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MASTER AND COMMANDER

Historical And Character Research
Peter Weir wanted MASTER AND COMMANDER to give the audience as accurate a feeling as possible of life aboard a fighting ship of the period. He and his team of historical consultants were relentless in their pursuit of period authenticity.

Young boys, some only eight years old, were often servants or "powder monkeys," running back and forth to the gun deck delivering powder to the gun crews. In the case of officers, there was a training regimen wherein young gentlemen, many of noble birth, could be taken under the captain's supervision aboard ship as midshipmen, studying and learning the books much as they would in a private school.

There were midshipmen as young as twelve, such as the Lord Blakeney character, played by newcomer Max Pirkis. Weir built up the parts of these younger actors so audiences would see how they were treated on board as equals. "They had to take the injuries, sail the ship, go into battle and fight alongside the men," says Weir.

In 1805, with Britain's King George III in his 45th year on the throne, the celebrated career of the heroic Lord Nelson was soon to come to an end with his death at The Battle of Trafalgar. War between Britain and France had been a constant throughout Nelson's lifetime and continued through to 1815.

Russell Crowe shared Peter Weir's passion for historical and character authenticity. "The reality of the situation for a man like Jack is that it is a very lonely job," says Crowe. "Every ship's captain I spoke with before we began this film discussed that loneliness aspect, and to be prepared for that. One shared with me a saying – ‘Not always right, but always certain' – meaning that as captain, you can't transmit any doubts you may have in the middle of a life-threatening situation."

Crowe studied the nautical history, lore and skills required as a British Royal Navy captain of the time. He also learned the ins and outs of the ship, and became quite adept at climbing the rigging to the tops. Sailing master captain Andrew Reay-Ellers was one of the consultants who assisted Crowe in his research.

"We helped Russell recreate Jack Aubrey's 20-year naval career," says Reay-Ellers, "working for hours each week, from the nuts and bolts of every line onboard the ship, to sailing maneuvers, strategy, and that nature of a captain's command. Russell felt that Jack, although as captain would never set a sail personally, was once a midshipman and would have that knowledge. Russell wanted to know everything I was teaching his men, and we went through a condensed version of a lifetime of learning the ship."

Reay-Ellers was impressed with Crowe's dedication to research and training. "He spent hours pouring over diagrams, reading some very dense literature on ship handling strategies, and he rose to the challenge. At the same time, he was learning to play the violin and a type of sword fighting unique to that period and rank. It's just mind-boggling, the amount of things he was simultaneously learning; he wanted that level of confidence, that air of casual knowledge that he knows every line on the ship, just the way Jack Aubrey would."

Crowe's violin training stems from Lucky Jack's penchant for the instrument and his occasional musical pairings with Stephen Maturin, himself a cellist. Over a period of several months Crowe worked with longtime friend and Australian violin virtuoso Richard Tognetti (who later would help compose the film's score), and with violinist Robert E. Greene, who previously worked with Crowe during<

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