From director Rob Cohen (XXX, The Fast and the Furious), the action-thriller The Hurricane Heist follows U.S. treasury agent Casey Corbyn (Maggie Grace), who is on a mission to prove herself by successfully guarding $600 million dollars in old bills during a category 5 hurricane in Alabama. At the same time, the Rutledge brothers – government meteorologist Will (Toby Kebbell) and repair man Breeze (Ryan Kwanten) – are just trying to survive the same time of hurricane that took their father’s life, 25 years earlier. So, when a group of criminals set their sights on the millions, Casey needs all the help she can get to hang on to the money until the US mint can shred it, and the three have to work together in order to make it through such a devastating storm with their lives.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Maggie Grace talked about how physical this movie was, the experience of shooting in Bulgaria for Alabama, the biggest challenges of the epic production, how cool it was to have her dad visit the set, and the appeal of playing a character that doesn’t need a man to save her. She also talked about joining the AMC series Fear the Walking Dead for Season 4, how much she’s enjoyed working with her co-stars, and surviving in a world overrun by zombies, along with what she looks for in a project and character.
Collider: When this project came your way, what was your reaction when you realized that you’d not only be making a heist movie, but also an action movie and a hurricane movie, all at the same time?
MAGGIE GRACE: Back then, it didn’t have the very demonstrative title that it has now. It was called Category 5. I knew I was signing on for a wild ride with (director) Rob [Cohen], who’s known for XXX and The Fast and the Furious. Having met with him, I knew it was gonna be crazy intense, but I don’t think could have imagined how much would be physical effects heavy. I don’t think I realized how much we’d be living in it, in the moment, with CG afterwards. I lucked out ‘cause it was really game-on, with no drama queens. Toby [Kebbell] is such a hard worker, and we just hung in there together until we got the shot and made our days. That movie was a work-out. It was August through November in Bulgaria, around Sofia, and we really put the storm in front of the lens, with six million gallons of water and 100 mph fans. Acting within that, you’re just hanging on, moment by moment, as you would be. It’s not so much the work of imagining, as a big movie usually is with CGI. It was the work of actually hanging in there through three weeks of night shots, where you’re just getting the shit kicked out of you. But honestly, it was fun ‘cause there was such camaraderie.
Did you have any moments where you wondered how you had gotten yourself into this situation?
GRACE: Completely! When you haven’t seen the sun since you can’t remember when, because you’re working nights, it all starts to feel topsy turvy. By the end, none of us could move without pain. It was pretty hilarious. We were all teasing each other about walking like grannies.
Could you ever have imagined that you’d shoot a movie set in Alabama in Bulgaria?
GRACE: No, but it bizarrely worked. They shot a lot of plates, in the real place. They allowed us to build a town that we were basically going to blow up, and bring in a tank that was masquerading as a weather vehicle. There’s things that I don’t think we could have done here, in the same way. The scale of the physical effects really had a playground there. It was strange because I was shooting in Louisiana right before this, and then, all of a sudden, I’m in Sofia for Gulfport.
This movie has car crashes, car chases, hurricanes, water and wind, and a huge sequence in a mall. What was the most challenging scene or sequence to shoot?
GRACE: When I first read the script, I was like, any one of these events is usually enough to base a movie around, but god bless Rob, who had to have more. He really is the master of epic events that slightly challenge, if not entirely up-end, the laws of physics. I think the car work was pretty amazing because of the fantastic stunt drivers. We couldn’t do as much of the stunt driving, of course, because that’s real expertise, but when it came to throwing our bodies into the fray, I got to do every single stunt in the movie except for one. There was one where it was entirely a silhouette and my character got knocked out of the frame by a giant wave, and they wouldn’t let me do it because of insurance, but that was the only one. Everything else, we got to do. I was shoulder to shoulder with the boys. It was awesome! It was learning something new, every week. We had combat training and wire work. I’ve never been upside down for that long. The wire work was really intimidating, at first, because I dropped head-first, 30 feet from a third story position, and things like that. We’d rehearse in a warehouse to get all of the pulleys set up, but it was one thing to run through it and feel comfortable, like Peter Pan, and it was another thing to get on set with 100 mph winds and all of the debris whipping around in the air, smacking you in the face.
