hawaii, and I am like, ‘yes, please.’

iH: I actually didn’t know that; now it’s usually one hundred percent CGI. 

NW: Absolutely, and obviously, we did use a CGI shark throughout the movie, but there are moments where Justin [Lee, Director] wanted to use it, and we were like, ‘okay, let’s do this, it’s gonna drive us all crazy but let’s give it a crack’ [laughs]. 

iH: Was there anything in particular about the shoot that was challenging or difficult? 

NW: The entire production, it was an independent shark movie being made in 18 days with a mechanical shark under pretty crazy conditions. As an entire team, we really went in old school. It was very challenging; the water conditions were full on, and we had limited time and money, so we were proud of the result. I was personally challenged physically on this movie. I wasn’t prepared to do the swimming [laughs]. I was like, ‘oh shit.’ I consider myself sort of fit, but this kicked my ass, and I was exhausted from swimming in the water all day and the ocean. The locals really took care of us, and we felt very safe. The boiling heat and rough water and early starts. It was a lot. Using the mechanical shark and having the puppeteers there, lugging this thing in and out of the water. The camera crew was standing in the water for hours, not knowing what was at their feet; it was no joke; I was scared a few times [shrieks, laughs]. It was full-on. 

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

iH: Did you see anything in the water when you were there? 

NW: No, just a few fish. It was the beautiful waters of Hawaii. It was very safe; Hawaii is a great place. I have been there many times before. It wasn’t so much of the fear of what was in the water. I was sometimes a little nervous because I couldn’t see the bottom, and I was like, ‘what am I standing on?’ Something squishy and a rock, ‘what is going on?’ [Squeels] [Laughs] The locals rest assured ‘you’re good,’ and I put my trust in them. I was exhausted; the choppy water really exhausted me. 

iH: I bet; I couldn’t have done it. That is a testament to the dedication of everyone involved. That is just awesome, it sounds like it was a close-knit group, and eighteen days is just amazing; that is quick! 

NW: Honesty for a shark movie it’s insane; it’s not a lot of time. The budget was small, so you couldn’t do much of the stuff you wanted. This is why it was a tight group of people making the most of a situation, I was really proud of it, and we got it out there. 

iH: That is great, and has this experience, this move, in particular, made you think about directing? 

NW: If I am going to direct anything, it won’t be a shark movie. It is a real baller to take on that project, to be out on the water for eighteen days; you’ve got so much going up against you, it is a challenge. It is funny that you talk about directing; I love music videos old school; I was an 80’s baby; I would love to direct music videos which are completely center-left of ‘ManEater’ and what we are talking about, that would be somewhere I kind of would start. I can definitely appreciate what Justin [Lee], our Director, went through on this movie and the team trying to make this work under the conditions. It was satisfying to wrap up this move and walk away; it was a lot of work, and we were exhausted, but it felt good at the end of it. 

iH: I was looking through your IMDB, and it looks like you have an alligator film in the works? The Flood. 

NW: Yes, we’ve got shark movies, we’ve got alligator movies; I am taking on every scary animal on the planet. We’ve got The Flood coming out. I’ve got a comedy coming out, which was great to be a part of; I hadn’t been on a comedy set for a minute; it’s called The Nana Project. There is an action movie with Dolf Lungren and Luke Wilson coming out; I have been jumping around doing random projects doing some really different genres as I do [Laughs].

iH: That is awesome. I love hearing that!

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

NW: It definitely feels good; it’s not the same thing over and over again, that’s for sure. 

iH: I know that we spoke about ‘Jaws,’ but what is your favorite scary movie? 

NW: Honestly, my favorite scary movie is so hardcore, and I got to work with him: it is ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’ by Rob Zombie, with whom I did Halloween II. I love him; I love his work – that movie. I think I went to the movies and saw it a bunch of times. Old school, absolutely horrifying scary, and I loved it. 

iH: I did remember your character very briefly in Halloween II. 

NW: Yeah, it was more about getting to work with Rob Zombie. It was a small role. I was like, ‘send me to Atlanta; I want to be in the mix with those great people.’ Rob is amazing at horror; it was so cool, just a badass group of people; that was a good one. 

iH: He always does things, he has The Munsters coming out, and I can’t wait for that. 

NW: It looks amazing; good for him. He is always taking on projects like that. I love his take on stuff. 

(L – R) Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan and Trace Adkins as Harlan Burke in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films

iH: Do you currently live in Australia?

NW: No love, I have been in America for sixteen years. 

iH: I was just curious, are there any Halloween traditions in Australia? 

NW: There really wasn’t. Growing up, Halloween wasn’t huge. People now have jumped on board the whole dress-up thing now. In the past ten years, Australians do Halloweenie stuff; as a kid, we would not trick or treat; that was not part of the Australian culture; it was definitely an American thing. I am a Star Wars nerd, every Halloween, if I am not filming, you’ll see me as some sort of Jedi or with some extreme costume on, really taking advantage of Halloween; it’s my favorite holiday. 

iH: That is awesome; I know we have to wrap up; thank you so much for speaking with me; congratulations, and I hope to talk to you soon sometime about a different project. 

NW: Absolutely love, thank you very much. 

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