"Hope is not a tactic."
-- Mike Williams
On April 20th, 2010, one of the world's largest man-made disasters occurred
on the Deepwater
Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Our film follows a vital story that many have not
seen. the story of the
126 crew members working aboard the Deepwater Horizon that day, caught in the
circumstances imaginable. They were skilled working men and women putting in a
grueling shift in the
hopes of getting back soon to families and lives ashore. In an instant, they
were faced with their darkest
hour, pushed to summon the courage to battle an unstoppable inferno blaze in the
middle of the ocean,
and when all seemed lost, to save one another.
The ultra deep-water drilling rig off the Louisiana coast -- the Deepwater
Horizon - riveted the
world as it experienced a devastating blowout, fire and nearly unstoppable ocean
floor oil leak. For 87
days millions watched, hearts in mouths, as more than 50,000 barrels of oil a
day gushed from the sea
floor into the Gulf of Mexico. It would become the largest accidental ocean oil
spill in human history. A
fragile marine system hung in the balance, livelihoods were left in limbo, and
red flags were raised about
the true costs and dangers of drilling for oil in deep water conditions.
DEEPWATER HORIZON brings that story to the screen with a gripping glimpse
into the unseen
world behind the global disaster that took the lives of 11 workers. Filmmaker
Peter Berg once again
collaborates with Oscar nominated actor Mark Wahlberg sharing an untold story
of men & women, real
life heroes, who faced extraordinary consequences with extreme bravery. The pair
previously explored a
Navy SEAL team mission gone wrong in the Oscar nominated LONE SURVIVOR, and the
duo is set to
release PATRIOT'S DAY, the story inside the dramatic events leading up to and
after the Boston
Marathon bombing later this year. In DEEPWATER HORIZON, Mark Wahlberg is joined
by an incredible
cast including Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O'Brien and
Kate Hudson to bring
audiences directly into, not only the events, but the charged human drama and
acts of valor beneath
Wahlberg takes on the role of real-life Transocean chief electronics
technician Mike Williams, a
devoted family man who was overseeing the rig's computers and electrical systems
on April 20th, when
everything he imagined could go wrong...did. Oil rig workers are a notoriously
tough and gritty breed.
The work is physically punishing and ultra high-pressure - as workers grapple
with complex equipment
approximately 60-feet above remote seas. Yet even for Williams, what happened
that day was
unprecedented. Williams knew the work was desperately behind schedule, but he
also knew the
Deepwater Horizon had sophisticated defenses said to be able to prevent even the
Nevertheless at 10 p.m. that night, volatile methane shot up into the rig, and
all the rig's defenses failed.
The result was a sudden, deadly explosion and a series of fireballs, as the
shattered rig and its crew were
shaken, hurtled and drenched in combustible gas.
From that moment on, Williams was in a race to save his own life and those of
his crewmates -
each driven by the hope of making it home -- in an escape that seemed to defy
all the odds.
Says Wahlberg. "I play a rig worker who was an ordinary guy who had to do
things -- not only to survive, but to help others in a moment of overwhelming
disaster. For me that's an
extremely compelling story to tell. It's something I find very inspiring and
those are the kinds of movies I
most enjoy making and seeing."
The real Mike Williams, who consulted on the film, says the commitment of
Wahlberg and the
filmmakers to the reality of what he went through was gratifying. "The cast and
crew captured all the
elements of what happened that were important to me, other survivors, and the
widows of the deceased.
My biggest goal and ultimate drive that made me want to be part of this project
is that we honor these
eleven men and what they did every day.
For Berg, the story's themes were vivid and a chance to shed light on an
event most often talked
about in terms of the environmental, rather than human, impact compelled him,
"I'm drawn to tales of
human courage and of the human spirit trying to triumph over real adversity --
and those elements are
the heart of this story," says Berg. "The men and women aboard the Deepwater
Horizon were extremely
intelligent and capable and they tried everything they could to prevent the
blowout. It's important to
remember that 11 people lost their lives on the rig, and more were injured. In
the middle of all the
deserved attention for the oil spill, that heroism has almost been lost. This
film is a chance to tell that
Meeting with the survivors and the families of those lost on the Deepwater
Horizon struck Berg
with a deep mix of loss, humility and awe, all of which he wanted to infuse into
the production. "It was
an incredible experience to get to meet these people and hear their stories and
see the power of their
spirits and, how people find the strength and the resiliency to move on. As an
artist and a person, I find
that to be very inspirational and life-affirming."
To dig into the lives and hearts of the men and women for whom the Deepwater
Horizon was at
once home, workplace and a perilous trap after the blowout would require
intensive research. The
events were complicated, contested at times, and involved highly specialized
machinery and jargon. All
of that became background in the screenplay by Matthew Carnahan and Matthew
Sand, which instead
put the life-and-death experiences and in-the-moment emotions of the crewmembers
front and center.
The foundation for the screenplay was a seminal New York Times article.
Final Hours," written by David Barstow, David Rohde and Stephanie Saul, which
was in turn the result of
probing interviews with 21 survivors, as well as sworn testimony and written
statements from others,
creating the most detailed insiders' account of what they saw happening,
second-by-second, on the rig.
Sand recalls reading the article on the edge of his seat, but he wasn't sure at
first if he saw the
heart and soul of the kind of movie he aspires to in it. Then he saw an
interview with Mike Williams.
"Mike was talking about the moment on the rig when he saw the rescue boats
were only half full and he
made the decision to go back into extreme danger to help his brothers and
sisters back to safety," Sand
remembers. "That was a profoundly cinematic moment right out of real life. I
love movies about heroes
who meet big moments with deep courage. I met Mike and saw he was the real deal.
Then I knew we
had a movie."
Carnahan then went further, conducting and distilling his own interviews,
focusing in on the
emotions, connects and love of life that drive a person to find the heights of
skill, bravery and
compassion in the midst of disaster. The result became a moving exploration of
how ordinary people
commit extraordinary acts when it matters most.
When that tension meets the power of geological forces, the results are
says he also felt an especially fierce responsibility to be true to what the men
and women on the
Deepwater Horizon went through that night. "I tried to do the very best I could
to honor the fact that 11
people lost their lives that night. I've never worked on a movie before with
that kind of reality," notes the
screenwriter. "The people who lost their lives were always omnipresent in my
mind while I was writing."
Sand was enthralled by what Carnahan brought to the script, and even more
thrilled when Peter
Berg came aboard. Sand concludes. "In a way this movie is the last of a classic
breed - a story of
courage with the tremendous scope of the most exciting adventure thriller."
WHAT WAS THE DEEPWATER HORIZON?
An insatiable demand for fuel has brought oil companies into ocean depths
where humans have
never before dared to labor, bolstered by new high-tech equipment capable of
plunging thousands of feet
below sea level, operating where humans can't go, amid shifting sands and
hazardous pockets of
explosive gas. It's a brave new world of exploration for the oil industry, but
on April 20, 2010, the
dangers of that world became devastatingly clear.
On that day, the Deepwater Horizon, an ultra-deep-water, advanced oil rig
owned by the Swiss
company Transocean and leased by British Petroleum was drilling deep in a well
named Macondo about
40 miles off the Louisiana coast. Suddenly, the crew faced the greatest fear of
all ocean rig workers. a
ferocious blowout, caused by pockets of unstable methane shooting up the pipes
with deadly force.
Though equipped with a blowout preventer that included an Emergency Disconnect
System (EDS), both
failed to contain the blowout. The initial blowout killed 11 men who were never
found, critically injured
others and sparked a bold evacuation of men and women trapped amid roiling mud
and fire. After two
days of searing flames, the remains of the Deepwater Horizon sank 5000 feet to
the ocean floor, leaving
the well gushing beyond control, ultimately releasing, according to government
estimates, 4.9 million
barrels of oil.
Since then, the words Deepwater Horizon have become synonymous with the words
marine oil spill in history." But prior to that, the Deepwater Horizon was seen
as a technological marvel.
An offshore oil rig is essentially a stationary cruise ship - and the Deepwater
Horizon was among the
most sophisticated in the fleet. Built in South Korea, the rig featured a deck
the size of a football field, a
25-story tall derrick and below-deck living quarters for 146 people, including a
gym and movie theater.
