Anne McDaniels may look like a run-of-the-mill scream queen, but don't let that fool you. Sure, she was a former cheerleader for the Minnesota Vikings and her resume includes a role with “pole dancer” in the title. But she speaks with a confidence that bigger stars might envy and her responses display an acumen that suggests a lot more than a flash in the plan. Her latest film, Poseidon Rex, is a big goofy monster movie, something the actress took to with gusto. In an exclusive interview with Mania, she talked about the shoot and the challenges of making a film on location.
Question: How did you get involved in the project? What did you see in it?
Anne McDaniels: I thought it was a fun script, with a chance to do some things I hadn't before. I originally tested for the college girl, but the director, Mark Lester, wanted me to come back for the lead. You don't have to tell an actor twice when you get offered a lead! I got the call that said I had the part at Christmas, just at the end of all that holiday feasting. It pretty much meant I didn't get to eat in January! But I went off to Belize and it was a really awesome time. I've always been a bit of a jock and I got to do all of my own stunts here. There was one scene with the Blue Hole where they had a German scuba diver double for me. I don't scuba dive at that depth, so they needed to get someone else in there, but the rest was all me. It was actually pretty incredible. I was trained by one of Prince Harry's SAS boys. Unless it's extremely dangerous, I love any shoot that involves those kind of physical challenges. As long as the stunt work is rigged by professionals and the production puts safety first, I'm up for whatever they might throw at me.
Q: Including the ubiquitous ping pong ball on a stick.
AM: Yeah. [Laughs.] The make-believe part is actually a lot of fun. The setting helps. You're in the water, you're in the jungle, that's going to carry a lot of weight. It's not that hard to close your eyes and pop a giant dinosaur into the middle of it all, a lot easier than it would be on a sound stage with the green screen. That can be the best part of acting. You get to be a kid and use your imagination. It keeps you in touch with that side of yourself. People pay very expensive therapists for the same process. If you're lucky enough to land the gig, they pay you! [Laughs.]
Q: How much acting gets involved on those money shots? There's always the question of how you stay in character when you have some kind of physical demand like that.
AM: Good question. In most cases, you try to use the adrenaline to feed it, and the character is often just as scared as you are. We had some shots in shark-infested waters here. It's perfectly safe -- most sharks are pretty harmless -- but I have an intense phobia of sharks. And oh, I had to play scared? Wow, that's gonna be tough! [Laughs.] As long as the emotional tone matches that adrenaline and that fear, you do fine. Trying to mask it in those situations gets a lot harder.
Q: How challenging was shooting on location?
AM: The shooting itself was fine. But there are mosquitoes there that you wouldn't believe! I'm from Wisconsin and we know mosquitoes up there, but Belize has them all beat. We were getting eaten alive! The rest of it was fine, though. And as I said earlier, it really helps you get into the mood of the piece. The jungle and the water and the heat.
Q: With films like this, which have that cheesiness built into it -- it's part of the appeal -- do you have to work harder to play it straight? Or do you get to wink at the camera a little bit more than you might?
AM: I love to go sexy and cheesy and play it a little broader. But with films like this, you let the situation bring the fun. It's my job to make the character as authentic as possible -- to make the situation as believable as possible no matter how ridiculous it will eventually look. The effects and the director will add that layer of drive-in fun to it. If you wink to much, if you get too broad, then the fun is ruined. It's a little ironic, but that's how these projects work.
Q: You're in an industry where work equals victory, but do you have any thoughts as to where you'd like to go with your career? Roles beyond the sort of scream queen template?
AM: Typecasting can be your enemy and your friend at the same time. It helps you get work, but eventually you want to push forward. I've been very lucky to work a lot in this industry. I've had a lot of opportunities and I wouldn't trade a single one. But they definitely have a type for me. I get a lot of sorority girls and pole dancers. My friends and family keep saying, "you're so smart, why don't you get more doctors and lawyers to play?" Little do they know that it doesn't work that way.
But I'm working at it and I think those chances will come. I think I can play more intelligent and I'd love to have the opportunity. And I don't think smart and sexy are mutually incompatible. Sharon Stone did it every time she made a movie, and she was fantastic at it! I loved her character roles and the kind of choices she made. It's a good template to work from. You always want to be reaching for higher goals.