“Deepwater Horizon”, a film directed by Peter Berg, tells the story of bravery and survival from the oil rig disaster that took place in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. The explosion claimed the lives of 11 workers out of 126 working aboard.
The film stars veteran actors Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson in addition to “Teen Wolf” star Dylan O’Brien and “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez.
The tragedy, which has transitioned itself successfully onscreen, was an very powering and that could leave one in tears wanting more resolve towards the end.
Leading up to its film adaptation, an article in the New York Times entitled “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours,” was published back on Dec. 25, 2010 by David Barstow, David Rhode and Stephanie Saul. The article resulted in 21 survivors being interviewed for the blowout including the projected hero portrayed in the film Mike Williams.
The film is completely relative to its name which was a deep-water oil rig that was owned by TransOcean, a Swiss entity that was partnered with British Petroleum (BP).
The Horizon’s blowout erupted from unstable pockets of methane shooting through the pipes. Despite the massive force and safety protocols to help contain its rage, the Emergency Disconnect System (EDS) failed to accommodate the protection needed.
In addition to the casualties and devastation from the rig, BP was in hot water for being accused of rushing the crew to complete the well by cutting corners to save money at the expense of crew safety. The added debate between that of the staff and BP reps was about how structurally sound the well would be.
After a series of tests, some workers deemed that the well showed signs of instability which didn’t seem to coincide with the V.I.P.s of BP. The petroleum company would later have to make settlements with several defendants including a $5.5 billion Clean Water Act penalty and $8.8 million dollars in natural resource damages.
Peter Berg manages to help bring this all to life in a tale of true heroism and the need to survive amid circumstances no one ever expects to face. A very calm and enjoyable conversation took place with Wahlberg, Hudson and Russell at the Windsor hotel. What’s established in the dialogue is the passion each actor has for the work which was centered on one echoed word – family.
Wahlberg was fortunate to have worked closely with Williams, who also served as a consultant during the film making, and brought forth his version that will keep the audience engaged as to how it will all end. During our sit-down with the veteran actor, whose demeanor was purely serene and calm, he explained what it was like creating a respected relationship between him and man who has never stepped foot behind the gates of movie making.
Well Mike is the kind of guy that has to get comfortable around you to let his hair down and to see him smile. I got to see him quite often. I was really impressed how he was able to around most of our reenacting, the things that happened to him and deal with it the way he could be. Mike was like, ‘You know I went through it in real life and you guys are just pretending so it can’t be that bad.’ It’s the kind of thing, you know, when I met him, he was kind enough but it took some time for him to open up. Just because you have resume doesn’t mean they are going to welcome you with open arms. They want to make sure that your intentions are in the right place and that you’re committed to doing the right thing. He and his wife have a great relationship and that was really the thing that inspired me the most. He would’ve done anything to get back to Felicia.
On what attracted to him to the role of Williams:
Just the material. Just the story you know? What I knew, or what I was exposed to, about the Gulf in 2010 was really about the environmental disaster, it wasn’t about the eleven people who lost their lives and I wanted to tell that story.
Hudson’s last role that had her shooting in the city was none other than 2005’s “Skeleton Key.” The bubbly actress has as much spunk when conversing as she does when she portrays comedic roles on screen. With her favorite area being Uptown, it’s the New Orleans music scene that keeps Ms. Hudson captivated. She opened up about a variety of experiences while making the movie and her enjoyment of the city.
I think what was great about having Mike and Felicia to talk to and be a resource and be a part of it, obvious, they were very generous enough to share with us something that was so traumatic for them. It was really nice to have that and I like being back down here.
Not to be out of her comedic element, a joke ensued between Hudson and question asked regarding an intimate scene for the main characters. Apparently, not “everyone” looks like they would engage in love making to their spouses. While she did praise the Williams for their contribution, it didn’t stop her from responding sarcastically, “So Mike doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would have sex [laughs]?”
While her role carried more of supportive tone, it will resonate well with a female audience whose husbands have life risking careers.
Survivor Jimmy Harrell, the offshore installation manager for the Horizon, was portrayed solidly by Russell. Unlike Wahlberg and Hudson, Russell elaborated more on his interest to actually meet the real Harrell and why sometimes that may not happen.
I never got to meet Jimmy and I always wanted to meet Jimmy. That was a big thing for me [coughs] whenever you’re going to play somebody, you’re obligated to play ‘them’ you know? And then you rely on the writer to see if they’ve achieved the goal on capturing the person or if they haven’t. And if they haven’t, meeting the person always fixes that. If I wanted someone to play me, I would want them to play me – not their version. It’s really not fair. This was the first time (out of five or six times) I wasn’t able to meet. I just hope he feels, you know, justice was done by me and that I portrayed him properly. You do the best you can based on the research.
The Emmy nominee also admitted that he initially didn’t like the outcome of the film due to the process in which films are made before their projection to the audience. He also provided an apology for not knowing as much about the lives lost that day as opposed to the “oil spill” or “natural disaster” that many news outlets manufactured their focus on.
Lastly, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura expressed the importance of the film, the process prior to shooting such as obtaining an actual rig to avoid excessive CG usage and more. His discourse created a wealth of added knowledge that verbally attracts those who care about creating the visual and the process to help bring life to a story he deemed needed necessary.
The truth was from my perspective, there was so much more we could’ve said but we were trying to keep it [thinking]…there seemed to us a few things that stuck out that day so we wanted to focus on that. In a way, the story was made for Hollywood. The BP executives did fly in that day, they did give this award, there was an argument about pressure test and cement issues. So you had to material there but there were certain words we had to work with.
On watching the finished product:
Usually you feel relief. That’s the first thing because you’re so keyed up and it’s a very strange feeling to spend the kind of money that you will on movie because there’s always that one moment where you feel it could all come crashing down. You come into that room [screening] with fear. First you feel relief and then you feel, in this case, a tremendous sense of emotional relief that what we had promised to the families were delivered.
When asked further if BP’s role should’ve been elaborated granted the settlement consequences, Bonaventura explained that there was a push – pull strategy to figure out what was needed to stay or eliminated. BP’s reputation among some of the families affected by the disaster isn’t the most favorable however; “Deepwater Horizon” speaks to our humanity and need for added emotion. Another reminded instruction the film pushes is that family knows no limits outside of blood. Even our work environment includes relationships and closeness needed to get through vast amounts of challenges and even hardships.
An after party at the Ace Hotel followed the premiere of the film to honor the families. There was nothing less than great fellowship, great food but most importantly, a sense of togetherness and post tragedy. The film opens nationwide on Sept. 30 offering a generous audience invite to enjoy.
As Bonaventura said, “The Well from Hell” was a disastrous event that deserved a widespread honorable conversation.