‘The Finest Hours’: 20 Things to Know about the Coast Guard’s Greatest Small Boat Rescue

     January 13, 2016


The crew of the CG36500 that went out to rescue the stranded men aboard the SS Pendleton in the middle of a vicious nor’easter may be humble and have zero interest in boasting about their accomplishment, but on January 29th, we’re going to celebrate their bravery on the big screen in Craig Gillespie’s adaptation of the Casey Sherman book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue.

The movie will cover what went down on the SS Pendleton after the tanker split in two in the middle of the storm, but during my visit to set back in November 2014, we focused primarily on the crew of the lifeboat that agreed to embark on what seemed like a suicide mission in order to rescue them. Chris Pine leads the film as Bernie Webber, the captain and driver of the CG36500, and he’s joined by novice engine man Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), an inexperienced guy on lightship duty named Ervin Maske (John Magaro), and Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), the more seasoned member of the crew who wasn’t thrilled about risking his life with a bunch of third-stringers.

While on the Boston set, we got the chance to watch Pine, Foster and Magaro brave some serious wind and rain while the CG36500 rocked around on a gimbal, tour select sets and chat with Pine, Foster, Magaro, Gallner, Gillespie and producers Dorothy Aufiero and Jim Whittaker during roundtable interviews. Check out some of the highlights below:

the-finest-hours-posterAufiero was pitched the project in a parking lot. She began, “I was looking at another project that actually is a book that Casey Sherman had done. I had been pitched this project and I was in a meeting to just meet the author. I determined it really wasn’t the story that I was interested in making.” She thought that was that but Sherman wasn’t letting her off the hook that easy. “I was saying my goodbyes and leaving the building and Casey started following me and he said, ‘Can I see you for a minute? Do you mind if I walk you out?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s alright.’ So we went to the parking lot and I was getting close to my car and he whipped out the book The Finest Hours and he said, ‘I have your next big thing.’” She laughed and recalled, “I’m looking at the cover and there’s this tanker sinking and I’m thinking, ‘This is not anything I’m remotely interested in.’ So I said that I’d look at it and he said, ‘I think that it’s Disney.’ So I drove home and later in the afternoon I was flipping through it and I really was completely blown away by the story.”

The Finest Hours actually is in Disney’s wheelhouse. Here’s how Foster put it; “This isn’t going to be Lone Survivor 2. I think it’s really brave and exciting that Disney’s doing it, but it also feels very much in their wheelhouse from way back when. It feels like a callback to a grander time of, in my opinion, of films that I feel more connected to, the 30s and 40s.” He added, “It’s more about a type of men who don’t go home and tell the town how great they are.”

The heroes of this story are actually the B team. Whitaker explained how the crew of the CG36500 came together; “The first boat goes down, so all of the A-team gets sent out. They’re the underdogs because they’re left over really and they’re the ones that are left behind, right? Because they were put in this position where they had to go out on what was effectively a suicide mission, not everybody really wanted to raise their hand. The ones that did were like Andy Fitzgerald who was a third class engineer man who only went because Mel Gouthro, who was ahead of him as an engineer man, was sick. So Andy ended up signing up and then Maske ended up walking through the door and he just said, ‘Hey, I’ll go too.’ And then Livesey was the third one and Livesey, who Ben Foster plays, was not all that happy about not being chosen on the first team. So he’s a pretty capable guy who is left to be chosen and put together with a group of guys who he knows are lesser in his rank and ability. And that also causes tension with Bernie.”

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