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Chris Pine and Ben Foster Talk Their Finest Hours

Jan 25, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

In The Finest Hours, on Feb. 18, 1952, a massive storm splits the SS Pendleton in two, trapping more than 30 sailors inside the tanker's sinking stern. Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors. As word of the disaster reaches the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., despite the ferocious weather, coxswain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) takes three men on a lifeboat (including sailor Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), to try and save the crew against seemingly impossible odds.

Chris as Bernie plans the rescueChris as Bernie plans the rescueCourtesy of Disney

In talking with Chris and Ben we learn that the real Coast Guard guys weren’t superhero brave but just doing the right thing. This is pretty far from Chris Pine’s take-charge hero Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films or his upcoming character, the rogue-ish World War I military man and love interest Steve Trevor in the new Wonder Woman movie. Check out what these hunky actors had to say about playing real life heroes.

Q: Are you guys afraid of being shipwrecked or of the power of the ocean?

  • Ben: Yeah. Snakes on a boat.
  • Chris: It’s f**king big, man. I don’t know. It’s big and deep and has waves, that’s real scary. (My character) Bernie is just like “Oh, more water”.

Bernie (Chris) at the helm doused with waterBernie (Chris) at the helm doused with waterCourtesy of Disney

Q: Chris, you signed on for this movie before there was even a director. What drew you to the story or character?

  • Chris: It reminded me a lot of a film I did called Unstoppable in that you have a driving thriller aspect of the film and it’s not all that complicated of a story and there’s a simple elegance to it. I liked that. It is also driven by a really strong romance and ordinary men doing extraordinary things. I love that.

Q: Your character Bernie is kind of tongue-tied and doesn’t express himself. Was that interesting to play?

  • Chris: Yeah. My other touchstone was just fear and anxiety and I know a lot about those two awful emotions. This poor little Bernie was just wide-eyed and obviously really hurt somewhere along the way and insecure and I know all of those feelings so I just turned up the volume on those.

Richard (Ben Foster) rescues a drowning sailorRichard (Ben Foster) rescues a drowning sailorCourtesy of Disney

Q: Is that why he’s so reluctant to get married? Do you think he has a fear of death?

  • Chris: I think Bernie, at least on the page, was a man that grew up in a family with a very strong father, with brothers that served in (World War II) and were honored for it, were on the beaches of Normandy and Bernie wasn’t. He probably felt that lack of ray of sunshine from his dad because of that and so always felt in the shade and was kind of the black sheep. He was just the little puppy that never got the love.

Ben as Richard works on the boat's engineBen as Richard works on the boat's engineCourtesy of Disney

Q: Did you do any research into the real Bernie?

  • Chris: Yeah. I mean for me it was the audiotape and some pictures of Bernie. Bernie also wrote a firsthand account of it and then the book that the film was based on, and that to me, along with themes that my director wanted to portray in the film that were brought out by the screenwriter, I mean that was my job and then we kind of (pasted) something together.

Chris on set with director Craig GillespieChris on set with director Craig GillespieCourtesy of Disney

Q: What was on that audiotape?

  • Chris: Just Bernie talking to a small town newspaper like 15 some odd years later and the man is so bored of talking about it. He’s got this wonderful New England lilt (to his voice). He’s just a by the books, regular Joe. It was very illuminating for me and I just kind of drew whatever I could out of that but it just seemed like a man who didn’t want to talk about it, wanted to get on with his life, bored of talking about it, had a family, believed in God, loved the ocean, there you go.

The Finest Hours Trailer


Q: And is it more fun to go as an actor into the sort of fantasy world of something like Star Trek or Wonder Woman or do a true life story like this?

  • Chris: No. Everything is just make believe. They’re just different versions of make believe. I love the period of this movie. I love the ‘40s. I love the ‘50s. I love the style of the clothes. I love how the women looked. I love the dances. I love the music. I love the amber of the lights and the cars. I’m in love with all of it.

