Moby Dick is only half the tale.
November 20 marked the 195th anniversary of the sinking of the Essex, the doomed whaleship that left Nantucket harbor in 1819 on a routine voyage to hunt whales for oil. Instead of returning with a boat full of the highly coveted substance, the crew barely returned at all. Of the 20 who set sail, eight men came back (barely) alive after the Essex sank 2,000 miles off the coast of South America. The whalemens' accounts of the terrifying incident record that a giant sperm whale, nearly 80 feet long, had attacked the ship.
The story haunted Herman Melville until he wrote the now familiar tale of Ishmael, Ahab and Moby Dick. Now, the focus is slightly off the giant mammal and on the crew’s near impossible survival story. Director Ron Howard captains the epic story in his new film In the Heart of the Sea, based off author Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2001 bestselling novel. While the whale is still a prominent character in Howard’s interpretation, the film largely centers on the men who drifted for three months, lost at sea, and how they had to rely on hope, discipline and faith if they were to ever find salvation.
Townhall caught up with the IHOTS cast and crew on their press tour in New York City, including Howard and lead actor Chris Hemsworth, who shed his Thor muscles and several pounds for the role of first mate Owen Chase. Hemsworth recently posted a photo of his dramatic physical transformation to his Instagram account, offering just a glimpse of what the Essex crew endured during their 90 days of fear, hunger, thirst, and emotional anguish.
Ron Howard shared his excitement about bringing the story of the Essex to a whole new generation – and the new challenges directing has offered since he first stepped behind the camera.
Chris Hemsworth explained what motivated him and his fellow cast members to remain disciplined to their strict, 500-calorie-a-day diet, and how he ended up with more bruises as first mate Owen Chase than he did as Thor.
Catch In The Heart of The Sea in theaters this Friday, Dec. 11.