Behind-the-seas dangers in Hudson, McConaughey movie

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Matthew McConaughey lost a giant python in his rented Queensland home.

Kate Hudson feared she would drown in mountainous seas somewhere between Port Douglas and Cairns.

Hollywood director Andy Tennant, responsible for romantic comedies Hitch and Sweet Home Alabama, was almost stung by Australia's deadly Irukandji jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef while New York-born actress Alexis Dziena was lost on the streets of Surfers Paradise during the Gold Coast Indy.

Sit down with Hudson, McConaughey, Tennant and Dziena to talk about the new $US80 million ($NZ102.76 million) movie they shot in Queensland last year, Fool's Gold, and the quartet has plenty of death-defying tales to tell.

The stories are so good they could have been inserted into Fool's Gold, a part romantic comedy, part adventure film, with Hudson and McConaughey playing modern day treasure hunters searching the Caribbean's turquoise waters for 40 chests of priceless jewels lost almost 300 years ago.

Hollywood studio Warner Bros and Tennant planned to shoot the film in the Caribbean, but with the region's hurricane season likely to halt production, they opted for Queensland.


Port Douglas was transformed into Key West, the popular US tourist town at the southern most tip of Florida, and Lizard Island became a pristine Caribbean island owned by a rapper turned gangster, Bigg Bunny.

The cast and Tennant soon discovered Queensland may not be so prone to hurricanes, but it made up for it with deadly creatures on land and in the water.

"I found a funnel web spider in my house in Port Douglas," Hudson proudly says during the interview, which took place in a Santa Monica hotel overlooking the California coastline.

The studio spared no expense for its A-List stars Hudson and McConaughey and director Tennant, renting houses for them in Port Douglas and other plush accommodations when the shoot schedule moved to Lizard Island, Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Hervey Bay.

McConaughey says he has a Port Douglas story that tops Hudson's funnel web yarn.

"I had an eight foot (2.5m) amethystine python in the coconut tree in my backyard of my Port Douglas house and a six foot (1.8m) garden python in my shed," the actor said.

"I kept an eye on them.

"They were cool.

"But, then I came home after three weeks away and the garden python was gone.

"I was freaked out.

"I didn't close my windows or doors or anything while I was away so I went through all of my closets.

"I couldn't find the python.

"So, every time I got into bed I had to have a good look."

Tennant and Dziena think they went one better.

The director lives by the philosophy that if one of his actors has to jump into a potentially dangerous situation for a scene, he should join him or her.

When 23-year-old Dziena, who plays a Paris Hilton-like teenage daughter of a billionaire, had to jump into the ocean where box jellyfish were known to live, 52-year-old Tennant put his swimmers on too.

Safety divers checked the water, it was clear, and Tennant was ready to call action.

Then a crew member yelled out.

"There was an Irukandji about that far away," Tennant said, pointing to a vase about 2m away from him.

Dziena had never heard of Irukandji, a small relative to the box jellyfish and known to be deadly, before she arrived in Australia.

"I'd rather go up against a salt water crocodile," she said.

"Anything but the Irukandji.

"Something bigger, I figure you can reason with that.

"An invisible jellyfish?

"You can't reason with that."

Two crew members were stung during the shoot and the actors became so terrified of the Irukandji some of the water scenes were shot in the Caribbean.

"This movie was insane," 28-year-old Hudson said.

"The stuff we experienced was totally insane.

"You think everyone is cool and there's all of this money that's thrown at the production so it is all under control.

"But, when you're doing a movie in Australia, you are dealing with elements.

"There were two people on the crew who were stung by the Irukandji.

"When that happens you end up in a hospital for three days on a morphine drip because the pain is so severe.

"People die from the pain."

The actors also shot on Batt Reef, where Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin died from a stingray barb in 2006, although they were less frightened of stingrays.

"We shot right there," Hudson said.

"But, that was a freakish deal," McConaughey said, adding it was an accident that would likely not happen again.

The Americans may have had a few frights during their Australian stay, but they all loved the experience.

"There were other days like the day we went out diving and swam with a dugong, which was very cool," McConaughey, 38, said.

"That's apparently rare in Australia," Hudson added.

"One of the guys with us, an Australian, said he had been on more than 1,000 dives and had never seen a dugong."

Hudson says she will become a regular visitor to Australia with her four-year-old son, Ryder.

"I fell madly in love with Australia and can't wait to go back," said Hudson, who was dating another Hollywood leading man, Owen Wilson, during the Fool's Gold shoot.

"I love Melbourne, I love Sydney and loved the Gold Coast.

"I really got into the Gold Coast.

"There was a great juice shop on the Gold Coast I went to and I met some great people there and went down to Byron Bay for the weekends.

"There's some great food.

"I just like the spirit of Australia and have a lot of friends there."

The actors and crew stayed in luxury homes and apartments on the Gold Coast while they were shooting inside scenes on sound stages at the Warner Bros studio facility.

Dziena's most harrowing land experience happened when she decided to go for a walk from her Surfers Paradise apartment to the main tourist strip in the city. The Indy car race was underway and road closures left her confused.

"I was lost," Dziena, who starred opposite Bill Murray in Broken Flowers, admitted.

"Incredibly lost.

"I kept walking and walking until I found some policemen and they just laughed when I told them I was lost.

"One ended up helping me out."

Hudson also laughed when she recalled the time she opted to take a catamaran from Port Douglas to Cairns, instead of any other mode of transport.

"I was sailing to Cairns in a storm that had ten foot (3m) swells.

"I don't get sea sick, but a lot of people I was with did.

"One got very sick.

"There was lightning and the swells and I couldn't believe what I was doing.

"I was thinking 'This is probably the greatest experience of my life'.

"I had to surrender myself."