Ron Howard Discusses Making ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ with a Low Budget Mentality

     December 11, 2015


Director Ron Howard hit the source material jackpot with Nathaniel Philbrick‘s book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Not only does it tell the harrowing true story of the crew aboard an American whaleship that was attacked by an enormous sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but it’s also packed with rich historical details about the whaling industry and Nantucket in 1820. On top of that, the story of the Essex is said to have inspired Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick as well.

Clearly Howard had a lot to work with, but, In the Heart of the Sea is just one two-hour movie so the challenge of figuring out how much to include of each element was something that needed to be addressed from the inception of the idea all the way through the test screening process. With In the Heart of the Sea making its big debut on December 11th, I got the chance to sit down with Howard to discuss his approach to bringing this epic true story to screen, what scenes wound up on the cutting room floor, what needed to happen before they could shoot a scene in the middle of the ocean, what he kept from set and loads more. You can catch it all in the video interview below and, in case you missed it, click here for my interview with In the Heart of the Sea star, Tom Holland.


Ron Howard:

  • 00:31 – Bringing a true story to screen and figuring out what text to display for the movie.
  • 02:36 – The changes made from script to set to screen; winding up with “the greatest hits” version of the movie.
  • 03:45 – The simplicity of the overarching story paired with emotional and thematic complexity.
  • 04:43 – Deleted scenes; not including the scene during which the whale attacks the Spanish whaling crew.
  • 05:30 – What he took from the test screening process.
  • 06:22 – On the brutality of whaling.
  • 07:30 – Deciding how much to show when the crew is stranded in the middle of the ocean, starving.
  • 08:31 – What needs to happen in order to shoot a scene on whaling boats in the middle of the sea.
  • 09:52 – Why the cast and crew considered In the Heart of the Sea a low budget film.
  • 11:20 – What Howard kept from set.

Image via Warner Bros.


Image via Warner Bros.


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