Chris Pine and Ben Foster star in Walt Disney Studios’ The Finest Hours, a film that tells the true story of a 1952 rescue mission of four members of the Coast Guard who brave hurricane-like storms to save the survivors of the SS Fort Mercer, who are aboard on only half of a ship.
We were recently invited to sit down with our fellow journalists to talk to Pine and Foster who play Boatswains Mate First Class Bernard Webber and Seaman Richard Livesey. In our interview we talk about what it was like to play real-life heroes, the difficulties of capturing an authentic New England accent, the research process, and contending with all that water. Check out our roundtable interview with the two below.
Geeks Of Doom: You had mentioned that this is unlike any role you have ever played, what was different about Bernie that made the role appealing?
Chris Pine: When I first met Craig [Gillespie], he kept on mentioning Rocky as the touchstone for the character. I thought that was a very adept, adroit, perceptive way in, especially how Scott [Silver] wrote the script. He isn’t the sharpest or the swiftest guy in many ways, but he is very adept with his job. He knows that boat. He knows those waters. As much as he is racked by fear and doubt, he really does know how to use his hands, his body. He’s a soft guy. He’s scared. He’s like a puppy dog. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He loves his woman. He’s just earnest. There is no complexity, above and beyond. What you see with Bernie is what you get, and I love that uncynical throwback quality to him.
Geeks of Doom: So then what was it like to shoot your character, Ben? He seems to go through some major developments throughout the course of the film?
Ben Foster: These are guys who put others before them. It’s so humbling to do a job like these where you get the opportunity to spend time with the men and women of our military. And not because it is the American Military, but these are men and women who chose to serve their fellow man, and that speaks to humans. So a guy who says ‘Yeah, I am going to go on the boat.’ Even though everyone else is saying no, that’s his job. That’s what he does. He’s not looking for a selfie. Or to tell his guys on Twitter what a brave guy he is. That’s his job. It’s the right thing to do. In terms of the drama of the piece and Mr. Weber’s journey, it’s more of a privilege to spend time with the real guys. The real Chatham Coast Guard. But in equal measure a privilege to spend time with such wonderful actors. Chris [Pine] is doing work that I haven’t seen him do before. And I haven’t seen this kind of a movie in a very long time. I haven’t seen this kind of an underdog. I haven’t seen this kind of quality of true blue. There is so much cynicism in cinema these days, and what Chris pulls off is kind of striking as the ocean that we are on.
Geeks Of Doom: Since the real Bernie passed on in 2009, what sort of references did you have to look back on to get an idea of who Bernie is?
Chris Pine: I had a beautifully written script, and that is really the basis of what my task is as an actor to bring to life the character that is on the page. I had some great audio recording of Bernie. Bernie wrote a first hand account of the experience. There’s books. Then being in Chatham, feeling what it is like in a small town, get a sense of what these guys who are just regular joes. They clock in, they clock out, their jobs just happen to be saving lives.
Geeks of Doom: Can you tell us a little bit about capturing the Boston accent? Was it hard?
Chris Pine: It was very hard, especially when New Englanders and Bostonians are famously just ‘pricks’ about their accent. But it was the audio recording that was my touchstone, and that was my version of Bernie. The moment that I would ever ask ‘So what do you think?’ I would have seven people in my face going ‘Well that vowel. No, you can’t do that.’ It was really hard.
Geeks of Doom: What was shooting the storm scenes like?
Chris Pine: It’s a pain in the ass in the beginning, but in many ways it makes the job a lot easier because you don’t have to act all that much and focus on getting it done.
Geeks of Doom: Do you guys have a better understanding of what the Coast Guard has to do after you shot the film?
Ben Foster: We’re make believers. So the idea is imagining. One we would all hope that inside all of us, we would have the capacity to do the right thing when we need to. Without plan. Without the availability of a big plan. Without a spiritual compass to go do the right thing. And that is the importance of these movies. Right now. Today. Not superheroes. But it is great to see real people do real things for the good for their fellow man.
Chris Pine: I have no idea. And I guess I will never know until I am thrown into that situation. I think we all have that gene to go and to do right. Some of us are called to do it more often than others. I think if this was like 10,000 years ago, Ben and I were the guys after the hunt was done by the fire going ‘Check it out.’ That’s what we were called to do. That’s our job in the social fabric. This is our job as entertainers to reflect back into the community. These are good things. These suck. Model yourself after that. Don’t be that guy. That’s why the movie business exists. That’s why television exists. That’s why theater exists. It’s because we see ourselves reflected back. My job is a reflector, but in a certain situation, I don’t know. I would hope so. I would have the balls and fortitude and courage like these guys have.
Geeks of Doom: What drew you to the project?
Chris Pine: Just the simplicity of it. I love stories that are not all complicated but are really well told. I love a cliched story. This was a beautiful throwback story with a good romance. A guy who loves his girl who wanted to get back to her. A guy that was really scared who was up against seemingly insurmountable odds. Overcame them. Found his manhood. Found his courage. Found his strength to go on. I like that. I like that a hero who was not the obvious one. Who wasn’t a rogue. Who wasn’t a strong chiseled guy. I love a guy who is soft and sweet big hearted, and doe-eyed. I thought it was really neat.
Geeks Of Doom: Ben, being an East Coaster, what is it like be a part of a story about a character from the East Coast, because it is such a small-knit community?
Ben Foster: It’s a thrill. My aunt is in Boston. She runs a Conquer Cancer collation, which raises money for cancer research and supports families. That’s where my family is from, that’s where I was born, that’s where my dad is from. It was a joy. It felt good to be home. That’s where we’re from. It felt good in terms of this story.
Geeks of Doom: What does it take for you to sign onto a role?
Ben Foster: I think it is really important that we are reminded of a world that chooses to put someone else in front of them. This world is increasingly self-centered and self-aware. It really warms my heart and gives me hope, which is what we need. That there are men and women putting their lives behind somebody else saying: ‘That’s a human, I want to take care of that human.’ So for me to sign on, yeah, that’s how you hook me.
Geeks of Doom: Was there anything in your personal life that helped you shape your character?
Ben Foster: What we do is a job. It’s not that exceptional. It’s a great privilege job, no question. You do a thing. Being around these men and women, who do the real thing, the real Coast Guard, the real military, people who are in the service industry, journalists who ask questions because they care. Whoever cares are involved. I hope some of that has rubbed off on me over the years. As we’ve said earlier, we pale in comparison to these men and women. I don’t know if it is about relating, it’s more about celebrating.
The Finest Hours opens in theaters on January 29, 2015.