Creature Feature Interviews
Annabel Wright (Lake Placid vs Anaconda, Blood in the Water)
When film franchises make the transition from the cinematic gloss of big budget theatrical releases to the discounted but arguably more creative free world of the direct-to-TV release, it’s often seen as the final nail in the franchise coffin. However there are two series that have defied the odds and not only survived the transition but have thrived.
The Anaconda and Lake Placid franchises both transitioned to the Syfy Channel and now, 16 years after their first installments they have both reached the fifth film in their respective franchises with a crossover dual that pitches the Crocodiles of Black Lake against the Blood Orchid enthused Anacondas from the Amazon.
When Murdoch’s daughter and Jim Bickerman unwittingly unleash Blood Orchid enhanced Anacondas and the Crocodiles of Black Lake on the neighboring Clear Lake, it’s up to Sheriff Reba and Fish & Game warden Tully to save a group of vacationing Sorority Girls and put an end to this madness once and for all. But how many human lives will be lost in the climatic battle of the Crocodiles of Lake Placid vs Anaconda!
I had a chance to ask the wonderful actress Annabel Wright a few questions about her role as the lead villainess Sarah Murdoch in Lake Placid vs Anaconda. Read on for a fun little interview in which we discuss working with Robert Englund, conquering her fear of snakes, boat building and her in-development cookery show….
[JS] How did you get into acting? And why?
[AW] I had my first experience of being on stage aged 3. My parents had taken me to a variety entertainment show, I was pretty small and had to sit on a load of folded coats to see the stage, but I was utterly engrossed in the performances. At one point a man with a variety of musical instruments asked if there were any children who would like to come up on stage and help him with his act, before my parents had blinked I had jumped up and was standing on the seat, arms waving. I was invited up on stage and I got to play the trombone in front of a large audience and curtsy, I received a big round of applause, I couldn’t stop smiling – I’m sure in part because I managed to get a sound out of the trombone and it was nearly as big as I was!
I also loved watching old black and white movies as a kid and I would have great fun dressing up and acting out scenes with my friends in the garden. It was around aged 3 that I announced to my parents – “I’m going to be an actress when I grow up” – I think they humoured me at the time and said something like – “well if you’re really serious you’ll have to go to RADA” (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) – it was the only drama school they had heard of at the time. The goal was set, and that is where I auditioned and got accepted. Theatre was where my passion really started, but I also love film, and some of the TV series out there at the moment are phenomenal.
How did you get involved with Lake Placid vs Anaconda?
I was cast as the female lead a few years back in a movie called Lightning Strikes, which was all about a blue lightning monster for the same company. Since that time the casting director Gillian Hawser always calls me in for anything suitable for me. I actually read for Sarah Murdoch back in September 2013. I was offered it then but they cancelled the scheduled November filming dates as they felt it would be too cold…. Not least for all the girls in their bikinis! I kind of forgot about it, as I had started doing other projects by 2014. My agent got a call around June to see if I was available in August to still do LP – fortunately I did have a couple of weeks free.
Had you seen any of the Lake Placid or Anaconda movies before?
I had seen the first Lake Placid movie years before, so to get into the mood I did watch it again with my husband before I flew out to Bulgaria.
How about any other creature features?
I’ve seen a few creature features over the years – Arachnophobia and The Fly, which is brilliant but also so gross! Of course I’ve seen the Jaws movies, which I guess got the creature feature ball moving. Snakes on a plane – I think I watched most of it behind the sofa – spiders I’m ok with, ironically snakes I’m not so keen on! Of course playing Sarah I had to find a love and appreciation for the largest of snakes! These movies are the brilliant combination of anticipation, surprise and fear, which is I guess what keeps audiences wanting more.
How would you describe Sarah Murdoch?
Sarah is from a privileged wealthy background and has been spoilt growing up, always getting what she wants. From the outside she is a grade one bitch but in order to play a bitch you have to understand where that comes from. I think she might have been privileged monetarily but suffered a great lack of love from her parents. I think she was driven by her desire to get attention/love from her father and in his death her ruthless determination is only made stronger – like she has to prove herself beyond what he started.
