What was it like to be Blake Lively’s doppelgänger in horror-thriller The Shallows

To get the part in the $31 million film shot on the Gold Coast and Lord Howe Island, I had every body dimension measured to ensure I matched 178cm-tall Blake Lively. Blake, 28, plays a young surfer, Nancy, forced to battle a bloody huge shark that traps her on a rock off shore a secluded Mexican beach.

Aside from measurements, the casting involved an on screen test and studio video in which I demonstrated catching a wave, lying on the ground and jumping to my feet. This is much easier than catching a real one…

‘Requirements – Female lead double must be very competent swimmer/surfer, Approx 5’10” in height, slim/athletic build – most of the shoot the double will be required to wear a bikini’.

A fan of the actress, having grown up watching her most famous role as Serena Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, I was thrilled at the opportunity to work alongside Blake and can confirm she is just as beautiful in real life.

Most mornings started at 4:30am in the hair and makeup chair at Village Road Shows, here much of the film was shot in a tank using blue screens. Surprisingly, I felt most comfortable is this tank, despite the huge crew, diver squad, lights, cameras and machinery.

(Image source: Gold Coast Bulletin) 

My transformation into Nancy begun with a spray tan and was complete with new hair… a-whole-lota-hair. An additional 978 individually glued, human hair extensions to be exact. The extra weight was totally worth it and as you can imagine, I was swishing it around like no ones business.

Below a cute morning message from the makeup department and reminder in lipstick to slip, slop, slap on set… one day I forgot and paid the price.

Below you can see the amazing work of the special effects, wardrobe and makeup teams on my body. Having seen the attention to detail behind every scene first hand, I’ve a new appreciation for films and consider myself a movie buff. I realise it takes more than a great storyline to capture the hearts of an audience. It takes passion, perseverance and problem solving to convey the message. Nothing ever goes completely to plan, but everyone gets in and does their part to make the magic.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the entire crew for taking such care of me, for the guidance, love, laughs, late night tan removal, clear eyes, amazing catering, cuddly robes and slippers. The Shallows showed me how much people connect when working toward a united goal for a long period.

I’ll hold the letter Blake wrote me on the last day especially close to my heart… I must say, it was very cool sharing secrets and a trailer with you – love you long time.

“Portia, your sweet smile, ice cream tips to learn to surf & wonderful attitude and spirit each day lifted mine & everyone elses. Thank you for that. You’re true sunshine sweet girl! Best wishes to you! Love Blake.”

Since The Shallows, I’ve worked on Daniel Radcliffe’s film Jungle, Paul Hogan’s television show Hoges on 7 mate and am actively looking for the next opportunity to live the dream once more. Stepping into the movie world is like stepping into another life. It is so surreal living in a place where your daily mission could be getting friendly with a feisty stand-in seagull or nailing a close-up while firing a flair gun. It was exhilarating and exhausting, I loved every minute.


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