Reliving the U.S. Coast Guard’s ‘Finest Hours’


In the title of their book, authors Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman called the rescue of oil tanker SS Pendleton the “U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue.”

Disney brought that story to life in the film The Finest Hours, with Chris Pine portraying the guardsman leading the rescue and Casey Affleck as the Pendleton’s first assistant engineer.

“It’s quite an amazing story,” Affleck said.

Pine and Affleck spoke to college students nationwide in a conference call.

The SS Pendleton was caught in a severe storm while en route from New Orleans to Boston on Feb. 18, 1952.  The strength of the story broke the ship in two south of Cape Cod, stranding its crew. Guardsman Bernard C. Webber led a crew of three on the motor lifeboat CG-36500 in a rescue attempt, saving 32 of the 41 crewmen.

Affleck said the spectacle of this story makes it an appropriate story to be told on film.

“They can really bring something like this to life, the scale of which would be hard to imagine if it weren’t a movie,” Affleck said.  “It’s the kind of thing you want to see someone make a movie of so you can go watch it.”

Affleck said bringing a story like this to life involves a lot of modern technology to bring the shipwreck to the big screen.  However, he said it was also about telling an old-fashioned story in an old-fashioned setting.

“In the writing and storytelling, thematically, it sort of feels like an old movie,” Affleck said.

However, when it came to performance, Affleck said he approached the film from as he would any other film.

Pine said, when studying for his role as Weber, said he had resources to picture who Weber was. Weber passed away in 2009. However, Pine said he talked with Andrew Fitzgerald, one of the crewmen on the lifeboat, as well as an autobiographical account Weber wrote on the night.

“From the script that I was given, he was a simple guy that loved his job and loved the waters,” Pine said. “I do love the idea of a regular man up against seemingly insurmountable odds and more than anything, I kind of related to Bernie’s fear”

Pine said one of Weber’s great attributes is that he is someone puts his feelings on display.

“He’s not like many of us that, you know, put on all this armor and try to be macho and tough,” Pine said.

Pine said portraying people with good old-fashioned values of doing one’s job and doing as well as can be done. He said the film business could look to those values.

“It’s (film industry) all about stuff that’s completely opposite from that which is . . . getting your picture taken and . . . twittering and all that kind of [stuff] that I just think takes away from . . . those good old fashioned values,” Pine said.

Affleck said when portraying his character, he did not have the opportunity to study his life.

“I just had to sort of make some stuff up,” Affleck said.

Affleck said what drew him to the film was that the people at Disney worked to take it seriously and keeping all of the elements of good filmmaking in order to bring the true story to the big screen.

“I like what Disney’s doing,” Affleck said. “I feel like they make a great effort to . . . make

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