John Rhys Davies played daddy Murdoch in Anaconda 3 & 4 and those are some pretty big shoes to fill; did you look at his performance for inspiration?
John Rhys Davies is a great actor – so, of course you want to make sure you are considering his performance and the family history – I watched some clips from the Anaconda movies to get an overview, but I also wanted to carve out my own character.
The shoot was challenging as it was incredibly hot on some days so keeping cool was key between takes. But all the cast and crew were great fun to work with and it’s always fun doing a shoot, which requires a lot of imagination and tongue in cheek humour! 😉
What was it like to act alongside B-movie stars like Yancy Butler, Corin Nemec and Robert Englund?
I had more scenes with Robert Englund than Yancy and Colin and it was such an honour to work with Robert. He is an absolute professional and a lovely guy with an incredible amount of energy. I really enjoyed our scenes together – he is a living legend! Yancy and Colin I got to work with on the big group scenes and they were a lot of fun too.
What was it like filming in Bulgaria? How did it differ to filming in the UK?
Well having filmed Lightning Strikes in one of the coldest winters on record in Bulgaria a few years before, I had an idea of what to expect, although I was definitely looking forward to filming in the warmer weather. The scenery is really beautiful and there is a lot of unspoilt land, which makes it ideal for filming different “American-looking landscapes.” The film crews in Bulgaria are friendly/happy and work incredibly hard; the hours they work are generally longer than perhaps you would see in the UK.
What is it like filming with giant CGI snakes and crocodiles? Did you have any practical effects on set to help?
Actually most of the work was done with eye line points and voice cues read in by the first AD [1st Assistant Director] or the director. It was really important that we were all clear where and when to look in the relevant places. We would then have to use our imaginations to have the pictures of the animal action. Sometimes they had a fibreglass replica of the crocodiles for smaller action moments.
How would you briefly describe Blood in the Water and your character, Louise Vansant? How did the production differ to shooting LPvA?
Well the great thing about Blood in the Water was that it was based on the real life events of the shark attacks that happened around the Matawan Creek area, New Jersey in 1916, so there was a lot of research available to me. Louise Vansant was a young women on vacation with her family and whilst at the beach she watches her brother Charles go swimming out to sea with a dog, and she witnesses this gruesome shark attack on her brother. I shot it partly in Pinewood Studios and I also had a week in Malta filming on a beach. They had a life size shark that the camera men in diving gear actually operated from inside so you get a great POV from the shark but also from the water’s edge, it looked pretty convincing too. The make-up artists did an incredible job with the shark victims wounds and they would also use real amputees in some cases. So in some ways this was an easier shoot, in that I had very convincing “props/make-up” to work with.
Do you have any advice for surviving a crocodile or snake attack?
Always look where you are going and try not to disturb them in the first place! 😉 I guess if you are in the unfortunate position of being attacked make sure you have some good punching techniques and a sharp knife to hand!
What have you got coming up in the future and would you return to creature features?
I’m developing a cooking show to go with my blog: bellasfreestylekitchen.com and a TV drama series that I am writing which is a bit kinky! Of course there are always meetings for various film/TV/theatre projects going on which I’m fitting in around building a 70ft narrow boat with my husband – the shell has been built by a brilliant boat-building team, Andy and Jez at Andicraft Fabrications up in Debdale Wharf near Market Harborough. The interior fit-out we are doing ourselves. The plan is we’ll live on it whilst cruising the canal network. As my husband and I are both actors it gives us the flexibility we need to be near to London or away from it when we need a break. As for doing more creature features – I never say never! I just love the variety of my career Shakespeare one minute, giant Anacondas the next! It would be great to work with Robert Englund again…
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A big thank you to Ms Wright for agreeing to take part!
For more information on Annabel Wright, you can:
visit her IMDB profile
follow her on Twitter
For more information on Lake Placid vs Anaconda, check out it’s Feature Profile
Also make sure you check out Bella’s Freestyle Kitchen’s official website
And hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for catch Bella’s Freestyle Kitchen on all good cookery channels!