From Nantucket to Hollywood: ‘In The Heart Of The Sea’

Chris Hemsworth stars in Ron Howard's 'In The Heart Of The Sea.' (Courtesy Warner Brothers Pictures)

Chris Hemsworth stars in Ron Howard’s ‘In The Heart Of The Sea.’ (Courtesy Warner Brothers Pictures)

In The Heart of the Sea” writer Nathaniel Philbrick will make his acting debut in Ron Howard’s film based on his book, and the follicularly-challenged Nantucket author said he was most excited to play a man with a full head of hair!

Philbrick told a sold-out crowd at his talk and book signing at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History that his role in the movie came about unexpectedly when he was in England watching the director shoot the film.

You look like a Quaker” Howard told him, and Philbrick was cast – the climax of 15 years of wondering whether Hollywood would ever take on his tale.

I never really thought it was ever going to happen,” he said.

Philbrick’s book “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” was originally published in May of 2000, and it had been optioned for a film several times before. But it was Howard – who cast Hollywood It Boy Chris Hemsworth in the lead role – who finally took on the challenge of bringing the epic survival tale to the big screen.

The book tells the true story of the whaleship Essex that left Nantucket Harbor in 1819 headed for the South Pacific, but sunk off he coast of South Africa after it was rammed by a whale. The tragedy was said to be the inspiration for Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick.”

Nathaniel Philbrick at The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. (Photo by Kristen Levy)

Nathaniel Philbrick at The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. (Photo by Kristen Levy)

Although Philbrick lives on Nantucket, he said the genesis of his book came many years ago in Pittsburgh. As a child, Philbrick’s father, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, would tell bedtime stories to him and his younger brother. One of the stories was about a whale sinking a ship.

He recalled the” battle-scarred” copy of “Moby Dick” that sat atop his father’s desk and how his dad would endlessly discuss the book, even at the dinner table. Like most teenagers, Philbrick found this immensely boring. But by the age of 17, Philbrick had developed a love of sailing after spending time at his grandparent’s home in West Falmouth, and during his senior year of high school he was assigned to read “Moby Dick.”

It was then I think I had the worst experience a 17-year-old could possibly have,” Philbrick joked, “realizing his father had been right all along.”

The writer’s talk was followed by a brief question and answer session. When asked how he felt about the movie, Philbrick said he is “very happy with the product.”

It was actually going to the set where you realize, my gosh, this is such a collaborative medium,” he said. “It’s got to be (Howard’s) vision. I had to let go.”

In The Heart of the Sea” hits the theaters on Dec. 11.

by Kristen Levy


  1. Interesting!! Can’t wait to see the movie.

  2. Love this story, Cape Cod influence is strong!

Speak Your Mind

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy