By: Ben Zacuto ’19
February 5, 2016
Disney’s The Finest Hours follows the story of Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his rescue team sailing out in the middle of one of the most dangerous storms that has ever hit the East Coast of Cape Cod to rescue Ray Sybert’s (Casey Affleck) crew on a sinking oil tanker. Ripping in half the SS Pendleton (a T-2 Oil Tanker bound for Boston, MA) an offshore nor’easter storm traps 30 sailors on board the sinking vessel, clamoring to keep the stern afloat under the leadership of Sybert. Meanwhile, word of the disaster reaches the U.S. Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts, where Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) orders a daring rescue team of four men, led by Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber to set out in a wooden lifeboat with an ill-equipped engine and barely any means of navigation, facing frigid temperatures, 60-foot high waves and hurricane-force winds to rescue the stranded sailors. In this conference call interview, both Pine and Affleck had some very interesting insight into the production of the film about one of the greatest rescue missions in US Coast Guard history.
Emertainment Monthly got the chance to partake in a conference call with The Finest Hours‘ stars Chris Pine and Casey Affleck.
What drew you to this project?
Affleck: You know, um, there are a lot of things actually to this. One was that it was filmed in Massachusetts, which I — I just got to come home and work here. See where I am at the moment. That I knew from and the other, I felt like it was a movie that, um, it was, I like what Disney’s doing. I feel like they make a great effort to, you know, make Movies that are, um, have a strong message and a good story, good Characters. This one is particularly exciting but it also supports the characters there and their kind of core values of Disney. And I might sound old fashioned and hokey but; it’s kind of refreshing to see a movie like that.
Boston University: Welcome back first of all. My question actually revolves around this, the location. I know that you’ve done quite a few films in the New England/Boston area. What exactly is it that draws you back to your hometown and how did your familiarity with the area affect the filming process?
Affleck: That’s a good question. I guess I like coming back here just because I’m from here. It’s nice to come home. I’m in California for the time being so I can work, that’s where the industry is. But I’d much rather be here. Boston is also a great place to make movies cause they’ve been making movies here for a long time. They’ve got really good crews. There, uh, which is not always the case. And you know, everyone’s professional and also when the movie comes out and you run into the people who you made it with, from Boston, people in Boston don’t mind telling you if they hated it. So it’s nice to know, you know, where you stand. And you don’t have to guess about whether or not they actually liked it or not. That was a joke.
Southern Methodist University: Hey, I just wanted to know how the film being set in 1952, how that changed your, approach to the performance.
Affleck: Well that’s a good question. There’s a lot of conversation about whether or not we try to emulate the style, the acting style, the movies from that period because stylistically the movie looks and feels a lot like a movie from back then, albeit also sort of, you know, color and gigantic and sort of awesome in all of the ways that digital cinema is now. But in other ways, in the writing and story telling, thematically, it sort of feels like an old movie. So should people behave that way as well, and we decided, no. So really I just approach it like any other movie as best you can. Um, Chris Pine just joined us. He’s been giving; he’s amazing and honorary. I hope you have a question for Chris because he’d like to talk about the film a little bit.
I was reading in the Production Notes, that you had gotten to shoot at the actual Coast Guard Station in Chatham, where Bernie and the crew returned after the rescue mission. I understood obviously, it was very emotional. I just wonder if you could kind of describe for us what that felt like.
Pine: We shot at the Lighthouse that attached to the Coast Guard station there in Chatham. We got a chance to visit the interior of the station but I don’t think we shot any more interiors there. Um, but we did get to go to the Cafeteria, to the same spot where Bernie and his boys took a photo after, right after the night had ended. So that was kind of, um, uh, you can’t help but be affected by that. They take out the actual CG 36500 in the Bar and they go out to the open waters where it happened, was quite something too.
Ohio State University: Were you able to meet with any of the actual survivors from the Pendleton and how did that affect how you portrayed your role?
Affleck: I didn’t get the opportunity to meet any of the survivors from the Pendleton. No I didn’t get the opportunity, I wish I had. But we got to see it on T2, a boat that’s similar to a T2 and get a sense of what that was like, which is pretty, pretty amazing.
John Carroll University: My question is for Chris. So Chris, you play Bernard Weber who’s the main character of this film. What elements did you bring to your character to honor Weber’s legacy?
