A librarian on an oil tanker. That’s how Casey Affleck described his character, Raymond Sybert from the movie The Finest Hours. Casey gives a stellar performance as the Chief Engineer on board the SS Pendleton, a ship left broken in half by a fierce storm. Ray, a normally quiet and withdrawn man, has to find a way to lead the rest of the crew so that they can survive long enough for someone to come and rescue them. Casey was able to bring a special kind of continuity to his character that was able to retain the shy, quiet elements of his personality while still being able to exhibit extraordinary leadership in dire circumstances.
During our roundtable interview with him, I was able to ask him how he was able to balance those different aspects – the shy, quiet man and the one who has to become a leader. He told me, “Craig (Gillespie, the director) and I talked about being kind of a librarian on an oil tanker and I think [Ray] was that kind of a guy. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to suddenly, you know, Clark Kent-style rip his shirt off and just be like this bold, overtly all external gestures super hero kind of a dude.”
When asked about how he drew inspiration for his role, he referenced a book or more accurately the cover of a book which became a touchstone for him. “There was a painting that is the cover of a book, a John Williams book called Stoner and the cover of the book is a painting of a guy and I said, ‘This is the character. This guy here.’ And so it actually sounds too simple to be useful, but it was really helpful because every time we get in an argument I would show the picture and go, ‘No. He’s like this. Remember this guy?'”
Spending much of his time getting wet, he was asked how it affected his performance, if it helped or or made it harder. He replied, “Oh it helps for sure. There’s no doubt about it.” After much laughter, Casey continued, “It’s much easier than pretending anything [when you’re actually getting water thrown at you] and all you have to do is sort of like get your lines out and you’re already shivering and you can’t help but keep your eyes half closed because you’re being pounded with water. Then you just look like a good actor maybe, you know? And you really just stood there and took so much physical abuse. So I think it makes it easier.”
The truth is Casey Affleck IS a good actor. Very good in fact. His portrayal of Chief Engineer Raymond Sybert in The Finest Hours was such a marker in his career it has to be seen to be believed.
The Finest Hours opens on January 29th in theaters nationwide
- Read the Disney Nerds spoiler-free review of The Finest Hours
- Did you know Chris Pine likes chocolate chip cookies? Read more about him and Ben Foster on the blog