The horror director felt no fear when face-to-face with a seven-foot shark.

I have always been shark obsessed, even as a kid. While others in Massachusetts would fear the summertime beach trips, I ran there hoping to catch a glimpse of a great white attack. (It never happened; mainly we saw overweight Massholes smoking cigarettes way too close to children.) The first novel I read was Jaws,and I even had a copy of Carl Gottlieb’s The Jaws Log, where he detailed the making of the film. I went on whale watches, I’ve been surfing, I even went scuba diving in Thailand for my honeymoon, but I had never seen a shark outside of the aquarium. Until Discovery asked me if I wanted to dive with sharks for Shark Week.

Everyone kept asking me if I was scared or told me I was insane, but honestly, I felt like a kid going to Disney World for the first time. I had cameras filming me as I suited up like aGame of Thrones character about to storm Winterfell (or King’s Landing, depending whose side you’re on). As we got out in the water, my heart started racing as I saw a few sharks swimming around near the surface. The water in the Bahamas was so clear it was like looking into a glass tank, with the sharks all swimming 30 feet below. I stood up in what felt like 100 pounds of scuba gear, waddled over to the edge of the boat, and jumped in.

I have seen a lot of terrible CGI sharks in movies, but now just ten feet away, they actually looked like CGI characters. They were beautiful, graceful, elegant creatures, much different from the ones I take meetings with at Soho house. At first the sharks kept a safe distance from me – circling, watching from afar, reading the vibrations of my heartbeat. In my mind I was of course trying to use the shark telepathy I’m convinced I’ve have since birth to let them know that I was a friend and they should come over. Slowly, they circled and passed, and eventually swam right at me.

Courtesy of Eli Roth.

These were reef sharks, about 7-9 feet long, and I learned they only attack sick or dying fish. It was important that I not make too many quick splashing movements, since they don’t really use sight to hunt, it’s all vibrations in the ocean, and when you kick your bare feet or splash your hands in the water to the sharks you’re mimicking the motion of a fish on its way out. I held up my arms and watched them in awe as they glided by, my hands gently grazing them as they passed by. I was right, I was a shark whisperer, I could call them to me. Then I turned around and saw our dive master, Beto, pulling out the chunks of dead fish from a metal crate. So much for my telepathic abilities, although I am still convinced that they knew I was a friend.

Beto, the suave Brazilian diver who I like imagine I look like when I’m diving, told us that if we were lucky maybe we’d put a shark in “tonic.” The sharks’ nerve endings are all concentrated in their nose, and if you can tickle them in the right spot they go into a trance-like state and will let you hold them for a period. A shark slowly glided over to him, and he reached up and in one motion began to tickle her, and she stopped. After a few seconds he had her in tonic, and I carefully swam over. I reached out, and replaced his hand with mine, gently tickling the underside of her nose. My other hand reached out for her fin, as she lay there, looking at me. I was eye to eye with this shark, totally at peace. Pia, our fearless photographer, took out the camera and gestured for me to kiss the shark. I was more than happy to. I have to say, she was a gentle kisser, much smoother than I imagined.

I later learned that the shark I held is named Lucy, and she actually came to them with a rope around her neck in April asking for help. They showed me a YouTube video “Shark Asks Divers for Help,” and there she was, scars on her gills, the rope choking her, swimming up to Pia and our other dive master Charlie and clearly asking them for help.

Source :