The mechanical innards of the Deepwater Horizon utilized space-age technology,
electronic drilling monitors to computerized modeling systems and automated
But wondrous as the rig was, it was also, at the time of the explosion, 6 weeks
and costing a half million dollars a day - pushing management to complete the
well as fast as possible.
The full consequences of the Deepwater Horizon blowout are still being assessed.
After several failed
containment attempts, on September 21, 2010, the well was finally declared dead.
Today, court cases
are ongoing, coastal businesses are recovering and environmentalists are
studying damage to marine life.
But for the 11 families who lost their loved ones, and the workers who faced
mortal danger, the
consequences are felt every single day.
PETER BERG TAKES THE HELM
It was clear from the start that DEEPWATER HORIZON needed to have a single
able to commandeer a massive, multi-layered production full of intricate moving
parts and visual designs
- but one who also could get to the story's beating heart. It was equally clear
that person was Peter
Berg explains what drives his very distinctive style of filmmaking. "I'm a
fan of deeply
experiential films. I aspire to allowing audiences to feel they are not just
sitting in a theatre but going
through these events themselves. I want them to be immersed in both the action
and emotions. When
the ride is over, I want people to feel like they've really been somewhere that
had an impact. I don't
want my films to be a spectator sport. I want them to be experienced on a
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura calls out Berg's connection with actors as
key but also says the
director pushed himself to a new level. "I call Pete the invisible actor, it's
almost as if he's acting in the
scene as he watches it transpire," he explains. "Pete has tremendous confidence
in terms of getting
performances - and he knows instantly when he's got what he wants and he can
move very quickly
because he trusts in that. He's also skilled with energy and pace and that was
important because the
film had to be authentically terrifying and tragic - yet also be a dynamic and
Pete brings a very distinctive energy and style to this film."
Producer Mark Vahradian says that Berg's skill with technology and action was
a big draw; but
the biggest draw of all was his ability to tell moving stories about unsung
heroes. "We all felt that if we
got the fire and explosions right, yet somehow failed to convey the hearts of
these men who died, and
the men who survived and helped each other to survive, then it would not have
been worth making the
movie," says Vahradian. "There are not many directors who can combine spectacle
and human drama
the way Pete can. There are also not a lot of people able to take on the
physical challenges of making a
movie like this - shooting in the heat, at night, working with huge, complex
sets. He was able to make it
all happen and also bring the audience in to feel a part of it. He shows not
just the mechanics of what
happened, but also the humanity of the workers and the world of this kind of
When real-life survivor Mike Williams - whom Wahlberg portrays in the film -
came aboard as a
consultant it was a litmus test. Williams admits he had his doubts that a movie
could do any justice to
what he saw and heard that night. But he was soon exhilarated by Berg's
human-centered approach and
interest in immersing audiences in the rarely seen lives of oil rig workers
before the blowout ever occurs.
"Once Pete told me 'this is a story about survivors,' I agreed to come on board.
The oil field is
not very well understood by outsiders," Williams points out. "It's a very
close-knit community, and the
things we do out there are more dangerous than we'd like to let on. It's a
dangerous environment no
matter what steps we take to mitigate the danger. This is a great opportunity to
show the world what
these men and women do out there."
Berg was immediately intrigued by Mike Williams whose real life suddenly
became the stuff of
cinematic heroics. "What I found so interesting about Mike Williams is that he
was a maintenance
supervisor - a fix-it guy working with all these big-brained MIT engineer types,
yet he was a very street-smart
capable guy who ultimately became the last one off that rig. He was an everyday,
who found himself in the middle of the most terrifying and extraordinary
experience," says the director.
Berg summarizes. "We all use fossil fuels and petroleum. Even if we drive a
hybrid, we use
fossil fuels. Yet we know very little about how we get our fuels. This movie is
a chance to bring
audiences inside these gigantic rigs that are so technologically amazing, to
show the people working on
them who are so highly skilled and dedicated, and to reveal that even though we
never see these men
and women, or their sacrifices, they really are closely connected to our lives."
