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The Dinosaur Project - Natasha Loring interview

The Dinosaur Project

Interview by Rob Carnevale

NATASHA Loring talks exclusively to us about making The Dinosaur Project in South Africa and getting to grips with CGI dinosaurs and her character.

She also talks about her career to date, how she’s becoming more used to seeing herself on-screen and why she thinks the second series of Beaver Falls is punchier and funnier than the first.

Q. Being part of a film that’s described as Jurassic Park meets Cloverfield must have been an easy thing to say ‘yes’ to?
Natasha Loring: Yeah, definitely. I watched it last night for the first time and it was so exciting to finally see it. We filmed it last year, so it was a much anticipated wait! But I really enjoyed it. And I think what’s great about it is how it’s such a family orientated movie. You can take the kids, go as a family and even take your grandmother because it is so much fun. But it’s also scary when it needs to be. I was properly jumping in certain places even though I knew what was coming. So, it was great to have that and some really funny moments that break the tension. It’s a good mix.

Q. How was seeing it in terms of finally seeing the CGI and what exactly is chasing you half the time? Did that element of it meet expectations?
Natasha Loring: Well, it completely surpassed expectations. It’s completely different when you’re actually filming something but there’s nothing there. I mean, you hear about these creatures and we got to see a very, very basic example of what they would look like but that was a year ago. Since then, they’ve been worked on for hours and hours on end and they look absolutely incredible. I was really stunned, especially in the water scenes… when the creature finally comes out and you see it properly for the first time, it was phenomenal, especially the look of the water on its skin. And Crypto is so cute… the attention to detail on the scales. It really is amazing given that when you’re filming those scenes there is nothing there except a guy with a glove on his hand!

Q. How did you take to the CGI element? Did it come naturally or was it something you had to get your head around?
Natasha Loring: You always have a bit of a laugh when shooting something like that, to be honest. I mean, take our first interaction with those bat-like creatures – when it finally jumps into the hut we’re meant to be terrified for our lives and yet all you have to work with is a claw on the end of broom and it’s more funny than scary. But you’ve got to let your imagination go with you and live in the moment. At first, you feel a bit silly but then you really focus and you really start to ask yourself: “What would you do if this was a creature you’ve never seen in your life? And that it could potentially kill you!” But Sid [Bennett], the director, and our cinematographer also did such a great job of explaining what these creatures were like, so the second he said ‘action’ you were in the moment and had a good idea of what you were dealing with. It was a fun learning experience.

Q. Did it also help that Sid insisted on making the dinosaurs have as much basis in reality as possible, basing a lot of their design on real fossil finds?
Natasha Loring: Yeah, I thought that was amazing. I was reading up on Mokele Mbembe, the creature at the centre of the story, which is Congo’s real-life Loch Ness monster and I was amazed to read that there had been more than 50 expeditions involving people who have gone out in search of this creature. If you didn’t know about Mokele Mbembe, you might watch this film and think it’s just another dinosaur movie but I think it’s great that Sid based so much on a lot of the stories that had come in from real sightings of the creature. It was really exciting to have something actually based on history and something that people have apparently seen. And I think the fact that there have been these expeditions helps with the found footage style of our film because it means that it has been done before and it’s not necessarily just a fictitious story that we’ve come up with as an excuse to make a dinosaur movie.

Q. Did you speak to any cryptozoologists while preparing to play Dr Liz Draper? What did you like about her as a character?
Natasha Loring: I didn’t speak to any cryptozoologists because, really, Liz is on the expedition to sort of look after everyone more in terms of their health. She’s going into the heart of the African jungle with potentially dangerous snakes, spiders and plants, and the possibility of Malaria, so her job was more to keep everyone safe and help out on the expedition. So, the dinosaur aspect of it wasn’t really her thing. It was more the excitement of the adventure and getting the chance to do something completely different to what she normally experiences in a hospital every day. She’s just looking for a bit of adventure. I mean, as a doctor and a scientist the idea of dinosaurs still existing isn’t really something she would entertain. So, she’s going out there thinking: “Who knows what the creature is we’ll find, there’s obviously some evidence to support its existence, so I’ll be interested to find out what it is.” And I think she gets a real shock when she sees the creatures for the first time and the helicopter goes down. It’s only then that she realises the reality of what she has gotten herself into.

Q. How are you with the outdoors in general?
Natasha Loring: Well, I’m from South Africa, which is where we filmed, so I love being in the outdoors. Growing up in South Africa, you get very used to being outdoors and being on safaris and doing walks and hikes, etc. But then when you’re filming and they say to be careful because of tics and tic-bite fever and they give you mosquito repellents, you know you have to be careful. And when you start feeling things creeping around underneath you, you become a bit of a girl [laughs]! But it was great to be able to film outside and I think Sid has done an amazing job with the locations. It doesn’t look like South Africa at all – it looks like the heart of the Congo jungle.

Q. Wasn’t the weather quite bad too?
Natasha Loring: It was quite cold because at the time we were filming it was the middle of the South African winter. And even though it’s South Africa, it does get cold! For the look of the film, we’re meant to be around the equator in Congo, so we had people spraying us with water guns, applying sweat patches and putting oil on us to make us look shiny and sweaty. But we were shivering at times, although we made our shivers look like fear!

Q. Was it interesting for you as a young actress to see some of the tricks of the trade?
Natasha Loring: Every job you do, you see a new trick when filming it and you never quite realise how it will look when it gets on the screen. I mean, when you’re feeling freezing cold and your lips are turning blue, you think there’s no way that I’m going to look like I’m sweating and overheating. But watching it back last night, I almost forgot what the weather was like because it looked so realistic. And it was great to be a part of something like that.

Q. You’ve also just started the second series of Beaver Falls. So, what can we expect from that?
Natasha Loring: It’s great. I saw the first episode of the second series last night as well. So, after the cast and crew screening of The Dinosaur Project, I went to watch the first episode [of Beaver Falls] with that cast and crew. It was a busy night. But it was god to get the nerves out of the way. I think the second season is a lot punchier and funnier that the first. The new characters fit comfortably in and the returning characters know the show and their characters, so there’s not too much boring exposition to get through. You can really step right into it. And it’s really funny. It’s still hard to watch your own work and be objective. But I can watch without cringing now and I’m really excited to see the next set of episodes.

Q. Is that something you’re getting more used to, though, seeing yourself on posters and on TV and cinema screens?
Natasha Loring: It’s still a very hard thing to get my head around but obviously you always want to do your best and you’re constantly growing and learning, so it’s useful to look back over your work. You still think I could have done this or that differently but you’re constantly learning and you teach yourself to be slightly more gentle with yourself and to learn. But I am getting slightly more used to it, yes… although when I was watching the bits of The Dinosaur Project last night that I wasn’t in, I could relax a little bit more [laughs]. And I think it will be even better seeing it for a second time now that I know what’s been used [of the footage] and what to expect.

Read our interview with Matt Kane

Read our interview with director Sid Bennett

The Dinosaur Project is released in UK cinemas on Friday, August 10, 2012