And then, you’d put on the wetsuit, the costume, the jacket and the vice-like harness, and then the character’s fake harness, on top of that. You’re just bound up and whipping around with 100 mph winds on a fishing line. It’s mind-numbing. Thank god, there’s Toby Kebbell who looks photoshopped, but actually has the core strength to flip himself around and maneuver in mid-air. I was really thankful for every pilates class I ever took, but I wasn’t as mobile, when it came to flipping myself around in the harnesses. It was great! It was funny, I’d send video to my family and to my dude, and they’d be like, “Oh, your stunt double was great! She looks just like you!” And I’d be like, “Nope, that was me!” I got to do things I didn’t know I could do or would be allowed to do. It was really funny, in terms of a learning curve and just jumping in there. The coolest stunt happened the week my dad came out to Bulgaria to visit. He’s not really been to movie sets. He came to Taken for an hour once. He’s kinda shy. So, he came on the flood days, when a tsunami wave hits this garden store, and he was totally blown away. It was a pretty awesome day to have your dad on set.
I really like the fact that your character has a very specific mission in this film, and there’s no time for her to stop and have a romance. Was part of the appeal of this the fact that this woman didn’t have to rely on a man to save her life?
GRACE: There’s a burgeoning appreciation for the capabilities of the other person, but there’s just no time to be making eyes. I think they all provide a timely assist for each other and cobble together an unlikely team. When I read the script, I really loved that the moment of a woman in jeopardy and a man on his way to save her had a man on his way that is a terrified meteorologist who is just trying to do his best in the moment and who’s not a trained assassin. She has the training and is able, after a really gnarly combat sequence in a really tight space, to save herself.
How did you come to be a part of Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead?
GRACE: The showrunners told me about how awesome this character was, and I auditioned. It’s been really fun. I could not adore Lennie James more. He’s such a thoughtful actor, and genuinely funny and warm person. And Garret [Dillahunt] is such a goofball. I didn’t expect that from his body of work and some of the things that I had seen. There’s such an innocence to him, naturally. I couldn’t be more lucky. It’s been a heavy stunt week, here in Texas, and I feel very prepared because of everything that went down in Bulgaria. It was so great problem-solving, day to day, because Rob is such a secure dude who’s lived in this action world for a minute and knows what he’s doing. With a movie like [The Hurricane Heist], we definitely had moments where that leadership was very handy.
Why is Althea uniquely qualified to survive this zombie world?
GRACE: She lands on both feet. I think some people thrive in that post-apocalyptic world, and she’s seen some shit. If you don’t have someone to live for or something, life can be pretty nasty, brutish and short. It’s such a fun cast and we’re silly on all-night shoots, and we’ve got great photos, but we can’t post anything because there could be something in the background that’s going to have away everything.
With how secretive this show is, do you feel like you have a sense of what’s going on, or are you also in the dark?
GRACE: I have some sense, which is why I wanted to sign on. The way the showrunners communicated the character was really lovely. One thing I really appreciate about the series is that they do let characters evolve, which not ever series does. They do change. The people they come across and their experiences go with them and they’re changed by them. So, I would say that there are some things that are in flux, as well.
At this point in your career and life, what do you look for in a project?
GRACE: It’s a different reason, every time. Sometimes it’s just one person that I want to work with, or an aspect of a character that I haven’t been offered, or a new challenge with something new to learn. I would say that I’m interested in finding women who have agency, and who are well-rounded and capable. I’m hoping I’ve grown into that, at this point, and the film industry is growing into that, as well, happily at the same time.
The Hurricane Heist opens in theaters on March 9th.