(PCM) Some adventure tales pull you in from the first moment. This is the case of “In the Heart of the Sea,” the real-life story that inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick, about a mammoth whale, the heroic men who fought to come home to their families after the maritime disaster, and clearly learning what is possible.
“In the Heart of the Sea,” is the story of the New England whaling ship The Essex in the winter of 1820 that was assaulted by a mammoth size whale with an almost human sense of vengeance. This epic and important film from Warner Bros. opens on Friday, December 11.
Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their whale oil trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea , and his first mate still seeks to bring the monster-size whale down.
This is a tale of these two men and the journey in which they embark, but it is also an incredible story of survival and the lengths a man is willing to go to save his own life and the lives of others.
At the center of this life and death journey are two men: the veteran first mate, Owen Chase, played by Chris Hemsworth; and the inexperienced captain, George Pollard, played by Benjamin Walker.
A 2004 graduate of the prestigious Juilliard Actor Training program, Walker was in the 2007 revival of “Inherit the Wind,” on Broadway opposite Christopher Plummer. He also starred on Broadway in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” with Laura Linney. Most recently, he starred as Brick opposite Scarlett Johansson in the Broadway revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Walker, 33, made his film debut in “Kinsey,” and his other movie roles include the title role in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” “The War Boys,” and “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight.” Upcoming film roles include “The Moon and the Sun,” with Pierce Brosnan and William Hurt, “Look Away,” with Chloe Sevigny and Matthew Broderick, and “The Choice,” with Teresa Palmer.
“In the Heart of the Sea,” is based on the award-winning book of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick, who immersed himself in the works of Herman Melville, especially Moby Dick.
To Walker, the movie is about more than the mortal clash between the whalers and the whale. “There are three great trials encompassed in this story; man against man, man against nature, man against self. How can you overcome those trials and survive? That’s the question of the movie. There’s beauty in that; you see the endurance in the human spirit.”
Walker and Hemsworth completely embody their seafaring characters. Keeping in the tradition of his other films, Ron Howard’s direction is nothing short of stunning. Do not miss this perfect holiday seafaring adventure!
Q: Was there something specific about the script, or the project, that you said, ‘I have to do this?’
Ben Walker: Ron Howard. I’ve always wanted to work with him. We’ve tried to work together before, but it hasn’t come to fruition and I feel like if he showed up with a roll of toilet paper for a script I’d be like, ‘Sign me up.’ He is such a stellar director; it doesn’t matter as long as he is involved.
Q: Loneliness was certainly one of the emotions I felt for the men on the ship. You really captured the isolation of your character. Was there something you could tap into in your own life or any personal history that you drew on to get that?
BW: I think that’s something that everybody can relate to the idea that in a crowded room you are completely isolated. Something that you think makes you significant or special actually becomes something that is a detriment to you. You know; my character Captain George Pollard comes from this amazing family and when he’s at a high-class function he’s a prince. But, out on the sea it actually works against him and I think everybody can relate to that in some way.
Q: When it comes to this movie, I have heard a lot about camaraderie. Did the sailing school you attended really help inform that?
BW: Oh, very much so because you know, making movies feels like you’re this little band of gypsy’s that has to quickly get very familiar with each other and weed out the problems and find the strengths.
Q: Please tell me more about this.
BW: When you put a bunch of strangers in a row boat on the Thames and tell them to go from here to there they’re naturally going to learn to work together. It’s going to be grueling at times, so the more fun you can have, the more friends you can make. I feel that is one of joys of making movies.
Q: Were you worried about your safety during the rougher boating scenes?
BW: Never. We had a great crew. There were some days that were very, very, choppy and the kind of thing where if you get a leg caught between your vessel and the safety raft you lose your leg. But, we were constantly surrounded by professionals, people who take their jobs just as seriously as you do and their job is your safety.
Q: Did you gain the weight back you lost during the film shoot?
BW: Let’s just say that I’m looking forward to the job where I get to just eat pasta every day. That’s going to be great.
Q: How do you balance the traits of Captain Owen Chase? He’s not the most likeable character; but he’s not the most unlikable. You’ve made him attractive enough that I care about him, but he’s also kind of a jerk.
BW: That applies to most people don’t you think? [He laughed]. You know; full blown jerks are actually pretty rare and my job was really just to make him as human and specific as possible because I guess that’s the difference. You understand why he does it. Even if you don’t agree with the fact that he does. But there is more involved; nobody ever remembers that Owen Chase sinks the boat. So maybe I made some mistakes, but I’m standing up for my guy here.
Q: Thinking back to the dream when you started acting is the reality different or better than what you’re doing now?
BW: People always ask, ‘How are you? And I say, ‘I’m living the dream.’ But I’m not being facetious. I really am. It’s such a rare position to be in and an honor to be able to do this work that I love much less to make a living doing it. I don’t know; I savor every day that I get to do it before someone finds out what a fraud I am.
Q: Are there certain kinds of roles that you want to do that you haven’t done? You have a romantic love story coming up next – right?
BW: Yes, the movie “The Choice,” in February based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Q: His movies make me cry no matter what he does.
BW: Then you’re in real trouble. This one’s a whopper.
Q: So what are you looking for in your work?
BW: In terms of future roles, I kind of look at it in terms of who do I want to learn from, because starring in this movie, working with Ron Howard, I know that after wrapping this movie I’m a better actor and I’ve learned a lot of things I could apply to my personal life. So long as I keep working with people that I learn from I’m good. And of course if there is health insurance that helps, too.
Q: What else is coming up?
BW: I go right into American Psycho the musical on Broadway.
Q: Do you have a life philosophy that helps your acting or helps you in your personal life?
BW: I don’t know. I think it’s easy to judge people and I think judgment for an actor is dangerous because my character Pollard is an easy guy to judge to call a jerk. But really my job is to find out why he’s a jerk and if I can’t get past the fact that he does some things that I don’t agree with then we can’t expand as people. If I can’t get past something I don’t understand and I put a label on it, what’s the point? So that tool that I have to use as an actor I like to apply in my daily life. Why is that person like that? I find that it enriches my life because the more you can understand about people, the closer you can be.
Q: Do you have special holiday plans, traditions or memories?
BW: Talk about telling stories. I grew up in a Southern home and one of the best things about the holidays is kind of story time. Everybody eats and nobody clears the table, we just sit there in semi-coma and then we just tell stories for hours and hours and hours. They don’t have to be true. They don’t have to be relevant to us. They just have to be entertaining. Those are some of my happiest memories of childhood and if I think back to why I do this for a living that probably has something to do with it.
Q: When you’re not working is there something else that you like to do to chill out? Relax?
BW: I love stories. I love to read. I love to watch movies, television and plays. I want to consume stories and be transported by other peoples’ stories. I also do stand-up comedy which is very therapeutic for me.
Q: Where do you do it?
BW: I run a show at Joe’s Pub down at the Public Theatre called Find The Funny.
Q: I think I need to go there and see you perform.
BW: Come on down.