By Clark Collis
Updated August 21, 2010 at 07:15 PM EDT
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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into Popwatch, without seeing photos of people being attacked by small fish… we pull you back in! Sorry, I got my movie sequels mixed up there. But there’s no confusion about the fact that, after the jump, you’ll find a gallery of exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from the now-out-in-cinemas Piranha 3D, complete with commentary by director Alexandre Aja. There’s also little doubt that a couple of the snaps are bloody.

On the other hand we guarantee that none feature the sight of Jerry O’Connell’s manhood. Maybe it was too small to photograph. We’re joking, J.C.—we kid because we love!

Anyway, you have been warned…

1. Richard Dreyfuss is filmed fishing (in a boat that, as Roy Scheider’s Jaws character would doubtless point out, clearly needs to be bigger)

Alexandre Aja: “It was such a privilege working with Richard Dreyfuss. Of course, like everyone, I’m a huge fan of Jaws. I was thinking, ‘Who could open the movie?’ And there was this very strange idea of bringing back Matt Hooper from Jaws—bringing back Richard Dreyfuss in the exact same outfit, wearing the same glasses, in the exact same attitude, singing the same song. I thought was a great, great thing. But I couldn’t imagine that it would be possible. Finally we got his approval and he came on set. I was like a kid. For one second I was in Jaws! That was just magic.”

2. Effects experts inspect a fake head

Aja: “That was when Greg Nicotero (Piranha 3D makeup effects supervisor) and his crew, were preparing one of my favorite [special effects] gags in the movie, where one of the spring break bikini girls gets her hair caught in a propeller in the water. A guy is trying to start the boat because he wants to escape the piranha, and he’s not giving a f— about her in the back. The engine starts and the hair gets sucked into the propeller, ripping all her face off. We had to create a fake head, the one that you see in that picture, and that was combined with visual effects to the real girl in the water. It’s a very complicated gag to make seamless, and very gruesome. I think that’s Greg Nicotero holding the head. Working with him was such an amazing collaboration. This movie was a huge challenge for him. He had to create hundreds of prosthetics. This is one of biggest body-carnage movies he’s ever worked on. I told him from the beginning: ‘Any ideas that you have for any gags that will be crazy, I want them. I want us to make the most insane movie ever.’”

3. Alexandre Aja and Jessica Szohr shoot a piranha attack

Aja: “Jessica is trying to fight the piranha and I had to give her some direction, because the piranha are CGI. She had to fight invisible fish jumping out of the water, so she had to use a lot of imagination. I had to spend so much time in the water. And not only me, the whole crew. We were all in wetsuits. It was cold even in the desert in the summer. Because no matter how hot it is, when you’re in the water past five, six hours, you get cold. So everyone was in wetsuits, and it was almost night, and Jessica was very tired. She’d fought imaginary piranha all day long.”

4. Filming the movie’s setpiece massacre

Aja: “That’s a stage where the wet T-shirt contest is taking place. That’s the main attraction of the spring break and Eli Roth, my friend, came to do a cameo as the wet T-shirt host. So you’ve got kids partying on the lake and the piranha start attacking. The first instinct is for everyone to climb on the stage. But then the stage becomes too heavy and unbalanced and starts collapsing back in the water, so hundreds of kids are thrown back to the piranha. It was a pretty challenging setpiece. We had nine days to do this half an hour of pure attack and massacre, with so many different gags. Because you cannot only have people screaming in the water. You have to come with a new idea for every shot—a new way of dying or a new way of being eaten by the piranha. With hundreds of extras, that was a very challenging thing. That was maybe the most difficult scene I ever had to direct. I was on my barge in the middle of the massacre with a camera crew. We could look 360 and it was just mayhem and chaos. It felt so real.”

5. Shooting more massacre mayhem

Aja: “I really love this visual, because you see the crane with the camera, but you see another camera on top of the boat. You see the blood in the water, the fish attacking, the swimmers trying to get on that boat. I don’t think you could put anything else on the picture. For me, it represents exactly what the movie was, and what shooting that part of the movie was.”

Have you seen Piranha 3D? Did it love up and/or down to your expectations?

More on Piranha:

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