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Alicia Silverstone On Her New Shark Movie The Requin, Environmentalism, And Clueless Memories - Exclusive Interview

As if "Clueless" alum Alicia Silverstone needs any introduction. It's been nearly 27 years since Silverstone graced our screens as Cher Horowitz, donning her iconic yellow plaid ensemble that still sells out every Halloween. What many expected to be just another teen movie turned into a national phenomenon that laid the groundwork for the pop culture DNA of the '90s. 

Silverstone got her acting start with a guest role on the series "The Wonder Years" in 1992, later appearing in multiple Aerosmith videos before snagging the role of Cher. Her acting career only blossomed from there, winning roles like Batgirl in "Batman & Robin," Emily in "Excess Baggage," Eve in "Blast from the Past," and Heather in "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed." Most recently, Silverstone has been hard at work playing Elizabeth in the Netflix Original Series "The Baby-Sitters Club" and voicing Queen Marlena in "Masters of the Universe: Revelation." Now, fans can watch Silverstone star as Jaelyn in the survival shark attack thriller, "The Requin." The film covers everything from trauma, PTSD, and marital problems to entering into survival mode when facing a deadly situation. 

Alicia Silverstone spoke to Looper during an exclusive interview where she discussed "The Requin," explained why it's crucial to get help and go to therapy when you need it, and set the record straight about whose fault shark attacks really are — and what we can do better to help the environment. Silverstone also went down "Clueless" memory lane to explain how she forgot most offscreen moments with the cast and which lines she messed up during filming. Silverstone even revealed the one pop culture character she would reprise her role alongside for a short video.

Fighting through disaster

Your character Jaelyn is a badass woman who has to take things into her own hands during a disaster situation. So what draws you to strong women roles like this and what was it like having only yourself to act with through much of the film?

Well, I think I was really ... There [are] a few things. I love the script, and I loved Le-Van Kiet films. He's done many Vietnamese films, and I saw two of them that I really was moved by and felt like he had such a style [with] the way he got in the head of a woman that I hadn't really seen before. He says it's not a style, but if you see the movie "Furie" and then the other one, I think it's called "Gentle," it's the way he follows a woman's brain [that] is so sensitive and beautiful and warrior-like, it's so interesting.

I fell in love with his style and his filmmaking. For [Jaelyn], it's not that I saw her as a strong character. I guess what I saw was a really messed up woman who had lost her child at birth and was dealing with PTSD and really struggling. Her marriage is falling apart, and they're fighting for their marriage, and now they have to fight for their lives. I think that was really compelling to me.

Wading through the waters of trauma

Speaking of that trauma, Jaelyn's struggles with her miscarriage and the PTSD that she has from it are such powerful topics to cover. They are ones that we don't see often addressed in this way, despite how many people go through this issue. Is this something that drew you to the film, and why do you think it's important to normalize this subject that has become somewhat taboo?

I didn't see it as some kind of message. I think that self-improvement and doing work on yourself, for me, is a message that is important no matter what. I think that watching her struggle with this thing, what was interesting to me about it was that she was struggling with it, and her marriage was falling apart because of it. You can see how [Jaelyn and her husband] see glimmers of hope. They're starting to enjoy themselves on this trip. There's some lightness, there's some joy. Then he cuts his foot, and she [begins to struggle]. She sees blood everywhere, and she's like, "Aghhh," and she's trying to count and hold on and keep everything together, but she can't. They decide to go home because that's what's going to be best for her.

Who knows what's going to happen with their marriage? Is he [her husband] going to be able to handle this anymore? How willing is he to keep going with this? I think, because the trauma shifted from the past into the present, it made her forget it all. Not that it went away, but  ... throughout the film, it comes up again where she loses it, and ... she blames him for what he is not doing or doing because there's deep, deep, anger and rage in there. "How come you are not suffering the way I'm suffering for losing our child?" But no one's going to do it right. No one is going to be able to do this right because she's just suffering. I don't know [if] she has a therapist, that would be a really good idea for her.

That would be my recommendation and some PTSD workgroups, but perhaps she went, and they didn't work. I don't know, but it's all quite fresh too. It's only been, I think, two years, we had decided, maybe a year. I can't remember now. I think what she has to learn is that, what is right in front of you is more important than anything else. It's just [right now], because she falls in love with her husband again, I think. She lets go of everything, and she has to turn into a warrior to stay alive.

Jaelyn's heart will go on

There's a great scene in the movie where Jaelyn invites her husband to float on a large piece of debris. It almost felt like it was poking fun of Rose from "Titanic" in a way — there's room enough for both of them. Did that come up at all in filming and how do you think Jaelyn made some better choices than Rose in trying to save them both?

I remember, I think we did make that joke, but it wasn't intentional for the film. I think we were just joking about it on set, perhaps. That seems familiar, but there actually wasn't room on our little float at times. We'd have to adjust my body because my body weight and James' body weight would be a delicate balance ... his leg is in the water, and that is what's attracting the sharks. Often, I was like, "If you don't get on this thing, you're dead, you're a goner," but if he got on it, the whole thing would sink. So it was kind of funny.

