For his role in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “In the Heart of the Sea,” Chris Hemsworth lost about 30 lbs. to convincingly portray a starving shipwreck survivor of the real-life 19th-century whale attack that inspired “Moby Dick.”
“This was the hardest movie that I’ve done,” Hemsworth told Variety at the film’s New York premiere at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall Monday night. “It was brutal. I was challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. The role really tested my commitment to acting. There were days where I kind of went insane and was very moody and exhausted because I was so hungry.”
Hemsworth and his costars went on a 500-calorie-a-day diet to lose weight in four weeks and ate mainly vegetables and boiled eggs. Their roles also required them to act in real boats around the Canary Islands under the scorching sun and swim in a 500-gallon water tank at Leavesden Studios. Looking back on the demanding production, Hemsworth said the experience advanced his acting skills and helped him grow as a man.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about my abilities as a human being. I’m able to handle much more than I thought I could,” said the “Thor” actor. “With each thing I do, I have to grow in some way. I like to choose things that are challenging and touch on ground that I haven’t done before. This experience and this character is a whole new world for me and it’s made me stronger and a better actor.”
Based on the 2000 novel by Nathaniel Philbrick that chronicles the real-world events that inspired Herman Melville’s 1851 novel “Moby Dick,” Hemsworth gave the screenplay to director Ron Howard while shooting 2013’s “Rush.” The Oscar-winning filmmaker was immediately keen on bringing the epic story to the big screen.
“From a filmmaking experience, this was the most complex movie that I had ever made,” said Howard, who directs his first movie for Warner Bros. “I’m really glad that I had experiences from ‘Apollo 13’ and ‘Backdraft’ behind me to help me with this film. It’s a story that needs to be told. I had no idea that ‘Moby Dick’ was inspired by a real story and there are a lot of themes in the story that are very modern. It’s about being honest and about having hope, which very relatable.”
For newly minted “Spider-Man” star Tom Holland, who plays the youngest crewmember of whaling ship, the highlight was working with Howard and Hemsworth.
“It was a privilege to work with Ron Howard. Every day it was like a pinch me moment,” Holland told Variety. “And to work with Chris has been fun. He’s so down to earth and really funny. Chris has been really good to me especially over the past few months with the whole Spider-Man thing. He’s given me advice about fame and acting. He’s been a great role model for me.”
After the screening, the film’s producers Paula Weinstein and Will Ward joined Howard, the cast, screenwriter Charles Leavitt and Philbrick at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room for celebratory drinks and food. Hemsworth chatted with his “Avengers: Age of Ultron” costar Paul Bettany and his wife Jennifer Connelly while Howard received a wave of support from friends. Among the guests were Hemsworth’s wife, actress Elsa Pataky, Luke Hemsworth, Paul Haggis, Russell Simmons, Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly.
“In the Heart of the Sea” opens Dec. 11.
(Pictured: Tom Holland, Benjamin Walker and Chris Hemsworth at the “In the Heart of the Sea” premiere)