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THE PERFECT STORM

About The Production

Wolfgang Petersen became fascinated by Sebastian Junger's best-selling nonfiction book when he first read it. "I've always been drawn to the sea," says the director, who garnered two Academy Award nominations for his breakthrough film, the submarine drama "Das Boot" (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay). "I think maybe it's the last frontier for people to go out and have adventures. It's an unknown world that's constantly changing. I grew up around boats in Hamburg, Germany."

Faced with the challenge of putting the story of such power and scope on screen, Petersen realized he would have tremendous hurdles to overcome. He says, "This is a story with many characters, all of them heroic in their own way, all of them with individual stories that play out at the same time: some at sea, some on land, some in helicopters, many on different boats. And, of course, the storm itself is a major character. We were fortunate to find writers who could weave all those storylines together."

The filmmakers realized that what they wanted to do, from a technical standpoint, had either never been done or never been done successfully. "We had to create a storm at sea that was absolutely believable," Petersen notes. "Weather and, especially, water are the most difficult things to make look realistic on film. So, we came up with a plan that we thought could avoid many of the complications that have affected other water movies. And, with a little bit of luck, we were able to successfully follow that plan."

In accordance with what he knew would be a physically grueling schedule, Petersen selected his cast as carefully as if he'd been a fishing boat captain picking a crew on whom he could count at sea. The actors and actresses were not along for an easy ride.

First in line was George Clooney.

"George Clooney is a tremendous actor as well as being a movie star," the director relates. "What I needed for this role was the commanding presence of a man who was unquestionably in charge. But I also needed an actor who was subtle enough to play a part in an ensemble — not so dominating that the audience is thinking, ‘Ah, there's a movie star' when they should be thinking, ‘Ah, there's a swordboat captain.'"

Unlike Petersen, Clooney had not grown up around boats. As part of his preparation for the role, Clooney set out to learn how to pilot a 72-foot-long commercial fishing craft.

"I spent about three weeks taking out our Andrea Gail," Clooney recalls. "I had to parallel park it at a few different docks. Fortunately, I didn't screw it up and wipe out the dock, which is something they encourage captains not to do. We did some longline fishing as well, and spent a few nights out at sea. It gave me a new appreciation for how fishermen make their living. I grew up in Kentucky and during the summer, the way you earn money is cutting tobacco. It's hard labor, but if something goes wrong, the chances of you dying are very slim. In fishing, there are a lot of ways that things go wrong and you get killed. It's just a different world."

To play Bobby Shatford, Clooney recommended Mark Wahlberg to Petersen based on his experience with Wahlberg on the Warner Bros. film "Three Kings."

"George mentioned to me that Mark Wahlberg was so great in ‘Three Kings,' but I remembered him from ‘Boogie Nights,'" Petersen

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