Entertainment

How Hollywood’s “Mollusc Man” tracked down 1,500 snails for Ben Affleck in “Deep Water.”

Deep water, starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as a dysfunctional, slightly homicidal couple, is a tale of passion, betrayal and snails.

Affleck’s Vic, a mysterious “fat” tech genius who is repeatedly betrayed by his wife Melinda (de Armas), is obsessed with mollusks. Throughout the film, Vic’s snail palace in the garage of his New Orleans home provides a haven for the character as the suspicions of his wealthy suburban acquaintances grow.

That snails are such an integral part Deep waterThe plot of is credited to the author of the book from which the film was adapted. Patricia Highsmith, also known for her novels The talented Mr Ripley and strangers on a train, had a serious fondness for mollusks. She was known to smuggle them under her breasts at parties The guardand kept hundreds as pets.

To be honest, there are a lot of them in this film, so The Independent tracked down deep waters Advisor to Gastropoda, the self-proclaimed mollusc man of Hollywood, and surprisingly he came out of his, um, shell. Max Anton studied film production but says he’s always had a passion for nature, ever since he volunteered at the Houston Museum of Natural Science as a teenager.

He couldn’t believe it when one day an email – you might call it snail mail – landed in his inbox from a Hollywood prop master asking him if he could source 1,000 snails for a feature film.

First of all, what are your credentials, sir? How did you come to do what you do?

Well, if you mean snail wrangling, that was kind of an unexpected little gig, it kind of fell into my lap. I have always lived at the interface between art and nature. [One day] I get an email from a guy who says he’s a props manager on a Hollywood movie and needs a thousand snails on set. I thought it was a scam. Like someone tailoring a scam just for me? That’s flattering. But it turned out to be real and amazing. And this was Deep water.



I even collected [snails] from the hill where the Hollywood sign is…they had very specific requirements

Max Anton (Molusc Man)

I read on your website that you managed to source 1,500 snails from four different states. How did you do that and did you search specifically for certain species?

[The director, Adrian Lyne] We wanted big snails, like huge, unrealistically big snails, and they exist, but to get them we’d have to go abroad or shell out a lot of money, and that wasn’t feasible back then. There are also illegal means, but we didn’t want to go that route either. So we settled on native species that we could get hold of fairly quickly in the United States.

I flew to California and landed in San Diego and Los Angeles, probably collected 600-700 of the brown garden snails on that trip. I even collected some off the hill where the Hollywood sign is just to take them all the way back to New Orleans.

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Hollywood snails? I can imagine that they were more difficult to work with.

They had very specific requirements.

Max the Mollusc Man on the set of Deep Water

(Courtesy of Max Anton)

So you have 700 snails with you and you have to fly them back to New Orleans – how do you do that?

It sounds like a lot, but they just about fit into four small jars I got from a dollar store. To the best of my knowledge, it is not illegal to ship snails that are already domestically established within the United States. I also know from experience that the TSA gives people trouble with stuff like this. So I got creative and was able to get them through the x-ray machines unnoticed… I’ll keep the specific methods.

I’ll tell you that snails are far from the worst animals I’ve gotten through security.

What was?

Five black widow spiders.

Holy…

I was determined not to make it Snakes on an airplane Scenario. Trouble is when I brought the spiders home the babies hatched and I forgot the babies were smaller than the air holes in their box. And so I go back to my room and things fall on me. I look up and my blanket is crawling with widow babies.

Ben Affleck in Deep Water

(Amazon Prime video)

Next, I read in another interview that you said Ben Affleck was “amazing” with the snails. How come?

If you’ve never worked with snails, sometimes it’s easy to make a mistake and pick them up wrong or push them in the wrong place and the shell may crack or something. ben [Affleck] could take instructions. He is listening. He was patient, although I don’t know if he liked the snails or not; I don’t think he was a fan of the slime. He took it very slowly and was very gentle, and I really appreciated that about him.



Snails are one of those things people tend to overlook

Max Anton (Molusc Man)

But Ana de Armas wasn’t such a fan, was she?

I felt really bad for her because [the director] was like, “Put your hand all the way up this snail hill,” and she said, “No!” I was kind of mean to her. I smuggled a few extra snails into the wallet that she had to pick up. So if the wallet was noticed, snails just tumbled out.

What happened to all the snails after they were wrapped while filming?

Some I kept to the end of their natural life, when I got them they were already older snails. From others I have taken handfuls and placed them in places where I hoped they would multiply a little.

I guess what I was hoping for from this production was… snails are one of those things that people tend to overlook. They’ve never really taken the time to scrutinize such a boring little animal and appreciate all the little touches, all the textures, all the idiosyncrasies that bring them to life. And I guess I was just hoping that seeing these snails up close and in cinematic quality would make people curious about what else is out there and what they’re missing out on in the microcosm.

Deep Water is available now on Amazon Prime Video

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/deep-water-ben-affleck-snails-b2041453.html How Hollywood’s “Mollusc Man” tracked down 1,500 snails for Ben Affleck in “Deep Water.”

JOE HERNANDEZ

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