Pine: Bernie Weber, what I like about Bernie, at least from the script that I was given and, I didn’t know Bernie, and really had only a sense of who he was from talking to Andy Fitzgerald who was on the boat with him that night and Moe Gutthrew, who’s his best friend and there’s an autobiographical account that Bernie wrote about the night and then obviously, the book, “The Finest Hours”. There’s also a little audio clip of Bernie describing the events of that night. So that was, those were kind of the things that I used to cull an idea of who the man might have been. Um, but from the script that I was given, he was a simple guy that loved his job and loved the waters and — and, knew what he was doing out there but was obviously affected by, a tragedy that happened a year before and didn’t know if he was up for the task of going out that night. But I — I do love the idea of a regular man up against seemingly insurmountable odds and more than anything, I kind of related to Bernie’s fear, you know. Bernie is a man that wears his heart on his sleeve. And he’s not like many of us that, you know, put on all this armor and try to be macho and tough. He’s just, Bernie doesn’t, at least from the script that was given, doesn’t think that way. He’s just kind of wears his heart on his sleeve, wants to do a good job, loves his wife, and uh, yeah.
St. Louis University: Bernie’s Character was a really huge rule follower in the film at the beginning. And then at the end, he kind of learned the limits of being a rule follower and kind of broke away from that. Were there any situations in your life where you have broken the rules or taken risks in acting or in life?
Pine: Um, nothing that comes to mind. But, that seems to be that theme of, um, you know, we all like stories of the mavericks and the guys that, go against the grain, and I think what we enjoy about men like that is they usually operate from the sense of an inner moral compass. I think part of Bernie’s evolution, it’s not that following rules are bad, it’s just that Bernie, by following rules so closely, had lost his voice and, by learning to speak up for himself and to trust his instincts, trust his gut, trust his knowledge of those waters, I think, I think that’s really good. The story there and although I can’t think of anything personally that comes to mind, I think all those kind of experiences that on a daily basis, balancing our, understanding ourselves, communicating ourselves and you know, looking at whatever social framework which, um, uh, tries to–
Affleck: What Chris is doing there is he’s telling some of the bigger themes of the picture. It’s about the inner compass of a man. There’s the compass, they lose their compass and they still find their way because there’s an inner moral compass that guides them. The guiding light here, for Disney, for Chris, for all of us. It’s selflessness, heroism in the face of fifty-foot waves.
DePaul University: My question is for the both of you. Both of your characters are faced with not only overcoming a big storm but also there’s personal struggles to overcome themselves. Now how can you relate to your character and their determination in the role like that portraying that when filming?
Pine: Well I guess in our own tiny way, being in the film business is hard enough and there’s a lot of luck involved in it obviously. You face an incredible amount of rejection and also you know, I assume, just by being alive, people felt, not a part of the group or not liked or that they don’t have friends, don’t have as many friends as they want or, feeling out of place. And I certainly saw that in Bernie. And, so I mean it’s a great thing about what we get to do as actors is that even though, I’ll never know what it’s really like to be a Coast Guardsman, or really never know what it’s like to go up against 70 foot waves and uh, zero visibility and what it’s like to rescue men off a split oil tanker, there are certain kind of general human emotions and feelings that you can attach to and bring your own experience to.
Houston Community College: This question is for both Chris and Casey. Did you learn or take away anything from the experience of playing your respective characters? If so, what was it?
Pine: Well you know, what I liked about Bernie is that he’s a simple guy and I don’t mean that derogatorily, I love Bernie because he loves his job and he loves his woman and wants to do well at his job, and loves his woman well, and have a bunch of kids, and live happily ever afterwards. There’s honesty and a truth to him. He’s just a good solid man and uh, who goes about business not seeking any sort of pat on the back. It’s just because he wants to do right and he knows that’s the only way he can function really. And I learned a lot from him. I think about that, about, there is purity in wanting to do your job well and to serve other people because; you don’t need much more than that. And oftentimes in our business, it’s all about, stuff that’s completely opposite from that which is, you know, getting your picture taken and twittering and all that kind of shit that I just think takes away from you know, those good old fashioned values.
Affleck: Yeah, my character had a journey. I really didn’t learn anything from the guy. I didn’t, because, you know, there wasn’t a whole lot of information about him so he’s more or less, just a piece of fiction of the screenwriters who did a really good job creating a character that fit into the story. But um, I didn’t have that same opportunity to kind of study his life. So I just had to sort of make some stuff up.
This interview has been condensed from its original form. The Finest Hours is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Watch The Trailer: