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In their latest historical drama film, The Finest Hours, Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, respectively, play the roles of coast guard crewmen Bernie Webber and Ray Sybert. These two are given the daunting, treacherous task of saving the crewmembers of an oil tanker cast out to sea during a nor’easter. The movie takes a startlingly human look at the internal developments of heroism within heroes themselves, and what can turn a rescue mission into a life-or-death scenario. In conversation with the two leads, I was recently able to get a look at what drew these actors to their roles, and allowed them to take on portraying these historical figures and turn them into characters, filled with depth and emotion.
When I asked Casey Affleck what drew him to this role he explained how “tired of Hollywood” he had become, and that returning to his hometown of Boston reaquainted him with the brutal honesty of its residents. Even though this movie takes place in 1952, Affleck acknowledges its differences from the lifestyles of the time. “Even though the movie is shot and presented like an old-timey movie,” explained Affleck, “the actors don’t talk or behave that way, making it more accessible to the modern viewing audience.”
Unlike Affleck, whose character was a “piece of fiction devised by the screenwriters,” Chris Pine’s character, Bernie Webber, was an actual coast guardsman, which gave Pine a personal duty to honor his heroism through his portrayal of Webber. “He was a very simple, determined man.” Pine recognized, “He would always wear his heart on his sleeve, make sure he did his job well, and love his wife to the best of his ability.” These qualities are exemplified through Pine’s portrayal of Webber showing his honesty and truth, as a good man who wanted to do right without expectation of praise. Even though Chris Pine cannot relate to the perils which Webber had to face throughout his career, he feels he can relate to the soldier through being similarly “not well liked and out of place, both of [them] having faced a lot of rejection within [their] lives.” It’s the inner moral compass which tied the actor so strongly to his character, and made for a more convincing portrayal within the film overall.