MARK WAHLBERG AS MIKE WILLIAMS
When it came to casting Mike Williams - the Chief Electronics Technician of
Horizon at the time the blowout occurred - the search was on for someone who
could penetrate the very
particular world of technicians who live and work on oil rigs, as well as a man
who taps into unrealized
reserves of physical and emotional strength to make it home to his family.
It quickly became clear that few actors were as close a match for that
description as two-time
nominee Mark Wahlberg. In roles ranging from THE FIGHTER to THE DEPARTED to
SURVIVOR, Wahlberg has demonstrated a distinctive ability to explore the inner
realities of blue-collar
Wahlberg and Williams bonded before the film started shooting and spent a lot
of time during
production on and off set together. The filmmakers were excited by the resulting
producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. "What Mark brings is honesty and a real sense
of blue-collar integrity.
He brings out that American ethic of doing hard work, even when you're working
amid forces you can't
necessarily control." Adds Mark Vahradian. "Mark cannot or will not play a
character without knowing
him, understanding him, drilling him, being with him. He has the sensitivity to
understand he's playing a
real human being who went through a traumatic situation, and he handled that so
From the get-go, Wahlberg was insistent on bringing Williams fully into the
filmmaking fold, in a
way few subjects of a film ever get to experience. "I was pretty adamant about
having Mike with us the
whole way," Wahlberg recalls. "He was the last one on the rig, and he knew so
much about what really
happened there. I didn't want to just meet him; I wanted him around and
consulting with us the entire
time. It turned out he was a great help to everybody. He had complete license to
say, 'hey, this didn't
happen that way. This is how it happened.' He could stop us at any time and give
us more to go on."
As for their personal conversations, Wahlberg describes their depth. "We
everything. We talked what he did before he was on the rig, about how he spent
his time off the rig,
about his relationship with his daughter and wife. At times, he got quite
emotional talking about what
happened on the rig, but there wasn't anything he wasn't comfortable talking
about with me."
He realized that for Williams being on the rig always had two contrasting
sides. "He's out there
providing for his loved ones and he was always excited by that idea," observes
Wahlberg. "Mike really
loved the work, loved being out there, but he also understood the danger and
that it was a big sacrifice
to be so far from his family."
Williams found that talking with Wahlberg about his experiences was
"Answering questions about what happened from the time I woke up until the time
I got to the hospital,
and to be able to walk the cast through that has been beneficial to me," he
explains. "It helped me not
only to re-live the story, but it also allowed me to let go of some of it, and
that was very therapeutic."
As Wahlberg dug into the nitty-gritty of the bodily and mental challenges of
rig work, it was
equally important to him to explore those connections back home, the pride and
joy in his family that
carried him through that night. He especially enjoyed working with Kate Hudson.
"We don't have many
scenes together, but the moments we do have are so powerful and help you to
realize how in love these
two people are and what they mean to each other," he says. "Kate was just
fantastic. She dove right in
there and it felt very real with her."
Once on the set near New Orleans, Wahlberg also felt a need to make
connections with the
people of Louisiana, who were so deeply affected by the Deepwater Horizon
incident and its aftermath. "I
take pride in us going down there - it is the kind of place where, if you don't
get it right, you're not going
to be welcomed back," he muses. "On a film like this it is about so much more
than your individual
experience as an actor or director or cinematographer or whoever. For all of us,
it was really about
making sure that we made the local people proud and doing the families involved,
Reuniting with Berg was also special for Wahlberg. "I'd sign up to do
anything with Pete,"
Wahlberg offers, "We have a similar approach to the work and we're both drawn to
true-life stories about
people overcoming the odds. Pete is an actor first, so he's all about
performance but he's also a true
leader. He sets a high bar and challenges you for sure."
KURT RUSSELL AS MR. JIMMY
Equally key to the casting was finding the film's "Mr. Jimmy," Jimmy Harrell,
who was the
offshore installation manager of the Deepwater Horizon - essentially in charge
of the entire crew. Golden
nominee Kurt Russell, another star renowned for his real-guy appeal, stepped
into the poignant
role. Russell became fascinated by how people react when they have to make
impossible decisions under
extreme pressure. "You realize that in this very dangerous world, when things go
wrong, human beings
can only try to make the right decisions," says Russell. "These are not
black-and-white kinds of decisions.
It's a difficult thing to face."
Russell felt the weight of portraying a real person in his performance. He
spent hours watching
Harrell's testimony before the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Investigation.
"Any time you play a
character drawn from a real person, you have the responsibility to find out as
much as you can.
Unfortunately, I was never able to meet Jimmy, but I saw a lot about him as a
person from the testimony
that I watched," Russell explains.
Russell notes that Harrell was deeply respected by the crew, and set out each
day to prove that
he deserved that respect. "I thought of him in the way I heard Mike Williams
talk about Mr. Jimmy. that
he was universally respected, and a no frills kind of guy," Russell explains.
"Mr. Jimmy wasn't humorless,
but this was his rig, this was his family, and he took that part very
Russell especially loved working so closely in concert with Wahlberg, who
becomes Mr. Jimmy's
savior after the blowout. "He's a very natural actor who somehow makes his work
look effortless. He was
great, and always so prepared," Russell says.
He also enjoyed the sparks in his interactions with John Malkovich as BP
"company man" Donald
Vidrine, with whom Jimmy Harrell butts heads over the treacherous schedule.
"Malkovich is just terrific as Vidrine," says Russell. "I love the scenes
that give you a sense of
what was at stake in the conflict between the company and the workers. You have
representing BP, and me representing Transocean, and we really lock horns."
GINA RODRIGUEZ AS ANDREA FLEYTAS
After the explosion, Mike Williams aligns himself closely with 23 year-old
rig worker Andrea
Fleytas, with whom he finds himself trapped on the fire-choked rig, with no easy
escape. Fleytas is
played in an intriguing departure by "Jane The Virgin" star Gina Rodriguez.
Fleytas was the Deputy Dynamic Positioning Officer, with the vital
responsibility of maintaining
the floating rig's position directly over the well using propellers and
thrusters. To learn more about
Fleytas's job, Rodriguez quite literally went to school. "Pete was all about
being as authentic as possible,
I did my own research and went to dynamic positioning officer training in
Houston. It was quite the
experience," she muses.
Rodriguez also had to dig deep as the tough-talking, engine-fixing Andrea has
to face some of
her deepest fears while finding the depths of her courage. The emotional
challenges were greater to her
than the physical ones. "I'm definitely an adrenaline junkie," Rodriguez
confesses. "For me the challenge
was to be as true to the character I could, to be as careful and fragile with
her as I could, because she
Fleytas played a major role in alerting the world to what happened on the
Notes Di Bonaventura. "Andrea was the first person to call a mayday, which
nobody else was doing, and
she took the initiative to do it. She was reprimanded for doing it but she was
right. This makes her a
very relatable character because we all have felt, wait a second, what am I
supposed to do in a situation
when different people are telling you different things. She tries to do the best
thing for her fellow
workers. Gina also captures what it's like to be a 23 year old woman in the
middle of a crazy, ultimately
Wahlberg, too, was impressed. "Gina is a tough Chicago girl who really dove
in there and wasn't
afraid to get dirty with the rest of us. My character has to get a bit tough
with her but when I tried to
apologize, she would say, 'No keep going further.' She's a real gamer."
Along the way, Wahlberg was a pillar of support for Rodriguez. "He was just
such a stud," says
Rodriguez. "I learned a lot from him and it was such a wonderful experience to
see what a beautiful,
genuine, hardworking, big-hearted person he is."
KATE HUDSON AS FELICIA WILIAMS
As Mike Williams fights to stay alive on the Deepwater Horizon, his wife can
only watch in shock
from their onshore home, hoping her husband survives the nightmare their family
always hoped would
never come. Taking the role of the woman who motivates Williams is Golden Globe
winner Kate Hudson.
For Hudson, the lure of the part lay in the big picture of the film - a chance
to bring to life the
human experience of an event that continues to reverberate. Says Hudson.
"Audiences will not only be
able to understand more about what happened on the Deepwater Horizon but also
get to know these
people and the actual experience of how terrifying and challenging it was."
She was also interested in the specific, often invisible, experiences of
families silently awaiting
word of their loved ones in times of peril. "Felicia's perspective is that of
someone who couldn't know
what was going on for her husband," Hudson points out. "All she saw is what was
on the news and
nobody was really telling the families anything, all they could do is hope that
their husbands or wives or
boyfriends and girlfriends would make it home."
