Update on Finest Hours movie progress

At long last, it’s safe to announce that the Disney corporation is actually filming The Finest Hours!

We tip-toed around the subject for a long time because nobody could say for sure if the filming would actually happen, but allowed ourselves to feel some excitement when news came out that they signed a deal with actor Chris Pine (Star Trek movie) to star as Bernie Webber (Bernie always said Don Knotts should play his part in the movie version of the story!). Now we know Casey Affleck has joined the cast, as well as Graham McTavish  from Lord of the Rings.

Bernie Webber said Don Knotts would be suitable to play him in the movie

Bernie Webber said Don Knotts would be suitable to play him in the movie


A recent article in the Cape Cod Times says Disney’s budget is $85 million! Wow. Makes you wonder what the Chatham Coast Guard station’s payroll was back in 1952 for comparison, doesn’t it? Not that it would have mattered to the 36500 crew.

a scene from the rescue

a scene from the rescue



What was Chatham like in 1952?

Disney’s screenwriters keep asking me that question, in many different ways.

The process of turning The Finest Hours into a major motion picture has been very interesting to watch — and participate in, to the extent that the producers and screenwriters want my input. I’m frequently surprised at how detail-oriented they are, how they even want to glean the feelings a particular character was experiencing at different times. Sometimes I’m able to remember what was conveyed when I interviewed the surviving characters for the book, but these screenwriters have me really searching my memory for clues.

It was big news for myself and my co-author, Casey Sherman, when Disney announced early in the summer that Robert Schwentke would direct the movie (he did the recent Bruce Willis film Red as well as directing Jody Foster in Flight Plan). We knew things would get moving as soon as someone was at the helm, but we don’t have specifics of when they will film. I keep saying it was a winter storm that broke the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer apart, so maybe they’ll film this winter. (Don’t be fooled by sloppy reporters who write that the ships collided in the storm, they didn’t.)


Going over these details again and again has made me grateful that I was able to meet many of the people involved in the rescue in which 84 lives were at stake and 70 were saved, 32 of them by Bernie Webber and his small crew in the wooden 36500, the Coast Guard vessel that made it through treacherous waves at the Chatham bar. Richard Livesey was one of the crewmen with Bernie whom I was able to meet and interview in person. I felt he had been kind of forgotten, that none of his neighbors knew what he had done. Nobody had asked him about it in years.


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  1. I have read both Finest Hours and Bernie Webber’s account, in his book, The Lifeboatmen. I can only imagine what it took to go beyond their physical and emotional boundaries, to create that miraculous rescue and am looking forward to not only seeing it, but feeling it, via your movie. Fatal Forecast is another book that would make an epic film! I felt like I was in the lifeboat with Ernie the whole time and as if I held my breath from start to finish. You are my favorite author and you make me feel as if I have the ocean in my blood, even though I am a landlubber. Kudos to you, Mr. Tougias, as always, a grand adventure and riveting account of the best of humanity under pressure.

  2. Wow! That’s quite a director they landed to make your book a movie! I think I’m almost as excited as you are to be sitting in the theater with a popcorn watching such an amazing story on the big screen! Myself and my wife will be seeing you soon at one of your speaking engagements to buy “A storm too soon”

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