Writer/director J.C. Chandor has made three feature films now, and each one couldn’t be more different from the others. His debut, Margin Call, is a talky drama that takes place in a Wall Street investment bank over the course of one 36-hour period during the initial stages of the financial crisis. His second film, All Is Lost, is a nearly silent survival movie dripping with subtext. And his most recent film, the upcoming A Most Violent Year, is a character-centric crime drama set against the backdrop of a family-run heating oil business in 1981 New York City. So it didn’t come as a huge shock when Chandor agreed to next tackle Deepwater Horizon, a Mark Wahlberg-fronted film that tells the story of the oil rig disaster of April 2010 that killed 11 people.
Perri caught up with Chandor recently in anticipation of the release of A Most Violent Year, and during the course of their interview the filmmaker spoke quite a bit about his plans and vision for the Deepwater Horizon movie. He revealed that they’re building a replica of the rig in the Six Flags Great Adventure parking lot, adding that the “big, dramatic blockbuster” will focus on the events on the rig and is solely based on what factually happened during the event. Read on after the jump.
“I’m writing it right now. So, I’m working with David Barstow, the original writer of the New York Times piece that it’s going to be based on, and he’s gone back and we’ve had this whole team of research assistants that have gone through like every public trial. It’s amazing working with them. It’s so fun. If I wrote that, you would not believe it so we’re literally just doing what happened. There’s sort of no other option. I mean, it’s BP, if we lied and made stuff up, we would be sued so …”
When asked from whose perspective the film will be told, Chandor revealed that the film focuses mainly on what happened on the rig:
“[It’s from the perspective of everyone] that was on the rig. It’s just the rig though. So you’re on the rig. So it’s sort of a cross section of what happened that day, which is this unbelievable confluence of events, basically. Some BP execs land on the rig to like, give an award, but they’re not really there to give an award. They’re actually there to say ‘hurry up’ because they were tremendously behind schedule and literally it blows up a couple hours later. And then everyone has to get off.”
“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.”
The filmmaker added that the film mixes these timely, heavy themes with large-scale entertainment value, which is a rarity in the moviegoing marketplace these days:
“Everything in the movie will be what happened and Lionsgate is making a huge, exciting bet that there’s an audience out there for big, dramatic blockbuster; summer-type blockbuster storytelling. And I don’t think the movie’s coming out in the summer, but it’s a big ass movie but about real people, real things that happened on this planet right now and those are the kind of things I’m fascinated in so I feel humbled and honored to be given the chance in this day and age when most of the movies on that scale of storytelling are straight sort of entertainment – which this will be. You can’t make it up it’s so dramatic, but it’s also really interesting just about where we are right now with our relationship to oil. We’re building the set right now. I’m trying to hurry up and finish the script before they – it’s never good if the set is finished before the script is.”
“We’re building a rig in the parking lot and then gonna surround it in a huge tank of water. So we’re building the rig almost life-size based on the original plans, which are public record, so we’re literally building the rig in the Six Flags Great Adventure parking lot.”
The filmmaker subsequently confirmed that Mark Wahlberg will indeed be leading the movie, adding that the cast is large:
“[Wahlberg’s] in the movie. He’s very attached. It’s a huge ensemble though so there’s probably eight main characters and then 126 other people – but more than that, probably 150 people cast so it’s gonna be a lot of casting.”
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura previously told us that Deepwater Horizon would be in the vein of A Perfect Storm, but the hiring of Chandor signals that Lionsgate is game to strive for something a bit more than just entertainment value. I’ve admired all three of Chandor’s films thus far and I think he’s doing some really interesting stuff, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how he handles a large-scale feature such as this. The film is set to open in theaters on September 30, 2016.
Look for Perri’s full interview with Chandor on Collider soon.