While Chris Pine might be used to navigating waves of young, female fans captivated by his blue eyes, he and co-star Casey Affleck took on dozens of literal waves on screen in the “The Finest Hours,” a recent movie about the rescue of the SS Pendleton’s crew during a fierce storm in 1952. Pine and Affleck play two unsung heroes in their own right: Pine as the brave but humble coast guardsman Bernie Webber, who was tasked with executing the daring rescue mission, and Affleck as the quiet engineer-turned-leader Ray Sybert of the SS Pendleton’s crew. The Hoya participated in a conference call with the two actors two weeks ago, in which they spoke about their experiences making the film.
This Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.
[Did] the film being set in 1952 change your approach to the performance?
AFFLECK: There’s a lot of conversation about whether or not we try to emulate the style – the acting style – from the movies from that period, because stylistically, the movie looks and feels a lot like a movie from back then, albeit also, color and gigantic and sort of awesome in all of the ways that digital cinema is now. But in other ways, in the writing and storytelling, thematically, it sort of feels like an old movie. So, should people behave that way as well? And we decided no. So really I just approached it like any other movie – as best you can.
What elements did you bring to your character to honor Weber’s legacy?
PINE: I didn’t know Bernie and really had only a sense of who he was from talking to Andy Fitzgerald, who was on the boat with him that night, and Moe Gutthrew, who’s his best friend. And there’s an autobiographical account that Bernie wrote about the night, and then obviously, the book, “The Finest Hours,” and a little audio clip of Bernie describing the events of that night. So, those were kind of the things that I used to cull an idea of who the man might have been. But from the script that I was given, he was a simple guy that loved his job and loved the waters and knew what he was doing out there but was obviously affected by a tragedy that happened a year before and didn’t know if he was up for the task of going out that night. But I do love the idea of a regular man up against seemingly insurmountable odds. And more than anything, I kind of related to Bernie’s fear.
Bernie is a man that wears his heart on his sleeve. And he’s not like many of us that put on all this armor and try to be macho and tough. Bernie, at least from the script that was given, doesn’t think that way. He just kind of wears his heart on his sleeve, wants to do a good job and loves his wife.
In addition to the big storm, both of your characters are faced with personal struggles they must overcome. How did you relate to your character and portray their determination when filming?
PINE: Well, I guess in our own tiny way, being in the film business is hard enough, and there’s a lot of luck involved in it obviously. You face an incredible amount of rejection, and also, I assume, just by being alive, people felt not a part of the group or not liked or that they don’t have friends, don’t have as many friends as they want or, feeling out of place. And I certainly saw that in Bernie. It’s a great thing about what we get to do as actors is that even though I’ll never know what it’s really like to be a coast guardsman, or really never know what it’s like to go up against 70 foot waves and zero visibility, and what it’s like to rescue men off a split oil tanker, there are certain kind of general human emotions and feelings that you can attach to and bring your own experience to.
Did you learn or take away anything from the experience of playing your respective characters? If so, what was it?
PINE: Well you know, what I liked about Bernie is that he’s a simple guy, and I don’t mean that derogatorily. I love Bernie because he loves his job, and he loves his woman and wants to do well at his job, and loves his woman well, and [has] a bunch of kids, and [lives] happily ever afterwards. He did for a long time. There’s an honesty and a truth to him. There is a purity in wanting to do your job well and to serve other people, because you don’t need much more than that.
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