Interview: Danielle Panabaker Talks "Piranha 3DD," Not Surviving Horror Movies, & The Anxieties Of Dating

Interview: Danielle Panabaker Talks "Piranha 3DD," Not Surviving Horror Movies, & The Anxieties Of DatingInterview by Matt Barone; Photography by Harper Smith; Styling by Brad Goreski; Additional Credits Below.

The star of Piranha 3DD talks naked actresses, her impressive brain, and the single life.

This feature appeared in Complex's October/November 2011 issue.

The filmmakers behind the brilliantly titled horror sequel Piranha 3DD (in theaters this Friday, after a nine month pushback), have some large bikini tops to fill. Last year’s Piranha 3D blessed genre fans with massive bloodshed, a naked underwater ballet, and more thongs than a stack of swimsuit calendars.

So how’d they one-up themselves this time? By casting the sexy Danielle Panabaker. A scary movie regular, the Georgia-born actress has co-starred in remakes of Friday the 13th and The Crazies; in Piranha 3DD, however, she’s the homicidal fish school’s primary target. In real life, the 24-year-old is looking for a few good, and single, men. It’s time to sink or swim, fellas.

Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

The first Piranha remake was such a blast. Were you a fan of the first one? Is that what drew you to this sequel?
To be totally honest, I hadn’t seen the first one, before I even started shooting. I was hired to do the film pretty last minute, so I hopped on the plane not having seen the first one. And then I watched it with some of the other cast mates, which was really fun.

 

Unfortunately, there’s no naked underwater ballet [in Piranha 3DD], but there are plenty of women running around scantily clad, and, yes, even naked.

 

Was it called Piranha 3DD when you first read the script?
Oh, yes! It was called Piranha 3DD! I knew exactly what I was getting into. [Laughs.]

That could be the best movie title of the year—what do you think?
It’s pretty funny, yeah. It very well could be. I love it. And, trust me, the film definitely doesn’t disappoint.

Piranha 3D featured an epic underwater ballet sequence with two busty chicks in the buff. Please tell us you’ve somehow topped that.
[Laughs.] Unfortunately, there’s no naked underwater ballet [in Piranha 3DD], but there are plenty of women running around scantily clad, and, yes, even naked.

Did you have as much fun on a set full of nude hotties as, say, we would?
It was definitely bizarre, but the women were professionals. They knew what they were doing; nudity is nothing for them. [Laughs.]

Though it’s something for us! What can you tell us about your character?
My character, Maddy, is the half-owner of this water park, and she’s in graduate school, studying marine biology. And she comes home for the summer to work at the water park; once she gets home, she finds that her stepfather is sort of running the park into the ground, and he has all of these different ideas on how a water park should be run, because he is the majority owner—he owns 51% of the park. So she comes home to all of her old friends and old romances, and all the sudden there’s something fishy in the water, and people start disappearing. Maddy goes off to figure out what’s going on.

After you first read the script, did you want to do the movie right away? Or did it take some convincing?
When my agent and manager called, they definitely presented the film as it really is. We’re not winning any Oscars with this one. [Laughs.] But it’s really funny. I laughed reading the script, and I hope that we brought it to life and that people will laugh when they see it.

Both Gary Busey and David Hasselhoff are in Piranha 3DD; it doesn’t seem like they spared any expenses in making the movie as campy as possible.
[Laughs.] I did not get to work with Gary Busey; he actually shot for two days before I even got to Wilmington, but I heard plenty of stories about his time on set. But then....

I love David Hasselhoff! He plays a celebrity lifeguard, and he was so fun. He gave us all shirts, and I really wanted one, obviously—I wasn’t about to leave without one. He even gave me a CD. But the shirts he gave us say, “Don’t Hassle The Hoff,” and our last Friday shooting at the water park.... The water park also has a laser tag center, so some of the cast members and crew went and played laser tag while wearing our “Don’t Hassle The Hoff” shirts. I tried to get David to join us, but I couldn’t. I think he’s the greatest.

I love the fact that he carries “Don’t Hassle The Hoff” T-shirts around with him—that’s pretty amazing.
[Laughs.] Absolutely. And he wears them, too! He’s incredibly talented at marketing himself. He’s great at that.

