Walt Disney studios is no stranger to bringing us films that touch our hearts and their newest film THE FINEST HOURS is no different. Hitting theaters everywhere today, this action movie is unlike anything we have seen in quite some time. Part romance, part adventure, part thriller THE FINEST HOURS hits with a bang much like the storm that sets the tone for the film. We sat down with the cast and filmmaker last week to find out everything you need to know before seeing THE FINEST HOURS.
- The film takes place in New England in 1952 during a storm that literally tore apart two 500-foot oil tankers and leaving the Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts more than busy.
- The heroic story is based on the book “The Finest Hours” by Casey Sherman and Micheal J. Tougias, and is the true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coastguard.
- Actor Chris Pine takes on the role of Bernie Webber, a very different kind of character for Pine who drew inspiration from one of the most iconic characters in the history of movies. He told us:
“When I first met Craig (Gillespie), he kept on mentioning Rocky as kind of the touchstone for the character. I thought that was a very adept, adroit perceptive way in. Especially how Scott wrote the script. He’s a kind of, he’s not the sharpest or swiftest guy in many ways, but he’s also very, very adept at his job. He knows that boat. He knows those waters and as much as he’s racked by fear and doubt, he does really know how to use his hands. His body. He’s a soft guy. He’s scared. He’s like a puppy dog. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves his woman. He’s just earnest. There’s no complexity above and beyond what you see with Bernie is what you get. I love that un-cynical throwback quality to him.”
- With such a compelling story, the filmmakers wanted to remain as faithful to the story as possible and in that decided to film in New England which began in September 2014 in southeastern Massachusetts, on stages built at the Quincy shipyards. The film wrapped four months later ending in Chatham on Cape Cod. Director Craig Gillespie told us.
“We got to actually go to the Coast Guard station where this happened and the exterior has barely changed. And the same going down to the pier and to shoot in the town of Chatham it really – it was a great way to finish the film. We thought it would be a relief after getting off the[sound] stages, but it was so cold at the beginning of December that it wasn’t exactly a relief. [LAUGH] But it really helps.”
- While many films have complex stories THE FINEST HOURS has a simple story with an old-school feel all without feeling dated or boring. Pine told us that is exactly what drew him to the project saying:
“Just the simplicity of it. I love stories that are not all that complicated but that are really well told. I love a clichéd story and this was a beautiful throwback story with a good romance. A guy that loved his girl and wanted to get back to her. A guy that was really scared. Was up against seemingly insurmountable odds. Overcame them. Found his manhood. Found his courage. Found his strength the go on and that just to me was like yeah I like that. I liked a hero who was not the obvious one, who wasn’t a rogue, who wasn’t the strong chiseled jaw guy. I liked him when he was soft and sweet and big-hearted and kind of doe-eyed. I just – I thought it was really neat.”
- The sets were REAL!! This may not sound like a big deal but in a world of films full if CGI seeing sets like these were astounding and beautiful. They were also no small feat, one set stood 65 feet tall, was made of steel and had five stories! As a lover of practical sets this was music to my ears and makes the film and struggle of those trapped on the ship feel so real. Director Craig Gillespie told us about the sets saying:
“It was – partly it’s like – first of all — Michael Corenblith, our production designer, who did APOLLO 13, did an amazing job and as much as there’s a lot of effects in this, we’re starting from such a concrete place because we had this – we had basically a shipping warehouse and we built five sets in there. We had the engine room which was 65 feet tall made of steel on a gimble five stories high. So that opening scene when you come down to Casey, that’s all the set rocking and it ends up having ten feet of water in it. And then the weight of that was a logistical nightmare for them that they luckily figured out. And then we built the back half of the tanker, you know, so you see that crane up, that’s all set, on a gimble, steel. They can come out of the doors, all the actors can be up there and it’s rocking. We built the whole wall of it in the same thing. When they’re looking up that’s all set on a gimble that leans into a 110 foot tank that they then climb down this ladder, you know, from that height. [LAUGH] So they, you know, the deep backgrounds, blue screen, but they were living in this world and they were getting pummeled with rain which was freezing.”
- Taking place on the ocean, during a horrific storm, the actors spent a lot of time getting thrashed by freezing cold water. It takes the physicality of acting to a whole new level. Casey Affleck who portrays Raymond Sybert, a mid-level crew member aboard the Pendleton, told us it helps the process saying:
“Oh it helps for sure. There’s no doubt about it. [LAUGH] 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, you know, a good actor maybe, you know. And like you really just stood there and took so much physical abuse. So it makes it – I think it makes it easier.”
- While the film may tell the story of a historical rescue mission there is also an underlying romance between Bernie Webber and Miriam, the central female character in the film, played by Holliday Grainger. Being a girl in a boys world is nothing new for this actress, she told us about her first day on set with the boys saying:
“I mean you’re always the central female character in a man’s world it feels like. [LAUGH] So it’s well practiced, well-known. 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 just – it was just like everyone 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? [LAUGH] And so that was slightly scary, but Craig was just so lovely and really, I mean immediately it was just oh this is play time, we can try it in lots of different ways, you know, so that was – that kind of took away any kind of intimidation.”
- At it’s core THE FINEST HOURS is the story of an underdog, unlike anything we have seen in recent films and Ben Foster hit the nail on the head when he described the selflessness of this unlikely hero saying:
“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 an equal measure privilege to spend time with such wonderful actor as Chris. And he’s doing work that I haven’t seen him do before. And I haven’t seen 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.”
- Recreating this extraordinary tale took more than great actors, filmmakers and set designers. At the end of the day this was a true story and needed to feel real to the audience that was experiencing it. Micheal Condon, executive director of the USS SALEM was brought on as technical advisor and Commander John W. Pruitt, III from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Motion Picture & Television Office in Los Angeles were on set to make sure the actors were doing exactly things the exact way the Coast Guard would. Several of the survivors also were able to visit the set to talk with actors and watch filming.
The time, attention to detail, and effort put into making THE FINEST HOURS shows in every frame of the film. Presented in Digital 3D, Real D 3D and Imax 3D the film becomes an experience, on an epic scale, that will bring you into the heart of it all. Make sure you check out THE FINEST HOURS in theatres everywhere today.