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The Passengers
"This is about you,” Petersen emphasized from the start, telling his cast, "It's not about things exploding or big tanks of water; it's about how you handle your situation and how you behave. I want to see your sweat, your fear, everything.”

This ensemble of actors had to be not only talented but resilient. In addition to performing their own harness work from precipitous platforms and being blasted by incoming torrents, the final weeks of filming had the actors working underwater – a skill for which each received a week's training from a diving safety team.

Josh Lucas, who stars as self-sufficient professional gambler Dylan Johns, was so committed to doing his own underwater stunt work that he practiced after-hours at home, a routine he finds somewhat comical in retrospect. "Having said I wanted to do it, I would stupidly go home after work, after being in water all day, and swim laps in the pool to see how long I could hold my breath,” he recalls.

Lucas attributes his enthusiasm largely to Petersen's own joyful energy. "Wolfgang has this extraordinary charisma and I think its core is his absolute passion for filmmaking and for telling stories. We all felt it. It was impossible not to get caught up in it.”

Throughout production, the actor also found himself thinking about people who have actually struggled in extreme situations – a consciousness he shared with many of his colleagues, especially as news of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami was still fresh when filming began in June 2005. "I think we all felt a sense of responsibility to honor the experience and to really show what that fear and pain and claustrophobia is like. There was a moment where I came up from the water into a space with about an inch of breathing room above me and I genuinely panicked. I was so grateful to be on a film set.”

Another of Lucas' challenging scenes involved not only water but fire. "The group gets separated while crossing the lobby where an oil spill has created essentially a pool of fire, and my character has to jump into this pool and swim underneath it with a fire hose to create a connection between the two sides. I had to come up at just the right spot and it was pretty hot and terrifying,” he admits. "There are some wild sequences in this film.”

Lucas, who charmed audiences as Reese Witherspoon's true love in Sweet Home Alabama and shared a 2001 SAG Award nomination for A Beautiful Mind, describes Dylan as "a hustler, probably not of a caliber to play in Vegas but good enough to make some money off people on a cruise who've had a few drinks. He's not a bad guy, but he's not a hero either. He just wants to go his own way, take care of himself first and not worry about other people.”

Dylan's dilemma arises when he tells young Conor his intention to escape the overturned ship by himself while the others patiently await rescue. Jimmy alerts his mother Maggie and their ensuing discussion is overheard by former fireman and ex-New York City mayor Robert Ramsey, eager to leave the ballroom to search for his missing daughter. Nelson, another passenger, is also game to climb. To help them navigate the ship's unfamiliar architecture they enlist the help of a passing waiter, Valentin.

Dylan and Ramsey couldn't be more different. Where Dylan is wary of assuming responsibility for the others and fears it will slow him down, Ramsey embodies a lifetime of leadership – for better or worse. Having met briefly on board and sized each other up over a tense poker standoff, the two men begin their odyssey already at odds. Says Lucas, "Dylan's selfishness offends Ramsey at his core and Ramsey's take-charge manner gets Dylan's back up.”

Kurt Russell, who stars as Robert Ramsey, notes that one of the things he likes about the movie is how, "It allows you to get to know these people without being told

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