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It was a tough shoot, and if it wasnít for director Wolfgang Petersonís actor-friendly style, George Clooney may well have quit the film, he admits in this Q & A conducted on the set at the end of filming The Perfect Storm.

Q: Going into a film based on such a famous real-life event, what were your major concerns as production began?
A: Getting it right. Compared to something like Three Kings or Batman and Robin, there was a whole set of different responsibilities involved. These men weren't make-believe, they were real and the places where we were shooting, that's where they lived and worked. Nearly everyone around us that wasn't directly involved with the film crew knew them. We drank in the same bars as them, went around everywhere they did...it had to be as real as we could get it. It helped with having Sebastian Junger on set. He wrote the book, so it was like we were official. He seemed happy with what was going on...

Q: What struck you most about the community and the work they do?
A: You don't realise just how dangerous the job is. In Gloucester, where the movie was based, there's been something like ten thousand-plus fishing related accidents in the four hundred years their community's been working the seas. When you spend as many days as I did, with tons of water landing on you on the studio backlot, you get a hint of what those guys go through. ...

Q: So did you feel in danger at any point during filming?
A: I'm still here, but, yeah. ..there were moments when you thought twice. They had me on the outrigger on the ship's deck, wired up on a harness right at the top of it. The shot meant that it would go down into the water with the rig taking most of the impact, but you still get hit hard. You literally go underwater really fast, but it turns and you swing back up. ...The thing was that I didn't get air until it came back through the surface. I saw them testing it, and the arm would break nearly every time. You put your faith in these guys to get you out if anything goes wrong, like if it broke with me on it, but it did make me question exactly how they'd get me free. I guess I just had to hold my breath!

Q: How did Mark Walberg cope?
A: He got sick. ...Real sea sick. He could claim some kind of record for barfing. He forgot to get sea legs before we started shooting. It was happening all the time, it hit my boots, it hit me, it hit the deck....and this was all in the studio. ..I tell you, he could take it to championship level...

Q: Have you had much experience at sea prior to The Perfect Storm?
A: Well, I was raised in Kentucky, and there's no coastline near that part of America, so I guess this was the first time I'd driven anything without wheels. Try parallel parking a trawler in a dock...it's not easy. Fortunately, I didn't break any of the quay or damage the other boats. ..They encourage the ship's captains to try to avoid that sort of thing. It was all a part of trying to make it real. ..And the truth of it is that not a moment of it was faked. Take it from me, if youíre not strapped in, there's nothing you can do to stop your self getting blown off deck when the waves hit. ...

Q: Haw was it working with director Wolfgang Peterson?
A: I'd just come off Three Kings and that wasn't actually after a long rest, so it's been something like six years solid work; Batman, ER...Your body gets worn out, and I hadn't caught up with myself. I had to think long and hard about doing the movie, it was like 'am I up to this? Am I going to get through this one in one piece?' If Wolfgang had been any of the things that other directors are more than capable of, like more demanding or just plain mean, I would never have made it to the other side. I genuinely think I would have quit....

Q: What's next?
A: Ocean's Eleven... It's a remake of the old Rat Pack movie and I get to be Sinatra. I've formed a company with Steven Soderbergh (director of Out Of Sight) to get it shot. ...For a while, I was into developing projects, but you find that you let yourself head towards repetition. I had a slate of projects that were just the same kind of thing as my earlier movies, because you know that's what people like. Now I just read through scripts and hope to find something good, something that you really want to do...

Q: Were you happy with the critical and box-office reaction to The Perfect Storm?
A: Well, no matter what you do, it's too late to fix it once it's released, but in this case, I think we did a good job. Even though people know what happened in the end, just like Memphis Bell, I heard good things from them. People got with it, they saw where we were at, and you can't ask for much more than that.

Q: What do you think of the DVD revolution?
A: It's the way forward. The extra material's there for those who want that, but it doesn't interfere. We're planning some neat extras for Ocean's Eleven. It's cool.

Published February 1, 2001

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See Andrew L. Urban's interview with Australia's JOHN SEALE from the set.

Making a Perfect Storm FEATURE



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