'In the Heart of the Sea' Sets Sail at Nantucket-Themed NYC Premiere

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Chris Hemsworth and Ron Howard

Ron Howard directed Chris Hemsworth and his crew in their battle against the notorious white whale with a grudge.

When Chris Hemsworth arrived at the premiere of In The Heart of the Sea on Monday night, he was much slimmer than his usual Thor frame.

It exemplified why he wanted the role in the first place, he told The Hollywood Reporter at New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. “It was something different that I hadn’t done before. That was what I looked forward to, the change of pace and scenery.”

And change, the scenery did. To recount the story of the doomed Essex ship made famous by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick — using the 2000 non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick — the cast spend half the time filming on a reconstructed ship, but the outdoor scenes were all done in the Canary Islands. The heavy weight loss took a toll, with major ups and downs for the whole ensemble.

“It was an emotional roller coaster in what all of us had to face,” said Hemsworth. Though he may have tired of the diet, like a true Australian, he never tired of the sea. “The last couple months shooting in the Canary Islands, we were at sea all day long every day and it was just beautiful,” he explained. “Not a bad place to call your office.”

Director Ron Howard chose to tackle the story because of “the fact that it was not Moby Dick,” he told THR. “It’s fascinating to understand how much [whaling] was driving people, greed, career ambition, ego — all those things factored in, just as it does today in any competitive industry.”

Those egos come to a head with Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker, who plays the stubborn captain of the Essex and said he is now happy to be off the Cast Away-like diet. Thankfully, the premiere's afterparty had a feast of Nantucket-inspired foods with fish, mini pot-pies and, of course, hot chowder, for such guests as Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly.

Howard has found himself gravitating toward films based on real events since 1995's Apollo 13. “I had always been a little intimidated and thought it would limit my creativity, but I found that it was the opposite,” he told THR. “As long as you’re staying in the realm of the truth of the story, capturing the spirit of it and the detail, you can push the boundaries of what the characters are going through.”

To survive, characters need forgiveness and the ability to swallow pride. Hemsworth put it plainly when highlighting how the point of the novel and the movie isn’t just about the shock and awe: “It is an epic seafaring adventure, but it is a drama, at the heart of it.”