In The Heart Of The Sea
Based on the book with the same name, In the Heart of the Sea, is the dramatic true story about the journey of the Essex. The New England whaling ship that was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will. The real-life maritime disaster in 1820 would inspire author Herman Melville to write the classic novel Moby-Dick. Ron Howard directs the movie and Chris Hemsworth stars as first officer Owen Chase. Risen dug deeper with the duo into the themes of integrity, obedience, and handling authority.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine in New York City, New York
Risen Magazine: I like the line in the film that said something to the effect that your character was born to do his job, not born into his job. There’s a distinct difference. How does someone behave if they are born to do something?
Chris Hemsworth: Some people are born into acting families, and I have plenty of friends who grew up with families in the theatre and their parents are in the business somehow so that is just what they [the kids] did. It certainly wasn’t what I was born into at all; it couldn’t be further from what my parents were doing and the world I was in. It was such a reach, and a leap to say, I wanted to be an actor. It was kind of ridiculous but in a lot of ways it was all I knew, in the sense that it was what I was passionate about. It was the only thing I was willing to pour that much of my time into.
RM: I felt the themes hit on core values, one in particular was that of integrity. We see Chris Hemworth’s character speak the truth, which in turn influences others to tell the truth as well. How hard is it to keep integrity?
Ron Howard: It was important with this film and central to it. When I read about this story I thought Chris [Hemsworth] was born to play him [the real Owen Chase]. Owen is a forceful, big, charismatic, handsome man who is a natural leader and kind of a renegade in a way. He transformed during the course of that survival effort. I think that is probably what Chris [Hemsworth] always saw in this story that he really wanted to play. I not only wanted to reflect that and capture it, but also see it in other characters – who’s transforming, who’s adjusting, who’s not.
RM: The commitment to the truth is key to your character. How difficult is it to maintain authenticity?
CH: In the film it was about capturing a period of time and not shying away from the brutality of it all and saying this is how it was and making it as authentic as possible.
RM: I can’t think of anything more frustrating that having to be obedient to authority that you don’t think is handling a situation correctly. You’ve been on both sides of that as an actor and a director. How do you walk that line?
RH: It was the reason I became a director [Laughter.] I wanted to take responsibility for what I was working on. Of course I always have a boss. There is always somebody financing the movie, and there are collaborators that I want to work with. This [movie] was another great example, not only did Chris Hemsworth bring me the project, but the cast contributed so creatively. It wasn’t just a matter of them coming in and me telling them what to do.
RM: How do you approach authority when it’s maybe something you disagree with?
CH: When I was younger I had talked about being a police officer and I remember my dad started laughing and he said, “Chris you wouldn’t be able to survive in that system where you have to be under someone else’s authority and there are certain rules.” I think he said, “You are too outspoken. You have too many opinions and things you want to say.” I think it would be incredibly frustrating especially if you have that kind of personality that makes you not one to stand in line and follow orders. And that was [my character] Owen Chase. He was far more equipped than the person he had to follow. He had far more knowledge than the captain did about how things should be done. And then when the captain is also putting him and the crew in a situation where their lives are at risk then frustration goes through the roof and the confliction [heightens] with whoever is leading.
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