Chris Pine on How ‘The Finest Hours’ Is Like a Studio Film from the 50s

     November 11, 2015

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The Finest Hours isn’t due in theaters until January 29th, but in honor of Veteran’s Day and the debut of the film’s latest trailer, Disney gave us the OK to post a portion of our set visit coverage. While observing filming in the Boston, we got the chance to chat with Chris Pine, Jim Whittaker, Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner and John Magaro. We’ve got to hold onto the interviews with Whittaker, Foster, Gallner and Magaro for a little while longer, but we can share the one with Pine who leads as Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber.

On February 18, 1952, a nor’easter hit New England and tore the SS Pendleton into two pieces. Even though the odds were very much against them, Webber and his team accepted a mission to battle 60-foot high waves and hurricane-force winds in order to save the stranded sailors of the Pendleton. During a brief break from getting slammed by wind and water on set, Pine came over to chat with the group of visiting journalist about the real Bernie Webber, the appeal of the simplicity of the character, how The Finest Hours is like a film from the 50s and more.

You can read about all of that in the interview below and, in case you missed it, we’ve got the film’s new trailer here for you as well.


Question: So can you tell us about Bernie?

CHRIS PINE: Yeah, Bernie Webber. I didn’t get a chance to meet him obviously. He passed away. I met his daughter and you guys just missed the actual Fitz, Andy Fitzgerald and Gus, his best friend, and that was a great treat. There’s a great recording of Bernie talking to an interviewer years and years ago about the rescue and I guess, above and beyond the heroism of it, you can kind of get the sense that he’s sick of retelling the story, you know? That, for him, this was his job, this was what he was supposed to do and just like anyone clocking in for a job, his task was going out and saving people, and a real sense that there was no glory in it for him or any need for self-aggrandizement. It was just very simple. So I guess I like the simplicity of the character.

Did you connect to that, as someone who’s regularly asked exhaustively about your job?

PINE: Umm, no. Well, I mean, to that aspect of it, I suppose, but no. The temperament of this character seemed altogether different from usually what you encounter in this business which is all about, you know, fame and the glam of it. I don’t know if it’s just men of a different generation, that’s the WWII generation or just immediately after it. There was just a simplicity to the description of it. There was no drama to it. The waves were incredibly huge. What they were going up against was unbelievable in terms of the heroism of these men, but there was this almost metronomic dispatch of facts of events that had taken place; the waves were big, they couldn’t see anything, they lost their compass, it was snowing, nearly dying of hypothermia. It was the skill of the crew, but also we thought much of divine providence having a great deal to do with it.

So how has watching that interview affected your performance?

PINE: I guess, again, he struck me as a very honest, direct, open man. Ben and I have talked about it, but I really like this idea of men clocking in for the workday and it just so happens on this day, something incredible happened but above and beyond that, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. People doing the right thing, I don’t know. I like the clear-cutness of that, you know?

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Image via Disney

In your career you’ve done a lot of physical roles. From what we’re seeing on the ship, you really need a lot of stamina and energy. Is this the most difficult physical thing you’ve had to do as an actor?

PINE: That’s actually kind of great fun. It’s like a big roller coaster ride. It is pretty terrifying when you see all that water coming at you, but it is really fun. Yeah, it gets more difficult when we’re out there and they’re pounding us with the elements and the wind and we’re in a ginormous aluminum box basically that just traps the cold weather, the cold air, so it can get difficult. There was a particularly cold morning the other day and definitely the time where I could feel myself just about breaking and then you see Andy Fitzgerald who was actually out there on the boat and you shut up real fast, as we’re in dry suits and I have a heating shirt and the whole bit. It is hard, but it’s a nice, easy way for all of us to understand how difficult it may have been. I mean, it’s really, really cold, and here I am pretending to steer a boat in no current. The stories of what they had to do with the boats flying out of the water, the rudder’s out of the water, they’re going through these steep, steep pitches not being able to see anything, it’s difficult but it’s no comparison to what actually happened.

