“Seen any good movies lately?” As a matter of fact…
I recently went to a screening of the latest Disney film, ‘The Finest Hours’ which chronicles the true story of the most courageous small boat rescue in Coast Guard history. In February of 1952, one of the worst storms to ever hit the East Coast struck New England, damaging an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod and literally ripping it in half. On a small lifeboat faced with frigid temperatures and 70-foot high waves, four members of the Coast Guard set out to rescue the more than 30 stranded sailors trapped aboard the rapidly sinking vessel.
Happily, I also got to interview the four principals in the cast, Casey Affleck, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Holliday Grainger, as well as director Craig Gillespie.
I will write a review of the film in a couple of days, but let me tell you about the press day with these guys.
It’s been unseasonably cold here in LA and I have that Cuban thing that I must keep my neck warm or I’ll get sick somehow, which is why I’m wearing a tightly wound scarf, but that’s not important right now. You can tell by the look on my face that I’m always just so happy to be invited to these things.
The interviews took place in a ’round table’ setting. That is, a dozen of us journalist/bloggers around a table and the talent took turns coming into the room we were in. This, of course, makes it that much harder to control my fangirly urges. (I know. Shut up.)
First of all, let me tell you about Holliday Grainger, who plays Miriam in the film. She is an absolute wonder. Although she is from Manchester, England, she rocks a Boston accent like no other. Here’s what she had to say about being the central female character in what is very much a man’s world:
HOLLIDAY GRAINGER: “It was slightly intimidating the first day only because I had literally flown overnight from a job in Wales actually that I was shooting. So I had arrived on set quite jet lagged, slightly terrified about the accent and everyone had been working with the guys for like two months and so as soon as I walked on site I did feel like I was like a museum piece. Everyone was all eyes on me. Like here’s a woman, there’s a girl, she’s got lipstick. She’s like – she’s in heels and a dress, what is this? *laughs*
So that was slightly scary. But Craig was just so lovely and really, I mean immediately it was just we can try it in lots of different ways, you know, so that kind of took away any kind of intimidation.”
Casey Affleck shared what it was like to play ‘Ray Sybert,’ the engineer who was one of the survivors of the terrible weather related accident that literally ripped an oil tanker in half.
CASEY AFFLECK: “We started filming in the fall; then we went until Christmas and it gets pretty cold in Boston during that time. And we were mostly outside. But it was cold and wet and it sucks and then it’s fine and you kind of forget about it. Or you get used to it. You never really forget about it, but you know it was a nice group of guys who we were with so you get to complain all together and that’s comforting.”
On having ice cold water thrown at him for hours at a time during filming:
“It’s much easier than pretending anything and all you have to do is sort of like get your lines out and you’re already shivering and you can’t help but like keep your eyes half closed because you’re being pounded with water and then you just look like a good actor maybe. And like you really just stood there and took so much physical abuse. So it makes it easier. If you can call that easier.”
Next we interviewed Chris Pine (Bernie Webber) and Ben Foster (Richard Livesey) together.
They were so close to me that I could have easily reached out and touched them, but I didn’t, of course, because it’s, you know, weird and creepy. So that didn’t happen. But I’d just like to go on record right now and say that Chris Pine is seriously just as dreamy in person as he is on the big screen. And we were asked not to take any photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
But I did thoroughly enjoy their back and forth banter and I was impressed that these actors had so much respect for the characters, the real live people they were playing and were very honoring of the Coast Guard in general and the bravery of these guys specifically.
CHRIS PINE: “I had a beautifully written script and that’s really the basis of my task as an actor is to bring to life the character that I read on the page. I had some great audio recording of Bernie. Bernie wrote a firsthand account of the experience. There’s a book and then just being in Chatham and feeling what it’s like to be in a small New England town. You get a sense of these guys that are regular Joes. They clock in, they clock out. Their job just happens to be saving lives. That’s what they do.”
BEN FOSTER: “It’s as you said these are guys. These are guys who put others before them. It’s so humbling doing a job like this where you get the opportunity to spend time with the men and women of our military. And not just, because it’s the American military but because these are men and women who have chosen to serve their fellow man and that just speaks to humans.
So a guy who said, “Yeah, I’m gonna go on the boat even though everybody else is saying no.’ That’s his job. That’s what he does. He’s not looking for a selfie. He’s not looking to tell all his friends what a brave guy he is on Twitter. He’s doing it because that’s his job and it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.
So in terms of the drama of the piece of Mr. Webber’s hero’s journey, it’s more of a privilege for myself to spend time with the real guys, the real Chatham Coast Guard. But in equal measure, it’s a privilege to spend time with such a wonderful actor as Chris. He’s doing work that I haven’t seen him do before. I haven’t seen this sort of thing in a movie in a very long time. I haven’t seen this kind of underdog. I haven’t seen this kind of quality of ‘true blue’. There’s so much cynicism in cinema these days and what Chris pulls off, I think, is as striking as the ocean that we’re on.”
I love that these actors had such a great appreciation for the real-life heroes they portray. And I doubly love Disney is making these types of films again. In a few days, I’ll tell you all the Big Thoughts I had about the ‘The Finest Hours.’
Until then, take a look at Disney’s ‘The Finest Hours.’
Disney’s ‘The Finest Hours’ opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, January 29th, 2016.
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