Disney’s heroic live action film, The Finest Hours tells the incredible true story about the greatest small boast rescue in Coast Guard history. When a massive nor’easter struck the coast of New England on February 18, 1952, a T-2 oil tanker bound for Boston was ripped in half. The more than 30 sailors in the sinking ship had to depend on the unlikeliest of heroes on board and on the coast heading to their rescue.
Casey Affleck played Ray Sybert, the senior officer on board the ship, who as first assistant engineer had to take charge of keeping the ship afloat and inspire his crew to set asides their differences to survive as long as possible. Affleck, a New England native talked about his familiarity of the story and whether he felt pressure to bring this character to life:
Casey Affleck: I hadn’t heard of it. Not a lot of people had heard of it. I didn’t feel too much pressure because, frankly, he’s not with us anymore. And his family, there was no one really reachable, there was no one who knew him. We didn’t have much information on him so it felt like it had to be an invented character and personality in some way. You get to make thing up instead of feeling sort of burdened by the reality of somebody else’s life. I did like the character that had been written that just sort of grew and grew into something that would be interesting an fun to play amidst the noise and effects of the movie. To be someone who is more cerebral and calm and centered and sees this life and death situation as a puzzle not a threat.
Sent out to help the men was a small team of four who were led by Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine. The man who would go on to become a small town hero is the heart and strength of the story. He both sets out against the odds to make it over to save the trapped sailors and make it back to his girl. Pine shared what drew him to the role:
Chris Pine: I just loved reading this soft sweet man, he was just really a gently spirit. It’s really attractive seeing a character like that go through these hard experiences rather than someone that you might expect to win at the end of the day. I wanted to see someone who was racked by fear just like many of us are. 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 doubt, he does really know how to use his hands. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves his woman. I love that un-cynical throwback quality to him. I love stories that are not all that complicated but that are really well told and this was a beautiful throwback story with a good romance. A guy that loved his girl and wanted to get back to her.
Holliday Grainger plays Miriam, Bernie’s fiancee, who proposes to him before he embarks on his perilous journey which actually happened in the real life. Her character was true to the real woman who inspired the part while also showing us a woman who was more than just a love interest, she was a stranger in a new town with ideas that set her apart when getting the boys home was all that mattered. Grainger described to us how she was able to create a dynamic woman of that time unlike what’s expected:
Holliday Grainger: I think for me, that maybe the biggest challenge was putting my own expectations aside and kind of marrying the two mindsets of my own assumptions of the 1950’s woman and also my own assumptions of an independent strong woman is. And the fact that of her being selfish, instinctive and strong and defying conventions while at the same time having such strong traditional family values of marriage. Miriam’s a strong fully rounded character with her own agenda being integral to the movie asides from just being the girlfriend. For me it was understanding the mindset of that time as well as that she’s slightly other, outside of this community. She’s college educated, we kinda decided she might have been from a more middle class family than kind of the rural coast guard area. Her journey became not just the journey towards Bernie but a journey of understanding another kind of social group. Feeling like a fish out of water but finding the strength to be able to want to be part of that.
The Finest Hours takes us back to a time where we didn’t have the technology or advanced resources to pull off a rescue in freezing temperatures, 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds. Actor Ben Foster, played Richard Livesey, a veteran Coast Guard seaman who accompanied Webber on the journey that only a couple others were brave enough to. The act of courage to Foster, is a testament to duty to your fellow man and not modern sensibilities as he explains:
Ben Foster: It was a very concise and simple story. The dialogue felt very true and lived in and there of course was an evolution to the words. What’s exciting in this world of twitter and Facebook. Everybody’s presenting their lives as a movie, as their own commercial. This movie hearkens back to a time of an emotional courage, a spiritual courage and a work ethic which has a simplicity to it. A classic fabric of what being a hero is about. It’s not about saying, “Look what I did.” It’s: that’s your job. I think it’s really important that we’re reminded of a world that chooses to put someone else in front of them. This world is increasingly self-centered and self-aware and it really warms my heart and gives me some hope, which is I think is what we need. There are men and women putting their lives behind somebody else and their saying that’s a human, I want to take care of that human.
The Finest Hours opens this Friday!