“The Finest Hours” premiered in theaters on Friday, Jan. 29. The film tells the story of the rescue of the S.S. Pendleton, one of the most daring rescue missions in the history of the Coast Guard. When the ship is split in two by a ferocious storm off the coast of Chatham, MA, coxswain Bernie Webber (played by Chris Pine) sets out in a lifeboat in extremely treacherous conditions to rescue the survivors. Thanks to the efforts of Webber and chief engineer Raymond Sybert (played by Casey Affleck), 32 out of 33 of the Pendleton’s crew members were rescued. The Daily Nexus, along with several other collegiate publications, spoke with Affleck and Pine about the film:
Daily Nexus: 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, 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.
DN: Growing up in Boston, were you familiar with the story of the Pendleton’s rescue before your experience with the film?
Affleck: I hadn’t heard it before. I’m not totally sure that it’s true. But they say it is, you know, and I guess that’s enough to make a movie, you know. When I — when I did a little research, I was skeptical. I went to the Coast Guard Museum and turns out it all really happened. It’s quite an amazing story. It’s great when you can find totally forgotten [stories] like this that really you could write a book about. You could bring cheer to the story in a lot of ways. But these days, movies are pretty great for making a spectacle, you know. All the amazing things that they can do now in movies. They can really bring something like this to life, the scale of which would be hard to imagine if it weren’t a movie. No matter how much I heard about it or read about it, I was still really surprised by how big the ship was and, you know, just like what that — to think how big those waves must have been to split a 500 foot Oil Tanker in half. It’s the kind of thing you want to see someone make a movie of so you can go watch it.
DN: 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 storytelling, 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 the as best you can.
DN: 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 and 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. But from the script that I was given, he was a simple guy that loved his job and loved the waters … 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 … 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 just kind of wears his heart on his sleeve, wants to do a good job and loves his wife.
DN: 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: Nothing that comes to mind. But that seems to be that theme of, you know, we all like stories of the mavericks and the guys that, I don’t know, 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. And 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 kinds of experience that on a daily basis, balancing ourselves, understanding ourselves, communicating ourselves and you know, looking at whatever social framework which 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 50 foot waves.
“The Finest Hours,” which has been called a highly invigorating crowd pleaser and a tale of nautical derring-do, is now playing in theaters nationwide.