Chris Pine and Casey Affleck star in Disney’s The Finest Hours, the true story of how a small coast guard boat saved dozens of men stranded on the oil tanker SS Pendleton during a severe storm.
On February 18, 1952, a massive nor’easter struck New England causing havoc, ripping the SS Pendleton in half. On board, chief engineer Raymond Sybert (Casey Affleck) soon realizes he must take charge in order to save the men by keeping the tanker afloat as long as he can.
At the Chatham Coast Guard station in Massachusetts, coxwain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is ordered to assemble a crew and take out a 36-foot motorized wooden boat to save the survivors of the Pendleton. For both crews, this heroic mission turns out to be their finest hours.
Chris Pine and Casey Affleck attended the press day for the movie, where they talked about the real men they portrayed. The movie opens on Friday, January 29th.
What made you jump into this project before there was even a director attached?
Chris: It reminded me a lot of a film I did called Unstoppable in that you have a driving thriller aspect to the film, and it’s not all that complicated a story. There’s a simple elegance to it and I just like that it was driven by a really strong romance, and ordinary men doing extraordinary things.
My touchstone was just fear and anxiety, and I know a lot about those two awful emotions. This man was just wide-eyes and obviously hurt somewhere along the way and insecure, and I know all those feelings, so I just turned up the volume on those.
Growing up in Boston, was it nice to do a story that’s so much a part of the local history?
Casey: I didn’t even know about this story when I was growing up. I think it’s a part of the local history for the coast guard, but I’d never heard of it, no one I knew ever heard of it. I think it’s probably a bunch of made up bullshit (he laughs). No, it’s not at all, because there’s a few people who told us about it.
But it was really nice to go home, shooting in Boston is my favorite place to work. That part of it was great.
How would you describe Bernie and Raymond?
Chris: I think Bernie, at least on the page, was a man that grew up in a family with a very strong father, two brothers that served in the war and were honored for it, were on the beaches of Normandy, and Bernie wasn’t and probably felt that lack of ray of sunshine from his dad because of that.
So he always felt in the shade and was the black sheep, was the little puppy that never got love.
Casey: I think that Raymond was someone who doesn’t go making a big show out of everything, he’s flat, a little bit dry, quiet but considerate and I think kind, not bitter or grumpy.
I made a effort to be kind to the other characters so that you see that his reluctance to lead is not because he doesn’t like people. He’s just more like a librarian.
People behave so differently in situations that are super stressful like that.
You’ll find people who are supposed to be the leaders and take charge and they panic, and then there’s the guy who just happens to be there, a janitor, who says, ‘I’ll take care of the situation,’ and is really courageous and calm, and that’s what we wanted to do with this guy.
Did shooting in the real locations help your performance?
Chris: My most immediate relationship to Bernie was not so much about the locations but this audio recording I had of him. That’s where I felt the closest to who the man may have been.
It was Bernie talking to a small town newspaper 15 years later and he’s just so bored. The man is so bored of talking about it.
He’s got this wonderful New England lilt, and he’s just a by-the-books, regular Joe, and it was very illuminating for me, and I just drew whatever I could out of that. But it just seemed like a man who didn’t want to talk about it and wanted to get on with his life. He had a family, believed in god and loved the ocean.
We did get a chance to visit Chatham and go to the coast guard station there and in the cafeteria there’s the same bench where the boys went and shared a coffee after their night, and seemed to be laughing and joking round, which was kind of stunning..
Did you get a chance to meet the survivors of that event?
Casey: There were a couple who came to set. They seemed like very nice guys. They were very pleased I think that this was happening and that’s about all I got.