Q: And there won’t be sequels like for the Star Trek films.

  • Chris: Hey, I like to have a job. I am in the .0001 percentile of actors that work steadily, thank God. I’m really happy to work. I get great gigs, I meet awesome people, get paid well, have a fantastic life, learn a bunch. I think it’s a rarity for a big studio making a film like The Finest Hours spending like 80 million on a one off period motion picture is crazy.
  • Ben: (Especially on a movie) that doesn’t have a cape and it’s (about) core values.

Chris with Ben in background on the rescue boatChris with Ben in background on the rescue boatCourtesy of Disney

Q: So true. Your characters look miserable in the cold. Can you talk about the elements of working in the freezing cold? Why didn’t you ask the director to heat that water you were in?

  • Chris: It strangely never occurred to me. I don’t know why.

Q: Was there a certain mindset you had to get into when you are being doused with ice water?

  • Ben:  Sure. Nobody likes being wet and cold. Then when you start feeling bad for yourself you remember that there are men and women right now all over the world doing things that are more than a little uncomfortable and you shut up.

Q: You mean men and women working to rescue people?

  • Ben: Yeah. It’s a privilege to represent these men and women. That’s the joy of this job. We have the privilege of spending time in research with the real Chatham Coast Guard, and it’s always humbling being around men and women in the military, in the service industry, those people that put their fellow man first and not for a self-congratulatory purposes, not for the photo op or the selfie to show everybody what they did. They do it because it was the right thing.  So for us to be a little uncomfortable when it was cold when we could have a coffee break without life depending upon us and just make believe, it is a privilege.

Ben as Richard volunteers for the rescueBen as Richard volunteers for the rescueCourtesy of Disney

Q: Good point. You shot at some of these authentic locations too that your real life counterparts were actually at. Did that affect your performances?

  • Chris: My most immediate relationship to Bernie was less about the locations and more about this audio recording I had of him. That’s where I felt kind of closest to who the man may have been, although we did get a chance to visit Chatham and go to the Coast Guard station there. In the cafeteria there is the same bench where the boys went and shared a coffee after their night and seemed to be laughing and joking around. It’s kind of stunning.
  • Ben: It’s strange how people process trauma. Facing Mother Nature and attacking your greatest fears; a (huge) body of water is quite harrowing and coming home after doing something like that is very clean and simple. The wars today that we hear about are not so clear. Therein lies the smile at the end of the day with the coffee.

Q: You guys had an antagonistic relationship on screen. Not buddies so much. Did you work on that between takes or off screen?

  • Chris: I love him too much. It’s hard to be antagonistic. That’s not my deal as an actor. I have a very hard time. It’s action and cut and then let’s talk about Waylon Jennings or who we’re playing on the boom box that day. No, I just like him too much.

Bernie (Chris) with girlfriend Miriam (Holliday Grainger)Bernie (Chris) with girlfriend Miriam (Holliday Grainger)Courtesy of Disney

Q: Chris, you’ll also be playing Steve Trevor, a military officer and a period setting in your next project the Wonder Woman movie. Can you describe him?

  • Chris: Oh, Steve Trevor is not Bernie. Steve Trevor is roguish. He’s a cynical realist who’s seen the awful, brutish nature of modern civilization and he is a worldly guy. I think he’s a charming guy and it’s going to be a great, fun film with some incredibly deep, interesting, and morally relevant themes but Patty (Jenkins) is just directing the daylights out of it. It’s shot beautifully.

Q: We know you are good-looking but they take pains at the beginning of the movie to keep saying you’re so handsome..Bernie is so handsome.

  • Chris: (Big grin) I don’t know. They have great taste, I guess.

See Disney’s The Finest Hours in theaters this Friday January 29th

The Finest Hours PosterThe Finest Hours PosterCourtesy of Disney
Have Your Say

Do you like disaster or “rescue” movies? Are you a Chris Pine fan? Does the vast ocean frighten you? Leave a comment.