I find it kind of ironic that you guys are filming this movie at a time when there are a lot of military guys out there who are turning their stories into books and then turning them into movies. Have you guys talked about the fact that, generationally, it’s such a different thing? What do you think changed where guys used to just take it home with them and never talk about it and now it’s suddenly become this commodity, really?


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Image via Disney

PINE: Yeah, I couldn’t have articulated it any better. I think we just live in a time of the selfie, so there’s a sense that everyone’s uniqueness and importance on this planet should be displayed and reveled in, and that there’s kind of a piece of glory for everyone. And there’s a lot to be said for that because a lot of people do do wonderful things and it has a lot to do with the internet and the proliferation of different forms of media and media outlets, ways to tell your story, from blogs to pictures to whatever. But yeah, when I talk about the simplicity I really do like those stories and, again, this is a movie, this is entertainment, but if there are themes to explore which are valuable for people to witness and think about, I think ours would be to do right and to do good for no other reason than to do it, that it’s just the thing to do which is to be a good man without the need for validation or for encomiums and awards and gifts and all that. It’s just to do good is good. Mitzvah is good, you know?

How is it balancing his drive to save everyone with his own personal concern, his romance? Because that’s really the only thing we get beyond you guys going on this mission.

PINE: I think it makes for great drama. When Jim and Sean Bailey originally talked to me about this film when we were exploring all the different aspects of it, I think what I really responded to above and beyond what I had spoken about before about Bernie was that in many ways this is like this bizarre, anachronistic film that shouldn’t exist now with all the Marvel characters and everything. This is almost like a studio film from the 50s, you know? There’s no cursing and people are good and right and love conquers all, it’s really very sweet. There’s a sweet earnestness to this film that people will either engage with or the cynicism of the world will win out, but I hope that people appreciate that. There’s these two really beautiful, sensitive, wonderful people in this world and they find great love and then the story ends and you can imagine them having a family and disappearing into the night to raise a family and have a good, decent life. Holliday [Grainger] is absolutely wonderful and so beautiful and angelic and I think she’s kind of the light in the dark night of the souls that we go out on in this crazy journey, will return to this really, really warm person that Holliday embodies so well. So it’s a great thing for my character to have that and for the audience to root for that. Again, the story’s very wonderfully kind of simple. There’s no irony in this film. It is what it is.


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Can you talk about what sets this apart from other lost at sea movies?

PINE: I think like other great, I don’t know, ocean films [laughs], just like space, it’s a pretty powerful thing when there are men on something that is uncontrollable and violent and it’s Mother Nature really at its most chaotic. So there’s great inherent drama in that, in the unknown, what’s underneath the water. But yes, I would say because this is a period film set in a time of the greatest generation, or however it’s classified, perhaps it is that, it’s a simple story about good men doing great things and it does have an earnest – I don’t like the word earnest, but I don’t see any other descriptive that’s kind of as apropos, it’s just what you see is what you get. What was [Robert] Redford’s film called again? All Is Lost! It is, in many ways, man against the sea, man against the sea, man against the elements, can he survive? It’s the triumph of the human spirit and all that kind of stuff. And also the really violent beauty of the ocean, it is that. There is something studio film-ish about it, but of a time passed that I think we all really enjoy. I mean, if you just look at the collection of faces in this film it’s just great, just great. Good mugs [laughs], good like party mugs. Not mine, but I mean …

I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but a lot of WWII guys came home and worked here at the ship yard. My ex’s grandfather was a mariner and worked here for 40 years so you guys couldn’t be in a more perfect place to capture both sides of all that.

PINE: Yeah, yeah. It’s a point well taken.

They told us that Ben brought on a jam box. Is there a favorite jam he’s played that you’ve been into?

PINE: Right now we’re heavy into funk. We have a whole funk thing happening, which couldn’t be more in contrast to what we’re doing.

Is there a particular song that you’re like, “This one?”

PINE: No. It’s an English funk band, a new English funk band, heavy on the horns.

If you want more from my The Finest Hours set visit, click here for the Craig Gillespie interview and keep an eye out for additional pieces closer to the film’s January release.


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