Next week sees the release of Ron Howard’s In The Heart of the Sea, an ocean-faring adventure based on the true story that inspired Moby Dick.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy and Spider-Man-to-be Tom Holland were all in town to promote the movie, along with director Ron Howard. Here’s what we learned direct from the actors’ mouths.
1) No-one involved with the film ever wants to see another wind machine
Chris Hemsworth: “They’re there all the time! Whether it’s Thor and they’re blowing the hair and cape back, or this – I’ve had a few wind machines in my career. I know the various models and so on.”
Tom Holland: “The worst thing about those wind machines is that you can’t hear anything. So when you’re doing a scene you’re lip-reading, so you have to know your lines really well in order to do a scene and it meant that we had to do ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement or dubbing] on every single line in this film.”
2) Everybody loves Ron Howard
Benjamin Walker: “He’s the hardest working man on set. No matter how hungry, uncomfortable, wet, tired you are, you look up and he’s working harder. There’s something about his ferocious curiosity and energy that makes your job come alive. When he calls “Action!”, you just come alive because his energy is infectious.
“And also because he was an actor, he understands your experience and has a shorthand to talk to you. He’s my favourite director I’ve ever worked with, hands down.”
Tom Holland: “It’s his enthusiasm. He’s someone that comes to set and he’s so unbelievably calm that it means that his crew and cast can be calm. And when you’re relaxed it means you can then trust your director and on a film like this – I mean there was no whale, so we were trusting that what he was going to put in front of us was incredible, really. And we all did trust him, one hundred percent, and I think it’s just the joy and his love of filmmaking and how happy he makes everyone feel on set.”
Chris Hemsworth: “It’s so nice to have a pre-existing relationship, because you spend such an amount of time getting to know one another and getting to know each other’s rhythms and it was nice just to get down to business when we started this and not have to be second guessing things or wondering if he was going to fire me or whatever, which I did do a lot of on Rush.”
3) The film’s green screen whale is a work of art
Benjamin Walker: “That was strange, screaming at nothing. “Don’t kill me, thing that’s not there!” Actually, the whales surprised me most when I saw the film. On set, the whales were basically Dave the Grip, who was walking around with a broom handle with a tennis ball on the end of it. CGI can be bad – the technology is still re-evolving and getting better and better, but this is a work of art, the whale they created.
“It’s a strong character and an important part of the story. And it’s so specific and moving – I didn’t anticipate the scale and majesty of this kind of cartoon they created”.
4) Losing weight for a film is no fun at all
Benjamin Walker: “The hardest part was when we were hungry, because you don’t anticipate how it’s going to affect you emotionally and mentally. Your brain doesn’t function. You can’t remember things. But that really kind of helped us with the story.”
Chris Hemsworth: “I read things now and any mention of weight loss, I’m just, ‘No, I can’t do it”. It’s just not fun, you’re moody, you spend all day thinking about food and you’re sensitive. My wife probably wouldn’t let me do it either, because she had to put up with me. I feel like I’ve ticked that box.”
Tom Holland: “Everyone just went a bit nuts, really. You go through stages of highs and lows. I used to fall asleep quite a lot, because you need food to function and when you take that away, your body shuts down. So I would find myself sleeping a lot of the time and waking up halfway through takes and being like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?'”
5) Walker almost drowned during one scene
Benjamin Walker: “Thank God it didn’t make the movie, but there’s one scene that was horrible to make. It’s a scene where I fall out of the boat and I’m sinking and they rigged my body up with weights so I dropped, but what we didn’t calculate was that because I had no body fat, I wouldn’t be buoyant anyway. So as soon as I got the water I just went screaming to the bottom and I was too weak to swim. I just thought, ‘This is it…'”
Chris Hemsworth: “I had to pull him out and I was like, ‘Can you kick and help me?’ and he was like, ‘Nope. I’m dying, bro…’
6) Shooting on the ocean has both advantages and disadvantages
Ron Howard: “I don’t like the ocean very much. I’m not very comfortable in the ocean.”
Chris Hemsworth: “We thought that what was going to be harder was the stuff at sea, and actually it was kind of easier, because nature’s throwing all its elements at you and Ron had a few different things he could shoot, depending on what the weather was going to do, so we were always active, there wasn’t a whole lot of down-time. Whereas in the studio there were mechanical faults and the ship on the gimbal wouldn’t work or the hose would malfunction and so on.”
Tom Holland: “The toughest person on set, our stunt co-ordinator, Eunice, had the worst sea-sickness. She is hard as nails – I’ve never met anyone as tough as she was, but the poor lady was sick as a dog for weeks on that boat.”
7) Ron Howard insists on a LOT of research
Benjamin Walker: “Ron is borderline obsessive about that kind of thing (laughs). It’s an attention to detail that makes a movie like this so specific and also makes your job as an actor easier, when you actually know what you’re saying and doing and what the ropes mean. We had Sailor School, from knot-tying to piloting whale boats up and down the Thames. We went to Cornwall and sailed a tall ship, we went to New Bedford in Nantucket and the Whaling Museum.”
“And before I even got the script, he gave us a stack of like seven books, one of which is great, it’s called The Drift, by Steve Callahan, he’s a shipwreck survivor and he still holds the record for being on the ocean alone for the longest number of days.”
8) They cast Paul Trueman out of EastEnders
Ron Howard: “I didn’t know [actor Gary Beadle] from EastEnders, I knew him from the stage. He was so dedicated – one of the leaders in terms of shedding the weight and keeping his focus. That was an important character that Gary was playing, because he did kind of become the spiritual leader. He wasn’t a minister, but he saved his Bible [when the ship was destroyed] and he became the one that lead them in prayer.”
9) Hemsworth’s Thor had some useful advice for Holland’s Spider-Man
Chris Hemsworth: “When they were looking at casting him [as Spider-Man], I spoke to the Marvel guys and said, look, he has one of the best work ethics I’ve seen, such a great attitude and a huge amount of talent, and he’s going to be someone you don’t mind spending four to five months with on a big set, which is a big thing. And to Tom, I said just keep that humility and that passion and stuff, because it’ll get crazy for you in no time and it’ll help you keep your feet on the ground.”
10) He even put in a good word…
Chris Hemsworth: “They were already looking at him – I heard he was down to the last three or four and he said, ‘Oh, if you can put in a word for me…’ and I was late on realising he was even in the running, so yeah, I gave them a phone call and put my two cents in. I don’t know if that even helped, they probably had already cast him by then, I don’t know”.
11) In fact, there was a bit of a Thor / Spider-Man love-in…
Tom Holland: “Chris Hemsworth was awesome. As a sixteen year old boy who was a huge fan of Marvel movies and really beholden to some of his other movies, it was a real pinch-me moment. I think the best thing for me is that my character is meant to be in awe of Owen Chase [Hemsworth’s character] and that wasn’t much of a stretch for me for the first two weeks. So there was very little acting required.”
In The Heart Of The Sea is in UK cinemas from Boxing Day