Silverstone sets the record straight about shark attacks

There's a scene where Jaelyn is fishing trash out of the water, and while finding a partially full bottle of water in the moment is helpful, it brings up the questions of what we're doing to our oceans. So how do you think that we can preserve our incredible oceans, and why was that an important scene to have in the film — just to show that maybe we should be doing better?

Thank you for bringing that up. I think what we are trying to say is that our human behavior ... that water bottle was ours. That water bottle was part of our house that we had, and what we wish in this world is that everyone had their container and they would fill it up — their container and that the hotel would have a glass thing that you refill. That wouldn't have helped them to stay alive in that moment if they had a glass pitcher because it would've been dead broken, but I think what we, the director and I, talked about was a lot of the damage and what they're going through — the fact that the sharks are even coming near us — because sharks are beautiful and they mind their own business, and they don't hurt people.

[They hurt] so few people ... but when they do, it's just like when bears come into a neighborhood or coyotes, they're coming because we've taken their land. We're not sharing it fairly. We're taking it, and they don't have enough food. They have to come get it, and so it's the idea that we are harming nature, and so nature has to fight back, and then you are fighting against nature. 

That's what the whole movie is about: fighting nature, and also, her fighting her own nature and coming to terms with the [fact that] right now is more important than all [her] past sadness and trauma. "Will I survive?" So yes, I think it's a little subtle in the film. I think that they are guilty of not making the best choices, just like many people are on a daily — they're using plastic bags and plastic bottles and eating tons of animals, and all of that is [taking] a very big toll on our earth, and we will suffer because of it.

Rollin' with the Clueless cast

Switching gears a bit, "Clueless" is one of the most quoted films of all time. Given its incredible cast, were there any times that you or the cast broke during the movie or had trouble shooting a scene, and do you have any fun memories from set working with Paul Rudd or Brittany Murphy?

Oh, laughing on set. Hmm. I don't remember laughing a lot on set because I was so tired and I was working so hard, and I think I was there, 24/7, basically through that whole experience and the other people would come in, they'd role in, they're like day players ... they would come in and go away and come in and go away. They were just having a ball. 

I think the funniest time I had was when, three years ago, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, and Breckin Meyer and I were all in Chicago together [at C2E2 2019], and I never saw how joyous and funny they all were together because, like I said, I was working, working, working. We were all doing an interview together on stage, and they were so funny, the three of them together, these boys, and Donald was telling us about how I had gone to this party with him for his birthday during that time [filming "Clueless"], and I said, "I never went to your birthday party. I have no idea what you're talking about."

He said, "You were there." And Paul's like, "You were there. I was there." I said, "I was not there. I don't remember. I'm so sorry." And then they started telling another, and we were all laughing. And then we started telling another story they were telling, and I said, "Paul, I don't remember that." And Paul goes, "Do you remember making 'Clueless'?" 

This made me laugh. He was so funny. So I just said, "No, I wasn't having a party the whole time. You guys got to do your thing, and I was working." But it was a really good ... I'm so happy that movie has done so well and that people love it so much. Young people come over to me all the time who are just 18 and 16, and [they've] just discovered it. It's so sweet.

Just totally Clueless

Elisa Donovan told me that she didn't understand the "balls flying at my face" line back when she filmed the movie but then later realized what that meant. So are there any quotes, references, or innuendos that went over your head at the time that afterward, you're like, "Oh, that's what that meant?"

Well, there was one in particular, which is, I think I say, "The Haiteeans." I didn't know it's "The Haitians," and I just kept saying "Haitieeans," and I know that [director] Amy Heckerling stopped the script supervisor because everybody, when I first did it, they all were running to tell me I was saying it wrong. She was like, "stop," and she didn't let anybody go near me because she loved that I was saying it wrong. So there was that. I know I did it about "heifer," too. "Is it heifer, or" ... I don't know. Yeah, I think we ended up cutting it, or maybe it's in there, and she did correct that one, but I was saying that wrong for a minute too.

Legally Blonde meets Clueless?

Amy Heckerling has been pretty vocal about not wanting a sequel, which I actually think is a good call because it's such a quintessential '90s film, but I've always wanted to see how Cher would interact with Elle Woods [from] "Legally Blonde" because I feel like they're probably the fictional world's most badass and iconic female lawyers. How do you think Cher would get along with Elle, and do you think you would be open to reprising the role for a short mini-clip with her, something fun like that where they lawyer it up?

Well, I think that would be really fun, and you should pitch that idea. It's a good one. I think that they're a little too similar, aren't they? Isn't Elle sort of a version of ... They're similar in their design, but ... I don't know, but I'm game. [If] she wants to do it, I'm in.

"The Requin" is now playing in select theaters. It is also available on demand for digital rental and purchase.