The Finest Hours is the latest Disney film opening in theaters on Friday, January 29, 2016. The Finest Hours tells the true life story Bernie Webber as he embarks on what is considered the greatest Coast Guard Rescue in American history. I was lucky enough to see the film early and was taken back by how much I enjoyed the film. All the performances were top notch and I loved how intense the story got as the film progressed. This was one of those rare pro America films that worked on me because it actually told a great story and based on some quick research seemed to follow the true life tale very closely.
A few days after seeing the film, I got to sit down with Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Craig Gillespie and have a more in-depth discussion about the film. Each cast member seemed to really enjoy working on this film and was very passionate about the subject matter. Below is a complete breakdown of my interviews with the cast and crew of The Finest Hours.
Director Craig Gillespie
ME: When I saw Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea about a month ago, I thought CGI was really bad and after seeing The Finest Hours I felt like you captured the sea beautifully.
CRAIG: Thank you.
ME: The intense nature is all there. As a director, one of the things I really admire about you is that you never do the same sort of project twice.
CRAIG: It confuses the hell out of the studios.
ME: Is there a challenge to that? Like how do you go from like to Mr. Woodcock to Million Dollar Arm?
CRAIG: It’s not – I don’t know how – it’s like I still haven’t – I would never expect to have done this film. I am sort of on this random course. I read something and if I can visualize the material. It’s something I learned early on which I had trouble with “Mr. Woodcock” because that script for me at the time was all over the place and I could never quite visualize it and it was a great learning curve and since then every movie I’ve done I see the movie as soon as I read the script and that is so – they’ve so been all over the map, but I still have a strong feeling for how I want to do it.
ME: Was the cast always as planned or were there casting issues?
CRAIG: No, I mean I wanted Holliday from the start. I was very lucky, you know, Disney supported that and that worked out. And Casey I’d wanted from the start as well. It was such – he’s such an unusual character and I felt he could be so complex and so unexpected in his choices that it really excited me for him playing that role. And then, you know, that was obviously the three core parts and then Ben as sort of this – he’s sort of the sounding board for Bernie, you know. And you can feel the resistance of the Coast Guard station within him and he can do so much with so little words and in some ways it was amazing the restraint that he had through the film. And some pivotal moments and some pivotal choices, you know, where, this thing we will either all live or we’ll all die and Ben doesn’t even look at Chris. And I kind of love that, you know, that it’s like there’s no big like, you know, they stare into each other’s eyes. [LAUGH] Ben is kind of like [LAUGH].
Chris Pine as Bernie Webber & Ben Foster as Richard Livesey
ME: How difficult was it for you to capture that accent, the Boston accent? And I think you pulled off by the way.
CHRIS: Oh Thank you, umm very hard especially when New England or Bostonians are famously just pricks about their accent. Ya know
CHRIS: Umm..I had this little audio recording that was my 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: He called it. It was really hard and particularly shooting there. What he did it’s bold.
ME: Yeah, I thought it was phenomenal.
CHRIS: Thank you.
Holliday Grainger as Miriam
ME: First off, you were fantastic in the film first and stole every single scene that you walked into.
HOLLIDAY: Thank you.
ME: With that being said, was it intimidating to be pretty much the only female character in this man’s world?
HOLLIDAY: 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.
ME: Was there any scene in particular that was difficult, like you found difficult to film?
HOLLIDAY: All of it, I mean [LAUGH] difficult from an emotional level, there’s a kind of trying to get the emotion or I found it easy enough to understand the emotion, but it’s the trying to restrain it and not let it go like for me personally I cry a lot and I think if I had been Miriam I would be crying a lot. And, we definitely didn’t want that and I think both Craig and I definitely thought it would be far stronger for the movie as well as it being like you don’t want like the whining, crying girlfriend on the show while all the men do all the action. It’s like I think we both would totally disagreeing with that and didn’t want that to be the case. And he was very pro don’t let a tear fall until the very end. And so that did mean that there was, obviously, lots of retakes because there was all ‘oh no, one [a tear] fell, gotta do another [take]’ [LAUGHS]
ME: What was it like working with Disney Studios again? You worked with them on Cinderella.
HOLLIDAY: Oh it was totally different. I mean it’s a totally different experience from Cinderella. You can’t compare the two. I can’t even imagine it’s the same studio. [LAUGH] But I guess the only similarities is they were to – the scale of the movies were so big and so therefore it’s like you get a lot more time to play with things and just the scale of the shoot is amazing. It’s like I loved working around the Cinderella sets and watching them develop. And it’s the same on this. It’s like having a tour with the studio. It feels like – it’s so exciting to be part of when you’re watching someone make a ship inside a warehouse and all of a sudden you’re believing that and you’re watching people walk up and down it. It’s huge.
ME: You’ve done a lot of independent filmmaking prior to kind of getting a lot of breaks now over the last couple of years in mainstream projects. What do you think is the biggest difference between those two things?
HOLLIDAY: Time, and money buys you time, and so if you’re in a lower budget thing quite often you just won’t have the time to do as many takes as you’d like or so there’s always that kind of slight pressure with that constraint. And whereas you know Craig was able on this, we could do 20 takes if we wanted and so therefore you can kind of explore the character.
Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert
ME: Did you draw any inspiration from any of the other roles you played or looked at any actors and the different roles from different films that kind of helped with this one? And how much research did you do about the actual event prior to playing this role?
CASEY: Well as it is being an actor there’s – any time you come on to a project there’s already a gigantic, huge group of people who have done a lot of work sometimes for years and years from the producers to the writers and they’ve done a ton of research. And all the people that work for them have done a ton of research and they’ve boiled it all down to a little packet and they can give it to you and you get the very best of it without doing too much. That said, you know, I went around and went to museums and went to different things and went on a few, you know, ships and sort of tried to imagine what it would feel like to be down there and some of that comes out in the movie and some of it you have all these plans about and then they turn the cold water on and you just forget everything and you’re just like – just trying to get through the scene. [LAUGH] So I didn’t do that much. There’s a book that Craig and I – there was a painting that is the cover of a book, a John Williams book called “Stoner” and the cover of the book is a painting of a guy and I said this is the character, this guy here. And so it actually sounds like too simple to be useful, but it was really helpful because you go every time we get in an argument I would show the picture and go like no he’s like this, this, remember this guy? [LAUGH] So that kind of research, yeah.