Before debuting on next year’s “Captain America: Civil War” as Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man, young actor Tom Holland makes a splash in Warner Bros.’ new action-adventure In the Heart of the Sea.
Oscar winner Ron Howard directs “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s best-selling book about the dramatic true journey of the Essex. In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
Holland plays the 14-year-old cabin boy Thomas Nickerson setting off on his first whaling expedition, on the Essex. Veteran actor Brendan Gleeson portrays the man thirty years later who still bears the scars of his ordeal, although most of them are invisible.
Howard explains, “Our two Nickersons gave us a chance to explore individual aspects of the story that are both interesting and emotional. There’s the danger and the excitement of the adventure seen through the eyes of a boy, and the trauma of the tragedy as remembered by the man.”
Holland describes the younger Nickerson as “one of the hardest kids I’ve ever come across. He’s an orphan, he has no one, and he sets out on this voyage with a bunch of hardened men who have been doing this for years, and he genuinely has no idea what he’s doing. So he heads into it wide-eyed and ready to go, but he doesn’t really know what he’s in for.”
Thirty years later, we see Nickerson—now the last remaining survivor of the Essex—as he is being pressed to recount the events that continue to haunt him. Brendan Gleeson remarks, “He 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 years upon years, and it’s essentially killing him. When he is able to bring himself to a place where he can finally confront it, it’s quite cathartic.”
“In the Heart of the Sea” was filmed almost entirely in sequence for several reasons, not the least of which was the gradual change in the characters’ appearances as they waste away from a lack of food and water, as well as shelter from the unforgiving elements.
The appearance of the men who survive the sinking of the Essex changes drastically over time, so the actors, in turn, had to lose a substantial amount of weight over the course of production. Lead actor Chris Hemsworth details, “The men were lost at sea for months, so by the time any of them were found, they were basically just skin and bones. We were eating minimal amounts of food, but we kept reminding ourselves that it was nothing compared to what they suffered. We all banded together to keep morale up and distract us from how hungry we were.”
Holland suggests, “There’s no stronger glue than getting a bunch of guys to lose weight together. But it helped forge a bond between us on the set, which was really important.”
Tom Holland made an auspicious feature film debut in the critically acclaimed true-life drama “The Impossible,” with Naomi Watts. His performance as a young boy who survived the devastating 2004 tsunami brought him a number of honors, including London Film Critics Circle, NationalBoard of Review and Empire Awards.
Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, December 3, in theaters and IMAX®, In the Heart of the Sea is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.