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.