Peter Berg Says DEEPWATER HORIZON Will Be a Story of “Heroism”

     March 27, 2015

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When BP’s oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, tragically blew up in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 it sent more than 160 million gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf and claimed the life of 11 men. These are the men from which director Peter Berg draws inspiration as he prepares to shoot Summit Pictures’ upcoming film based on the devastating event, Deepwater Horizon. Berg will re-team with Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg for the picture to tell a human story about the people aboard the rig that day, what kind of personalities would be there and the choices they made in the time of crisis.

Per The Times-Picayune, photographs of the 11 deceased men line the walls of Berg’s production office in Louisiana where he is prepping the film. Berg calls those men “the heart and soul” of the film.

I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of people are going to move through this office by the time it’s done, and it’s very, very important to all of us — and me — very important that we never forget that this is a human story…You always ask, ‘Why? Why make this film?’ It’s a lot of work, and I think there’s never a single answer to that question. But if we cannot provide a human experience for an audience, there’s no reason to make this film.

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Image via Universal

While much ado has been made about the environmental impact of the explosion, the story of the people on board has yet to be heard. That is the story berg wants to tell in his film.

From our point of view, you look at the people who died, everyone there was doing their job. Many of them stood in harm’s way to try and prevent it from getting worse. They are an incredible group of people…I want to make a film about people… Everybody knows that there was a horrible environmental disaster. Everybody knows that a lot of animals were killed. But what people don’t know is 11 men were killed and many more were injured and there were some real heroes on that rig. That was a very compelling human story — and that’s the story we all want to tell.

As he works on the film in Louisiana, Berg has encountered many locals curious about the film and feels passionate about telling an honest story that honors their loss,

I think it is our responsibility to have as transparent and clear a dialogue with the community (as possible). And anybody that was touched by this tragedy, we want to make sure that they understand who we are and what we’re doing.

Part of that responsibility involves intensive research into the facts of what happened that day. And while film will naturally involve a certain amount of “hollywood-izing” the story,

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Image via Universal

Lionsgate executive Rob Friedman says everyone involved in the project is serious about telling the story with accuracy and honesty.

We’ve spent, and the filmmakers have spent, a tremendous amount of time poring through all the testimony and the reports to try to be as close to the facts as possible,” Friedman says. “…We’re trying to be as diligent and as accurate as we can be to portray this incident and the heroism and the survival and all of the elements that we believe (make this) an important story not just for America but for the rest of the world.

Berg compared the experience to his work on Lone Survivor, and how proud he felt when he played the film for the family of the Navy SEALs that story was based on.

We will show this film to the family members of the 11 men that were killed, and I want them to feel as though this is something they’re proud of, this is something — a legacy — that they can show to their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. They can say, ‘Wow, this is what my grandfather did.’ ‘This is what my husband did.’ That is very, very important to me.

Berg took the helm of Deepwater Horizon back in January when J.C. Chandor fell off the project to do “creative differences”, and it sounds like he is taking a decidedly different approach to the material. While Chandor also intended to keep the action of the film confined to the rig, he told us last December that his approach would include a broader message about the human relationship to and reliance on oil.

I’m sort of structuring this film almost like this tragic sort of poem as to where human beings’ relationship with oil is right now, which is we need it, we love it, we want it, we’re using a lot of it and we’re running out of it, and that’s just the facts.

We don’t know how much of Chandor’s script will be used for Berg’s film, but it sounds like they have very different approaches to the subject. Chandor excels a meditative, subversive storytelling, and it sounds like Berg is making a much more straight-ahead character piece. This is one of those projects where I’ll always wonder what Chandor’s version might have looked like, but Berg is a good filmmaker and he sounds devoted to honoring the the men who lost their lives. That’s an excellent approach to this kind of material. What do you think of Berg’s take on Deepwater Horizon? Who would you like to see fill out the cast around Mark Wahlberg? Sound off in the comments.

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Image via Universal

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