Chris Hemsworth on the trials of filming In The Heart Of The Sea

Chris Hemsworth has built a reputation on being the brawn, block jawed sweetheart from the land below, yet if you were to catch the later scenes of In The Heart Of The Sea, you might have trouble finding him.

Taking on a script with a tumultuous past, Hemsworth and (Ron) Howard formed their second duo in as many years for another almost-true-story; the tale of a whaling boat stalked by a savage whale.

It was initially Hemsworth who’d approached Howard with the script for the film, but both parties were aware of the intense regimes that were to be imposed upon cast to determine the authenticity of the original story.

“It’s interesting, I remember Ron saying, early, before we started shooting, ‘You’re going to need to be the example. Everyone’s going to be hungry and tired and so on, but I need you to help lead the charge and keep everyone positive.’ … But I’ve got to say; I didn’t need to do any of that because there was already such a commitment from everybody. Everyone had the same passion and excitement, and wanted to the story justice.”

The physical transformation was one of the most significant body alterations to reach screen to date. Hemsworth and Howard worked tediously to do justice to the original story, which involved reconstructing the effects of being stranded at sea for months with little food and water.

The cast were tested as the diet started tough and only got tougher, which in reflection Hemsworth found the cast had bonded on, by way of mutual suffering.

“From the very beginning, we all had somewhat of a goal of where we wanted to get to, which was to look as skinny and beat to hell as we possibly could make ourselves look. So we started on one diet of a few thousand calories, and then each week or two we’d reduce that intake … But, what was kind of great about it was that we were all doing it together, so I reckon it helped form this great bond and camaraderie between us”

The original story of Essex was a darker tale, the crew of the real ship had suffered almost ninety days lost at sea and had at the worst of times, lived of the bodies of each other, resorting to drawing short straws to determine who’d become food.

The scenes of cannibalism are more subtle in In The Heart Of The Sea, however the hunger was still there, driving their performances. Hemsworth pointed out that even the food props started to seem like luxury as the diet progressed.

“(The hardtack biscuits) were props, so you’re not meant to eat the props or the set food. And it comes out, and they’ve got this little box of it, and in the scene we have to break off a piece, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is delicious.’ … Then the props guys would say, ‘We don’t have much, stop eating it.’ We’d say, ‘It’s fine,’ and then just keep sneaking more and more of it [laughs]. And then later, once I’d eaten, I’d had a taste of it and thought, ‘This tastes horrible.’ So in that state of being starving, it was delicious, but it probably wasn’t to anyone else.”

With the dietary restrictions came the scenes on sea, as the cast headed into the ocean surrounding the coast of Spain to film some of the pivotal moments from the film. The hunger was intensified by hours spent working under the unbridled heat, climbing in and out of boats and the entire time the cast were wet and wearing glue-laddered beards.

However, Hemsworth found that the hardest days were spent back in the studio in England.

“The hardest stuff, I thought, was in the tank in London. We thought the stuff on the ocean was going to be trickier, but I think the stuff in the studio ended up being more challenging, because you’re dealing with all the machines and so on. It basically felt like a theme park from hell –being shot with water cannons and flipped out of boats; Ron was on the loudspeaker and we couldn’t even hear. Whereas, with the ocean, we just had to adapt to whatever the environment was, and sort of get on with it, which was nice.”

In The Heart Of The Sea marks a departure from Hemsworth’s traditional glory roles, and the result is a tough and gritty story of the perseverance of men – brought to life with absolute dedication from all involved.

The film has been released internationally on DVD and Blu-ray.


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