 

I’m definitely in a period of my life where I just want to have fun. I’m ready to get dressed up, go out with my girlfriends, and flirt a bit.

 

Have you listened to his CD yet?
[Laughs.] I haven’t had a chance yet, but don’t tell him that.

If I ever get the chance to speak with The Hoff, I promise I’ll keep that a secret
[Laughs.] I appreciate that. By the time I see him again, I will have listened to it. I promise.

I’m sure you can’t answer this, but it’s worth a shot: Do you survive Piranha 3DD? And the reason why I ask is because you haven’t made it out of any your horror movies alive.
[Laughs.] I am aware of that, actually. Doing Friday The 13th was fun, because my character—at least when I read the script—was expected to live, because she didn’t fall into any of those typical horror movie stereotypes; she didn’t have sex, she didn’t drink, and she didn’t smoke. But then she does die. I kind of thought that was fun. Now, whether or not I make it through Piranha, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Does it ever get to a point where you read a script and think, “If my character doesn’t make it through this one alive, I’m not doing it!”
I don’t know. I’ve had some really awesome deaths! My death in The Crazies was really cool, and I think it makes everyone catch their breath when they’re watching the film. And my death in The Ward, which I did with John Carpenter, is really cool, too. It was awesome. So I don’t mind dying in movies.

You’re mostly known for starring in horror movies—is that something you fell into, or have you always been a fan of the genre?
It’s definitely something I fell into, more than anything. I am a big scaredy-cat; horror films terrify me. Growing up, watching horror movies was never something I was going to voluntarily do, but, recently, starting with Brad [Fuller] and Andrew [Form], who were the producers of Friday The 13th, I’ve become more and more exposed to this world. The world of horror films. I’ve come to really enjoy them.

Fun fact: You graduated high school as valedictorian at age 14. Intelligence is sexy; feeling like a dumbass alongside a girl, however, not so much.
It’s funny, one of the reasons why I never wear my glasses any more is that, when I was younger, a guy once said that he liked me until he found out that I wear glasses. Needless to say, I was traumatized for a long time. [Laughs.]

On the Piranha set, because we were doing so much underwater stuff, I couldn’t wear my contacts, so I had to wear my glasses more than I ever wanted to—it was so embarrassing.

Do you ever think about that guy and wish you could smack him with one of your movie posters?
[Laughs.] Not as violently as that, but absolutely! I hope he reads this article.

Plenty of guys will beg to differ with that clown after seeing this photoshoot. Are you looking to date?
I made a commitment to myself earlier this year that, for once in my life, I’m going to have fun as a single girl; I’ve always been a serial monogamist. It’s great to finally figure out what my likes and dislikes are exactly, when it comes to guys—what I do and don’t want.

Well, it sounds like you want some guys to step up to the plate, and that’s a great start.
I’m definitely in a period of my life where I just want to have fun. I’m ready to get dressed up, go out with my girlfriends, and flirt a bit.

Just make sure to wear your glasses.
[Laughs.] I don’t know. I think I’m a long ways away from doing that.

Fair enough. Take some cues from your Piranha 3DD co-stars, perhaps? Just a thought.

Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

WATCH THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:

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ADDITIONAL CREDITS:
(HAIR) David Gardner. (MAKEUP) Steve Solitto. (CLOTHING) IMAGE ONE: Bra by Araks / Shorts by Dsquared / Shoes by Louis Vuitton / Rings by Cast of Vices. IMAGE TWO: Shirt by Dsquared / Shorts by Louis Vuitton / Corset by Kiki de Montparnasse / Shoes by Brian Atwood. IMAGE THREE: Bra by Araks / Shorts by Dsquared / Shoes by Louis Vuitton / Rings by Cast of Vices. IMAGE FOUR: Overalls by Kill City. IMAGE FIVE: Dress by Current/Elliott / Bra by Araks. IMAGE SIX: Poncho by Topshop / Dress by Rag & Bone / Bag by Louis Vuitton / Shoes by Christian Louboutin.

Tags: danielle-panabaker, piranha-3d, piranha-3dd, david-hasselhoff, gary-busey
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