Holliday Grainger stars as Miriam, the love interest to the young rookie member of the coast guard Bernie Weber (Chris Pine), in Craig Gillespie‘s The Finest Hours. The film is based on a true story of the Coast Guard making a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.
The English actress talked to us and group of fellow journalists about the filming process, her portrayal of the real-life Miriam, working on her Boston accent, and much more. See what she had to say below.
Geeks of Doom: So would you really ask your boyfriend to marry you?
Holliday Grainger: Yeah if I thought it was right, why not? Oh god, marriage, though, I mean that’s one thing where me and Miriam differ. I don’t know.
Geeks of Doom: Looking at Miriam, she is not like any of the girls in the community. Is that what attracted you to the role?
Holliday Grainger: I thought she was quite traditional in all her values and I suppose in the sense of she definitely has very strong traditional family values of wanting to get married and start a family and that’s very important for her. I think what maybe defines the time period is her lack of a care for social conventions. I know it’s definitely what I love about the character of Miriam in this is that she is quite similar to Bernie in some ways. She’s very instinctive and very self-assured and goes with what she feels is right. So, you know, when she wants to get married she feels it’s right so she’s gonna go for it. And everyone’s saying, you know, ‘He’s in danger. He’s about to be killed. This man doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ Then I mean I don’t know if there’s a question in her mind she’s got to say something. And so I guess in that respect her kind of values are quite old-fashioned, but her bravery is definitely something that I think is quite timeless. I think even nowadays her self assurity would be something to be respected.
Geeks of Doom: Were there any challenges trying to balance out Miriam’s lack of care of social conventions and continue the traditional values of the 1950s?
Holliday Grainger: Yes, massively to be honest. The first couple of times I read the script I was just like, right, I couldn’t initially see how I would play Miriam and because I was finding the two quite difficult to balance and it was really until I met Miriam’s daughter, Patty, and she took me on a tour around Chatham and introduced me to a woman. It was actually primarily for the accent. She introduced me to sort of a contemporary of Miriam that knew Bernie and Miriam, and it was listening to this woman talk that totally opened my eyes to the kind of mindset of that time and the strength being a completely independent woman to be strong. There can be a strength in your instinct and a standing by your man and that is, that doesn’t mean that you’re any less strong or self-confident as long as you know that is right then that is right for you. So I guess the two only just kind of marry together when I went on that kind of trip to Chatham and sort of the whole location and the place started to make sense.
Geeks of Doom: Was it intimidating to be pretty much the only central female character in this man’s world?
Holliday Grainger: I mean you’re always the central female character in a man’s world it feels like. So it’s well practiced, well known. It was slightly intimidating the first day only because I had literally flown overnight from a job in Wales actually that I was shooting. So I had arrived on set quite jet lagged, slightly terrified about the accent and everyone had been working with the guys for like two months and so as soon as I walked on site I did feel like I was like a museum piece. It was like everyone all eyes on me. Like here’s a woman, there’s a girl, she’s got lipstick. She’s in heels and a dress, what is this? And so that was slightly scary, but Craig was just so lovely and really, I mean immediately it was just oh this is play time, we can try it in lots of different ways, you know, so that kind of took away any kind of intimidation.
Geeks of Doom: Was the accent the most difficult part of the film for you?
Holliday Grainger: Oh god, first day I was shaking in makeup trying to – knowing that cause I find it quite difficult. Because usually if I go into an accent most British or most like American accents I’ve done before, general American, I’ve done Texas and I’m very used to listening to them. But I had not previously ever listened to a Boston accent unless it’s like a Southie accent in movies about gangsters and so I spent most of my time trying to tune my ear into the accent before I could even start working on it which I’ve never had to do before. So there was a lot more practice and it didn’t come as naturally to me as most accents always kind of have. Um, so it was just a lot of like listen and repeat and we had a great voice coach Wendy Overly who kind of really helped me hone in on like certain sounds that were maybe sticking out. So it was just like listen and repeat of sentences and lots of vocal work. I mean I feel so sorry for my drivers because I mean and my boyfriend and my mom and anyone that was around me in the months before that because I was just, yeah, I was just repeating the same passage.
Geeks of Doom: So what was it like to work with Disney studios again following your role in last year’s Cinderella?
Holliday Grainger: Oh it was totally different. I mean it’s a totally different experience from Cinderella. You can’t compare the two. I can’t even imagine it’s the same studio. But I guess the only similarities is the scale of the movies were so big and so therefore it’s like you get a lot more time to play with things and just the scale of the shoot is amazing. It’s like I loved working around the Cinderella sets and watching them develop. And it’s the same on this. It’s like having a tour with the studio. It’s so exciting to be part of when you’re watching someone make a ship inside a warehouse and all of a sudden you’re believing that and you’re watching people walk up and down it. It’s huge.
Geeks of Doom: Did you get a chance to talk to any of the real-life characters of the film?
Holliday Grainger: Both Miriam and Bernie have sadly passed now, but their daughter Patty – I don’t think has seen it yet. She’s coming to the premiere I think, so. But she’s seen the trailer. She’s very – she’s quite excited about it I think. So I’ll see. I will see what she thinks. I’ll be slightly nervous at the premiere actually to like, to know what her response is going to be.
Geeks of Doom: So what was it like to film in the cold without that thick jacket your character wore?
Holliday Grainger: Cold. I guess, I mean filming for me, I’m always cold. I just think I started my career in like on the Yorkshire Moors forever and a day so I kind of like I guess I’m used to being cold on a film set, but this was something else. I mean this is like the night time scenes. We shot a lot at dusk particularly kind of when she’s walking up and down the road in her dress where apparently I didn’t look cold enough. Like, one of the shots got taken out of the movie because I didn’t look cold enough. Some of the focus groups said she doesn’t look that cold in that shot so they took it out. I was freezing!! I mean I’m so used to like going shoulders down, can’t look cold, but no it was quite hard because it was very cold, it was very long hours as well. I’m not used to American hours which back home we don’t really have a strict turnaround. It’s more about kind of the working day whereas here the rules are about the turnaround, but once you’re at work you could be there forever. So it did get really cold, but we, believe it or not – I mean you think that dress is pretty slim fitting, but I managed to squeeze a lot of layers underneath it. I was prepared to watch the movie and see me looking like the Michelin Man because I had squeezed so many layers in it. In fact, I think by the second day of nighttime shooting it was so cold the night before and I had like a huddle of my hair and makeup artists and someone had got me a heater. And so in between each shot, I’d have to run back to the huddle to kind of try and warm up. So by day two, and I think the guys had this as well, like after a month of shooting for them, someone had located like they were like military grade heated vests so that believe it or not I had like a thick layer of heated vest of wires going around. It was like a dangling switch in between my legs so I could alter the temperature.
The Finest Hours opens in theaters on January 29, 2016.