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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
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Directed by: Peter Weir
Script by: John Collee & Peter Weir
Status: Premiere Nov. 11, 2003 - New York
Genre: Adventure, Seafaring Drama
Runtime: 138 min
Production Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Miramax Films, Universal Pictures
Co-Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Max Pirkis, Max Benitz, Lee Ingleby, David Threfall, Billy Boyd
Role: 1st Lt. Thomas Pullings
Captain Aubrey’s second-in-command, Pullings is loyal, enterprising and skillful. “Honest as the rising sun” and “the most unassuming creature on earth, painfully diffident anywhere except on the enemy’s deck.”
James about his character: He is not a gentleman. He is a really nice guy.
Plot: Based on Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World by Patrick O'Brian. In April 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, the H.M.S. Surprise, a British frigate, is under the command of Captain Jack Aubrey. Aubrey and the Surprise's current orders are to track and capture or destroy a French privateer named Acheron. The Acheron is currently in the Atlantic off South America headed toward the Pacific in order to extend Napoleon's reach of the wars. This task will be a difficult one as Aubrey quickly learns in an initial battle with the Acheron that it is a bigger and faster ship than the Surprise, which puts the Surprise at a disadvantage. Aubrey's single-mindedness in this seemingly impossible pursuit puts him at odds with the Surprise's doctor and naturalist, Stephen Maturin, who is also Aubrey's most trusted advisor on board and closest friend. Facing other internal obstacles which have resulted in what they consider a string of bad luck, Aubrey ultimately uses Maturin's scientific exploits to figure out a way to achieve his and the ship's seemingly impossible ...
Trivia & Facts:
- Budget: $150 000 000
- Coincidentally, during the film's pre-production, the replica of Captain James Cook's ship, HMS Endeavour, was circumnavigating the globe. The production was able to fly 2 cameramen to the ship as it was about to sail round the bottom of South America, a route the HMS Surprise takes in the film. Thus, the footage of the stormy seas from that part of the voyage is genuine.
- The production used two ships. One was the replica Rose, dressed up to be the HMS Surprise, which could be put to sea within 45 minutes at any time. The other was a replica of the replica, built on a gimbal in the giant tank at the Baja Studios, Mexico. Construction of the replica took approximately three and a half months.
- Russell Crowe wanted to form a sense of authority on set, so he had all the actors wear shirts according to their characters' rank. Officers wore a dark blue, midshipmen wore a light blue, the marines wore red and everyone else wore white. The actors also had to sew their own name tags on each shirt, a tank top, a short-sleeved shirt and a long-sleeved top.
- The French frigate "Acheron" was modeled after the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides").
- To create an authentic sense of camaraderie among the cast, they were all housed in special quarters, away from the rest of the crew. Between scenes, cast members could retire to a lounge built on the studio lot nicknamed “The Monkey Bar.” Designed like a gentleman’s club, there was no TV, radios, CD players and no crew member allowed in without being invited. It was a place for conversation, to play pool or chess, to read and have a cappuccino.
- The cast endured a two week boot camp where they literally learned the ropes, and what to do on board a frigate including the loading and firing of cannons. They also all learned basic sword skills.
- The movie combines two novels - "Master and Commander" and "The Far Side of the World". Both deal with chasing down a privateer, and the movie combines the long chase of the latter with the furious climactic battle of the former.
Film Location: Fox Baja Studios, Rosarito, Baja California Norte (Mexico), Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
Awards & Nominations:
- 10 Oscar Nominations and 2 Oscars: Best Cinematography (Russell Boyd) and Best Sound Editing (Richard King)
- BAFTA: Best Direction (Peter Weir), Best Production Design (William Sandell), Best Sound (Art Rochester, Paul Massey, Doug Hemphill), & Best Costume Design (Wendy Weir)
- American Film Institute: Voted one of the 10 best films of 2003
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Cinematography (Russell Boyd)
- Cinema Audio Society: Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing
- Visual Effects Society: Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture
- Golden Reel: Best Sound Editing in Domestic Feature
- Evening Standard British Film: Most Promising Newcomer (Max Pikis)
- Young Artist Award: Best Young Actor in an International Film (Max Pirkis)
- London Critics Circle Film: British Actor of the Year (Paul Bettany), Film of the Year, Screenwriter of the Year, Actor of the Year (Russell Crowe), Screenwriter of the Year, Actor of the Year (Russell Crowe)
- Directors Guild of America Nomination: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Picture (Peter Weir)
- Golden Satellite: Best Sound & Best Visual Effects
- Screen Music Awards (Australia): Best Soundtrack
- 57 Nominations
Peter Weir: It was a remarkable job to build The Surprise that was in the tank and to alter The Rose – which we purchased (former sail-training ship in Rhode Island) to look like The Surprise.
James D’Arcy (What it would be like on an early 19th Century ship): I’m 6 ft 3 so it would be a very tough life. I have to say as soon as you get below deck it’s all 5 ft 7 and by the time you get down to the lower deck you frankly have to be a midget in order to be able to stand up straight, so I’d have found it difficult.
- on his uniform: They are incredibly constricting, they make you stand up straight, they make you feel like a gentleman.
- on boot camp: Everyone keeps referring to this “boot camp” as if it involved us doing press-ups at six in the morning. It was absolutely nothing of the sort – it was two weeks of invaluable training. The research we’d done was one thing: you can read all you like, but until you actually fire cannons and sail these ships none of it makes much sense. My character is in charge of cannons. So for me the training was one of those times when you wish you could turn yourself into a sponge. You wanted to absorb everything immediately. But as with most things in life, you just don’t get it first time, you have to go back and do it again and again.
- on filming conditions: We were soaked, we were absolutely soaked for about 11 days. They had massive dump tanks, which were like big barrels on a slide. They opened themselves up and you saw the water about half a second before it came. I have to say that the costumes were not exactly water resistant so once you were wet at about 9’oclock in the morning, that was it. You just stayed wet for the rest of the day.
- on the scar on his cheek: It’s described quite vividly in the books – it’s from a saber slash. Ed Henriques had used this amazing technique to put in on a photograph of me, to show me when I arrived. It was monstrous, so distracting that I thought you’d have been able to see nothing but the scar. Then he showed me some other ideas that he’d had, and he’d made it a little subtler but still interesting – in fact I think more interesting. It’s more curly now, you know, you can really feel how the saber might have just swiped across the face there. I’m really happy with it, I think that it’s quite beautiful actually.
- 0n climbing up to the top of a mast: Russell and I climbed to the very top of the ship. That was my Hollywood moment, it was really extraordinary. We were in the middle of the ocean, 150 feet in the air; just the two of us with a helicopter coming in to film us in close up. You’re told to keep your eye on the horizon to stop yourself feeling sick, but it was difficult not to do that – the sun was setting over the ocean. It was beautiful – one of those moment of absolute exhilaration.
One of my favorite moments in Master and Commander is probably 2 seconds long. And it involves James D’Arcy who gives one of my favorite performances in the film, as 1st Lieutenant Tom Pullings. It’s my favorite kind of acting: understated, powerful, specific – NOT the lead – and absolutely the success of the film depends on guys like James D’Arcy (even more so than Russell Crowe) playing his part and playing it well --- sheilaomalley.com
James D'Arcy is also brilliant as Lt. Pullings, a young officer who tries to maintain order while learning from someone as complex as Aubrey --- Surrender to the Void, Steven Flores