The true story that inspired Moby-Dick.
"When I go to the movies I want to be transported, and I saw In The Heart Of The Sea as an exciting opportunity to transport audiences." Ron Howard
In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of immense size and will with an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, but only told half the story. In The Heart Of The Sea reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade.
Moby-Dick is fiction but In The Heart Of The Sea brings to life the powerful saga that inspired Melville’s defining and enduring novel. Director Ron Howard says, “The true story of the Essex is fantastic. It’s visceral; it’s rich and cinematic at its core, with lots of twists and turns along the way. And though the film is set in the past, it touches on ideas about relationships, survival, humanity and nature that are relatable and thought-provoking, and connect to our own sensibilities about who we are as people.”
Howard initially received the screenplay from actor Chris Hemsworth when they were working together on Rush. Hemsworth, who stars in the film as the Essex’s first mate, Owen Chase, says, “I loved the script from the start. In The Heart Of The Sea is about heroism and people being tested beyond their limits in absolutely every way. I was also captivated by the psychological thriller aspect of the whale turning the tables on them. There is something incredibly mysterious about how this animal is portrayed—why the whale goes on the attack, which was unlike anything the Essex crew had ever encountered. The hunter becomes the hunted.”
Ron Howard, responsible for such diverse box-office hits as Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code and Frost/Nixon, is an Oscar-winning director whose films we always look forward to because they are always engaging, both emotionally and visually. His long-time producing partner, Brian Grazer, speaks of Howard's "talent for creating a world cinematically. He is particularly good at humanising characters and making them multi-dimensional. So you will see all the different sides of these men as they metamorphose while struggling to survive on this vast ocean.”
Producer Paula Weinstein concurs that the film could not have been in better hands. “I cannot say enough about the experience of working with Ron. He is the most extraordinary director — strong and clear, hardworking and collaborative and inclusive. As a producer, it isn’t hard to hand over a project if you are handing it to a master filmmaker and Ron brings that and so much more to the table.”
The cast (Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson) led by Hemsworth, shares her sentiments. “Ron has the biggest heart of anyone I know and has the best work ethic,” says Hemsworth. “As a filmmaker, he is always pushing the envelope. You look at the movies he’s done in his career and you can’t put them in a box — from huge comedies to compelling dramas to big action, he’s done it all, and done it with integrity and intelligence. In The Heart Of The Sea was a demanding endeavour for all of us, and when you go through something like that, you need to be arm-in-arm with one another and supporting each other. He constantly kept us on our toes, but that’s what you want as an actor — to be challenged and inspired.”
From the footage we have seen it is hard to believe that much of the action was actually shot in England, at the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden. The results are stunning and plaudits should go to Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire) and production designer Mark Tildesley (28 Days Later) who created a full-size replica of the Essex. Thankfully for cast and crew, the warmer seas of the Canary Islands were chosen for the open water sequences.
Recent images of a shirtless Chris Hemsworth in the film sent the internet into a stir, with the Australian star revealing he took advice from Tom Hanks and his experience of making Cast Away for his incredible weight loss for the role of Owen Chase. The advice? Don't eat!
We look forward to entering another epic cinematic world courtesy of Ron Howard.
In The Heart Of The Sea opens at Showcase on Boxing Day