Hudson was deeply moved to have the real Felicia Williams on set with her.
"It was really helpful
because there were moments where I could go up to her and just ask her. 'What
was this like? How did
this moment feel for you?' It obviously brought back a lot of trauma for Felicia
and Mike, which was
hard, but they were always willing to honestly share with us about what was
really going on for them."
Though the tension builds to a fever pitch for Felicia, there are also
moments of joy and deep
love she greatly enjoyed portraying with Wahlberg. She also adored getting the
chance to be on set with
her real-life father, Kurt Russell, though they share no scenes together, this
is the first film they both star
in together. "I loved seeing Mark and my Pa, Kurt, working together, what a
great combination they
are," says Hudson. "They're both very much working men, very American men and
that's something that
in both of their blood. To see them paired together on screen was pretty great."
That pairing - as well as her partnership with Wahlberg - came to life
authentically in large part
because of the atmosphere Berg created, adds Hudson. "Pete has great energy and
instincts and he's
very fast, which creates a more realistic performance. Often you don't know even
where the cameras are
which is nice because you have to stay present and it allows him to catch the
moments that are most
real. When you've had experience acting, as Pete has, you have a great instinct
for knowing what gets
actors out of their heads and more present. He knows how to get a natural
response versus the thoughtout
response, and that is key for this story."
JOHN MALKOVICH AS DONALD VIDRINE
Two-time Oscar nominee John Malkovich takes on one of the film's most
intense roles. that of
Louisiana-based BP manager Donald Vidrine.
DEEPWATER HORIZON is the fourth film Malkovich has made with producer Lorenzo
Bonaventura. Says the producer. "John is the consummate professional and one of
the most brilliant
actors of our time. Any time you have him in a movie he raises the game of
everybody around him."
The screenplay lured Malkovich. "I was impressed by the script's terrific
sense of urgency and
the sense that there was something underneath the bottom of the sea that was
going to have its say.
The story has a running clock from the get-go, but it also introduces us to
world we haven't seen in film
before," Malkovich comments.
Malkovich was also taken with Peter Berg's process, which he says heightened
relentless sense of realism. "Pete is an intensely passionate person and he's
also quick. Sometimes
directors give things more space and time than they merit, but Pete doesn't
allow that. I personally love
his focus," summarizes the actor.
DYLAN O'BRIEN AS CALEB HOLLOWAY
Rising star Dylan O'Brien, known for his hit TV show Teen Wolf and The Maze
portrays another true-life survivor of the Deepwater Horizon. Caleb Holloway, a
floor hand on the drilling
crew who had been working on the rig for 3 years at the time of the disaster.
O'Brien was gratified to work closely with the real Caleb Holloway, who
generously shared his
memories of the events as he experienced them, including his friendships with
his fellow crew members,
several of whom were lost that night, with whom he spent time hunting and
fishing. O'Brien's bond with
Holloway turned into a close friendship.
O'Brien recounts meeting Caleb for the first time. "I was really nervous to
meet Caleb at first, but
really thankful that I could. We had scheduled a meeting for just an hour but
that meeting then turned
into us hanging out the rest of the day - and then he became the best friend I
had on the project.
Meeting him was huge for me. I came into this as a chance to be a part of a true
story, which I've never
Ultimately, Holloway impressed upon O'Brien just how searing and nightmarish
it was aboard the
Deepwater Horizon and how everyone who was there carries that with them forever.
O'Brien goes on.
"Through becoming close with Caleb, I found my arc. He really let me in all the
important elements of his
experience with the whole thing, as well as how he still deals with it and how
it's affected his whole life."
Peter Berg notes. "Having Caleb there, along with Mike Williams and some of
the other guys,
was a really valuable tool for the actors. It was important for Dylan to speak
to the real Caleb and get
that insight no one else could possibly have."
Lorenzo di Bonaventura says O'Brien brought something essential to a role
that is an emotional
linchpin. "Dylan has a grace and strength, yet the vulnerability of a guy that
age, and you watch him go
from being the strong guy, fighting for his life, to a guy mourning some of his
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