‘The Finest Hours’ Set Visit: Craig Gillespie on Directing His Cast from 75 Feet Away

     November 11, 2015


Back in November 2014, I got the opportunity to visit the Boston set of The Finest Hours. The movie is based on the Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman book of the same name, which tells the true story of Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his crew. When a massive nor’easter hits the Eastern seaboard in February 1952, it tears a T-2 oil tanker in half and Webber and his three-man team must set out in a wooden lifeboat in dangerous conditions to rescue the stranded sailors.

In honor of the debut of the film’s new trailer, I can now share a select portion of my set visit coverage including a brief interview with director Craig Gillespie. He was in the middle of shooting a rather complicated scene during which his lead actors were aboard a lifeboat on a rocking gimbal while being pummeled by wind, rain and waves, but he did manage to sneak away for a couple of minutes to tell us about shooting that scene, the main characters and post-converting the movie to 3D.

You can catch all of that right below as well as the film’s new trailer and two new images. The Finest Hours is due in theaters on January 29, 2016 and also stars Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger and John Ortiz.

Question: How are you able to communicate with them up there?

CRAIG GILLESPIE: [Laughs] Did you see the last take?

I did, which is why I’m a little curious. [Laughs]

GILLESPIE: It’s good to talk to them before we roll camera. When we’re really into some long scenes, a lot of the times I’ll be in there with them. For the stunt stuff, we’ll shoot it from 75 feet away.

So how wet are you getting? Are you getting any of this water on you?

GILLESPIE: When we’re doing the longer scenes, I’ll sort of gear up and get out there with them.

How tough is it to make such a small, personal story on such a big, epic production?

GILLESPIE: It’s interesting. What I’m really excited about with this is that they’re idiosyncratic characters. Like Bernie’s really an unusual underdog. He’s one of those antiheroes, the reluctant guy, the last person you’d expect to be that fellow. And the same is going on with [Ray] Sybert, Casey Affleck’s role, as well. That character hates authority, doesn’t want to be the guy in charge and then ends up being that guy ironically. So they get to play with some really interesting character traits, which has been fun. And the backdrop is just, it’s huge but it’s secondary to what’s going on. The great part of it is that they’re staying in character for all of this and this whole situation is a catalyst for Bernie, Chris’ character, to grow, and the same with Sybert’s character. Just the enormity of what they’re up against and how that makes them have to step out of their comfort zone.


Image via Disney

Can you talk about shooting this movie and knowing that it’s going be converted to 3D? Does that affect some of your directing choices?

GILLESPIE: It does. We’re doing a lot of longer takes. I like in 3D that you get to sit in these moves. We’re doing these big 50-foot techno moves that come around and get you in the space and you can sort of be there and watch it all and feel a part of it. It’s not as fast and, you know, as cut-y as I would do it if it wasn’t 3D. I feel it’s a better fit for that experience to really feel like you’re in the environment. So that’s why you see these longer 10, 12-second moves we’re doing with this gimbal so you can really be in their world.

Is this your first 3D feature?

GILLESPIE: I did Fright Night, which was natural, but this one we’re gonna convert.

Is there anything you’re looking to as a reference point for post-conversion?

GILLESPIE: What do you mean?

Like a movie that you looked at that was post-converted and made you say, “Like this.”

GILLESPIE: No, I did Fright Night with the same DP and we have a certain style we like for 3D and we’re doing it that way, same lenses.

If you want more from my The Finest Hours set visit, click here for the Chris Pine interview and keep an eye out for additional pieces closer to the film’s January release.


Image via Disney


Image via Disney

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