The Finest Hours: Real-life bravery of daring Coast Guard
SYDNEY-born filmmaker Craig Gillespie grew up in Australia with a love of the ocean.
But the keen surfer and sailor has had enough of the water for a while after spending two years working on Disney's rescue-at-sea film The Finest Hours.
The action drama follows the real-life bravery of a daring Coast Guard rescue off the coast of Cape Cod during a blizzard which destroyed the SS Pendelton in 1952.
"I spoke to a couple of directors before I started and they were just saying 'sorry it sucks; shooting a water film is just miserable'," Gillespie tells Weekend.
"We had all the effects guys from the Pirates (of the Caribbean) films, so it was so well organised. We didn't have any really big issues other than the grind of it. We just worked our way through it for 70 days; it was like a marathon."
The actors portraying the men aboard the Coast Guard lifeboat spent weeks in a water tank with rain towers, dump tanks and 200-horsepower fans blowing wind and fake snow.
Filming during one of the coldest winters on record on America's east coast meant they didn't have to imagine the extreme conditions faced by their characters.
"They were in the elements and it was miserable," Gillespie says. "There was a bit of competitiveness between the two groups on who was getting it worse. Everyone started figuring out their own ways of staying warm. Someone came across an undergarment that had electrical heating and soon everyone had one."
It took a year of post-production work for the special effects team to create nearly 1000 effects shots.
"These special effects guys had worked on The Life of Pi and The Martian and they said it was the largest film they'd ever done," he says.
"I have a real affinity and respect for the ocean and I was relentless about getting that sense of what it was like being in the water in those waves."
Despite its epic seascapes and monster waves, The Finest Hours is a character-driven drama, according to its director. "It was really about the characters. They're idiosyncratic and not exactly what you'd expect as the centrepiece of an action film," Gillespie says.
"Bernie (Pine) is very passive, very shy and he doesn't have a lot of confidence in himself. He's basically got to overcome his own hurdles to succeed.
"With Casey's (Affleck) character, he's this engineer who despises authority and doesn't get along with the crew and ends up being thrust into a position of authority."
Gillespie also enjoyed having fellow Aussie Eric Bana in the cast as station commander Daniel Cluff.
"It was great having him play a weak character. Eric has such a strong presence; he's known for that and having him play against type like that made it really interesting for me."
On paper the rescue mission of the CG 36500 lifeboat crew seems impossible, and it's little surprise their brave efforts became front-page news at the time.
"They went out at 5pm at night, lost their compass and it was February in a blizzard with sub-zero temperatures," Gillespie says. "That's why it's regarded as the greatest small-boat rescue in US history. The odds were against them."
The Finest Hours is in cinemas now.
The Finest Hours
Stars: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, Ben Foster, Kyle Callner, Holliday Grainger.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Reviewer's last word: This traditional rescue drama is old-fashioned in its approach, perhaps to a fault, but features impressive special effects.
Star profile: Casey Affleck
Quirky fact: Appeared with his brother Ben Affleck in the movies Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting and 200 Cigarettes.
Best known for: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Ocean's Eleven.
If you like this movie you'll like these: Triple 9, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Point Break.
Quote: "I love taking a risk. If I'm a little bit afraid of a part, that's the first indication that it's going to be good for me."