GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 3, 2008

"Perfect Storm" Crew Takes Over Harbor Loop


Hollywood has set up shop on Harbor Loop.

The cast and crew of the movie "The Perfect Storm" last night announced their arrival in Gloucester at a press conference for about 150 television and newspaper reporters.

The movie, which is based on the best-selling book, traces the last trip of the local swordfishing boat the Andrea Gail, which was lost at sea during the infamous no-name storm of October 1991.

Producers, publicists, director Wolfgang Petersen and actors George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio sat at a table at the end of the Gloucester Marine Railways' dock and answered questions about the film, their respective roles, and what it all means for Gloucester.

On one side of the dock was the Andrea Gail's sister ship, the F/V Hannah Boden. On the other side was the F/V Lady Grace, which has been repainted as the Andrea Gail for the film.

In front of the table was the crowd of reporters who wanted to know if Wahlberg, who will play Bobby Shatford, had ever caught any fish.

They also asked if Clooney, who has been cast as Captain Billy Tyne, had been researching the local culture in Gloucester's downtown bars, and if Mastrantonio, who will play Linda Greenlaw, captain of the Hannah Boden, was concerned about getting wet while shooting.

"Mark didn't catch any fish but I learned how to drink," laughed Clooney. "Does that count?"

All three actors appeared completely at home on the waterfront.

"Gloucester is just a beautiful city," said Clooney, who has been enjoying the local hospitality. "The people have been just great."

And while Wahlberg also seems to have enjoyed the welcome, he reserved special praise for the local food.

"We're supposed to have all these great restaurants in Los Angeles and it just doesn't even some close to here," he said, smiling.

Although the cast took center stage last night, studio officials also wanted residents to know that crews, actors and huge trucks filled with every conceivable piece of staging and equipment will be in town for the next three weeks.

Camera crews will be filming in and around Gloucester and at St. Ann Church during the days ahead, but most of their work will be done on Harbor Loop.

But even more important than schedules and stars were Warner Brothers repeated assurances that they are making a movie that will be true to Gloucester.

"I was a little wary of Hollywood," author Sebastian Junger told the crowd. "But then I saw the screenplay and I was struck by how they tried to stay as close to the book as possible."

Junger went on to say he was relieved by what he found in the script.

"I really love this town," he said. "I had nightmares of someone making a bad movie and not being able to come back."

Still, both Junger and Petersen cautioned there will be some differences between the book and the movie.

"We do whatever we can do exactly the same," said Petersen, who stressed that the feeling in the book and the movie will be close. "We go with these people one more time."

However, while Junger writes about what may have happened during the Andrea Gail's final voyage, the movie will tell a story without questions and doubts.

"Our movie is based on Sebastian's book but it does go some steps beyond and tells what might have happened," Petersen said. "We go with our imagination."

Mayor Bruce Tobey, who joined Gov. Paul Cellucci in speaking about the benefits "The Perfect Storm" will bring to the local economy, also expressed his belief that the film will follow Junger's book and treat this episode of Gloucester fishing history with "real sensitivity and enormous dignity."

"This was a powerful event in the history of this community and through the book we relived that experience," Tobey said. "Now, we will relive it here in Gloucester a second time."

And as proof of their commitment and respect for the fishing community's experience, Warner Brothers presented The Perfect Storm Foundation a check for $25,000.

Junger established the foundation to offer educational and cultural opportunities to the children of fishing families.

But being true to the spirit of the story and the memory of the crew of the Andrea Gail was not just the business of directors, writers and public officials.

Mastrantonio said she feels a real sense of responsibility to the people in the story. Wahlberg mentioned that he had gained a lot of insight from time spent with the Shatford family.

And Clooney seemed equally determined to be part of a movie that will stand as a tribute to the crew of the Andrea Gail.

"To get a chance to play these guys is an honor," he said. "I hope we don't screw it up."