EXCLUSIVE: Chris Hemsworth, who has been in the middle of two of the summer’s big films in The Avengers and Snow White And The Huntsman, is in the center of the hot package making the rounds right now, even though it’s not exactly a brand new package. Hemsworth is attached to star in In The Heart Of The Sea, which is the disaster tale that inspired Melville’s Moby Dick. Based on the National Book Award-winning book by Nathaniel Philbrick, In The Heart Of The Sea is the fact-based tale of Nantucket whaling ship the Essex, which was stalked and ultimately destroyed by a sperm whale in 1820. Stranded thousands of miles from home, the crew struggled to survive; they were lost at sea for 90 days. Eight were rescued.
This version of the project has Joe Roth producing with Paula Weinstein, Will Ward and Palak Patel. The latter, who works with Roth, used to work for Weinstein and is a big reason this project has gotten another chance to get made. I hear that DreamWorks has the inside track on the project, but is not the only studio in the mix. DreamWorks would not comment.
The script was written by Charles Leavitt, who scripted Blood Diamond. I read the book when it was first set up in 2000, when Bary Levinson and Weinstein were partners and expected to make it together at Intermedia. It was a fine book and has the makings of a logistically complex depiction of a grueling tale of survival. It stalled but came back around later when Ed Zwick became attached to direct it at New Regency.
What it needed was a young actor who could play the hero role and Hemsworth certainly fits that bill. He plays a first mate who was supplanted as captain of the whaling ship by a better connected rival. When the ship was attacked by the sperm whale in the Pacific, he becomes the hero who leads some of them to safety. A total of 20 crewmen, the captain and first mate escaped in small whaling boats. An isolated tropical island was just 1000 miles downwind, but the captain ordered them to head the other way, out of fear of false rumors of flesh-eating savages on the island. Because they headed to South America, the boats were stranded. The survivors were ironically forced to become cannibals, casting lots in one ship to see who had to die and who had to execute him so others could eat and survive. That’s part of the tale, but another big part is the depiction of the New England whaling industry of the 1800s, when men risked their lives to chase and harpoon whales for their oil.
Hemsworth is repped by IFA and ROAR.