On February 18, 1952, a massive nor’easter struck New England, pummeling towns along the Eastern Seaboard and wreaking havoc on anything caught in its destructive path, including two 500-foot oil tankers. The SS Pendleton and SS Fort Mercer, bound for Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine, respectively, were both ripped in half by the storm, stranding their crews at sea. The senior officer aboard the stern of the Pendleton, chief engineer Raymond Sybert (Casey Affleck), soon realizes it is up to him to take charge of the frightened crew and keep the ship afloat as long as possible.
The Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts was busy helping local fishermen protect their boats from the storm when they received word that the Fort Mercer was in trouble. Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the recently appointed station chief, immediately dispatches his best men to aid in the larger rescue effort already in progress. When Cluff learns that a second ship, the Pendleton, was also damaged and is now adrift in nearby waters, he orders coxswain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) to quickly assemble a crew and take out the CG36500 lifeboat to look for survivors.
Webber and three men board the 36-foot motorized, wooden boat and set off on the perilous mission with bleak prospects, at best, and before they even clear the Chatham Harbor, the boat’s windshield and compass are destroyed. Yet the men persevere, and despite hurricane- force winds, 60-foot waves, frigid temperatures and zero visibility, miraculously locate the Pendleton and rescue 32 of its 33 men in the midst of the turbulent storm, returning a total of 36 men home on their battered 12-seat lifeboat.
During a recent press junket, we had the opportunity to hear from Chris Pine and Ben Foster about what made this movie so special and unique.
Q: You mentioned that this role was unlike anyone you’ve ever played before. What was different about Bernie to you and was that what made the role appealing?
Chris Pine: Yeah, when I first met Craig, 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 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. There’s no complexity above and beyond what you see with Bernie.
Q: How difficult was it for you to capture that accent, the Boston accent?
Pine: I had this little audio recording that was kind of my touchstone and that was my version of Bernie. So the moment that I would ever ask like, so what do you think? I would have about seven people in my face going well now that vowel, no, you can’t do that.
Ben Foster: He called it. It was really hard and particularly shooting there. What he did it’s bold.
Q: Was there anything in your personal life that helped motivate you or feel your portrayal of the character for both of you guys?
Foster: What we do is a job and it’s not that exceptional. It’s a great privileged job, no question. But you do a thing. And being around these men and women who do this for a living the Coast Guard, the real Coast Guard the real military, people that are in the service industry, journalist who actually ask questions because they care. Wherever care is involved, it’s so humbling.
Q: How do you feel shooting the storm scenes because we’re hearing that a lot of water was thrown at you? How did you focus? Was it challenging?
Pine: I guess it’s a pain in the ass in the beginning. But then it’s in many ways, kind of makes the job a lot easier because you don’t have to act all that much and you just focus on getting the job done.
“The Finest Hours” is a heroic action-thriller based on the remarkable true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. Presented in Digital 3DTM, Real D 3D and IMAX® 3D, the film transports audiences to the heart of the action, creating a fully immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, “The Finest Hours” stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, Kyle Gallner, John Magaro and Eric Bana and is produced by Jim Whitaker, p.g.a., and Dorothy Aufiero, p.g.a., with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. The film is written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, based on the acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias.
“The Finest Hours” is now playing in theaters.