Ron Howard and the cast of In The Heart Of The Sea reveal the amazing truth behind the year’s most epic adventure

Find out what the cast and crew had to say about the story of In the Heart of the Sea.



Writer Nathaniel Philbrick:

“The book grew out of my curiosity about how it was when Nantucket was the capital of American whaling. The whalers of Nantucket were very much like the fighter pilots of today. They had a swagger when they walked down Main Street. They were cool and kind of arrogant, too. They looked down on other sailors. They were explorers who went to places no one had ever been, to battle the mightiest creatures on Earth.”

Curious: writer Nathaniel Philbrick Credit: © 2012 - The Boston Globe

Producer Will Ward:

“It astounds me what these guys did for a living. They sailed out in the open ocean on these 80- to 100-foot vessels for years at a time, and when they spotted whales they would go after these mammoth beasts in small rowboats. It’s really unbelievable.”

Astounded: producer Will Ward Credit: © 2015 Victor Chavez

Screenwriter Charles Leavitt:

“The whaling industry of the early 19th century was essentially the oil industry before someone figured out how to drill a hole in the ground to get oil from the Earth. Whale oil lit the lamps of America and Europe. They rocked their babies to sleep in cribs made out of whale bone. Their furniture, women’s corsets, and a myriad of other essentials were by-products of whales.”

Nathaniel Philbrick:

“It’s amazing to think that this small area, Nantucket, was basically providing the world with light.”

Charles Leavitt:

“But the lives of the men on board these whale ships were expendable. They were nothing more than entries on a company balance sheet. The whales were nothing more than a commodity to be harvested. This is not a movie that glorifies whaling. On the contrary, it shows how brutal it was.”


Benjamin Walker:

“George Pollard was the scion of an established whaling family and grew up with the responsibility of living up to the Pollard legacy, whether he had the aptitude for it or not. He did not get to choose. There is a lot of pressure on him. He gets the opportunity with his first captaincy, which is all well and good until he is assigned Owen Chase as a first mate.”

Pressure: Benjamin Walker playing George Pollard Credit: © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Jonathan Prime

Chris Hemsworth:

“Chase knows full well he should be the captain. Pollard likely realizes it, too, deep down. When they both try to exert their authority with the crew, it sets the stage for a dangerous scenario. Pollard is the captain, but Owen Chase has more knowledge. There’s a lot of friction.”


Charles Leavitt:

“I wanted to meld the true story of the Essex with a fictional account of Herman Melville giving birth to his great American novel, Moby-Dick. [In real life Melville did base Moby-Dick on the story of the Essex.]

Ben Whishaw:

“As the film begins, Herman Melville has heard whispers of a cover-up about what really transpired on the Essex. In a way, my character is the catalyst of the film, in that he is ultimately able to get cabin boy Thomas Nickerson to tell his story.”

Catalyst: Ben Whishaw playing writer, Herman Melville Credit: © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Jonathan Prime

Brendan Gleeson:

“Nickerson was only a child when he witnessed this awful thing, and has never spoken about the horror of what he went through. It’s something he’s suppressed for year upon year, and it’s essentially killing him.”

Suppressed: Brendan Gleeson playing the older Thomas Nickerson Credit: © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Jonathan Prime


(See The Incredible True Story Of The Whaleship Essex for the full and horrific story of the real crew’s fate)

Director Ron Howard:

“When I learned this had actually happened, it was mind-blowing. The true story of the Essex was visceral. [To film it] our actors would have to endure some real physical trials. But they were determined to get it right, because they wanted to respect the truth of the story.”

Stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart:

“They learned everything about crewing a ship. By the end of filming I think they could get on a boat and sail the world.”

Action: Stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart Credit: © Alamy

Survival consultant Steven Callahan:

“It was interesting to watch these guys learning about survival: all the tension, the constant swings from desperation to hope.”

Benjamin Walker:

“Ron wanted to capture how capricious life and death could be for these men and I think you can feel that when you’re watching the movie; it’s almost seems like you’re part of it, like you’re hidden on the mast and witnessing these events.”

Chris Hemsworth:

“It’s about people being tested beyond their limits in absolutely every way. The men were lost at sea for months, so by the time any of them were found, they were basically just skin and bones. [To portray that], we ate minimal amounts of food. But we kept reminding ourselves that it was nothing compared to what they suffered.”

Tested beyond their limits: Chris Hemsworth playing Owen Chase Credit: © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Jonathan Prime


Ron Howard:

“The behavior of sperm whales was something we researched and analyzed. We met with marine biologists to get a better understanding of their behaviour. A ship being relentlessly attacked by a whale was unheard of, unparalleled; it was the most freakish thing. I came to believe that this animal was pushed to the breaking point.”

Breaking point: director Ron Howard on set Credit: © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Jonathan Prime

Producer Paula Weinstein:

“To me, the whale is the voice of nature saying ‘Enough!’ He is a protector who is telling them in the only way he can to stop invading his waters and killing his family. I think the audience will want Chase and Pollard and the other men to survive and make it home. But at the same time they will be cheering for the whale.”

Protector: producer Paula Weinstein Credit: © Corbis. All Rights Reserved / Fred Thornhill

• Directed by Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea is released on Boxing Day at cinemas in the UK