Brow Beat

The Harrowing True Story That Inspired Moby-Dick Gets the Ron Howard Treatment

Ron Howard teamed up with Chris Hemsworth for last year’s biographical race-car drama Rush, a collaboration that was well-received but didn’t quite catch on with audiences. The two must have enjoyed working together, though, because they’re back with another project based on a true story: the shipwreck that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Howard has adapted In the Heart of the Sea from Nathaniel Philbrick’s award-winning book of the same name, which chronicles the fateful saga of the whale-ship Essex and its attack by a sperm whale in the Pacific Ocean in 1820. The crew was shipwrecked for months; forced to contend with disease and starvation, they ultimately resorted to cannibalism. Only eight men survived the ordeal, but two that did later wrote first-hand accounts of what happened: Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland), a teenage cabin boy, and first mate Owen Chase (Hemsworth).

Even putting aside the fact that the story inspired one of the most celebrated books in the English language, it seems particularly rich material for a cinematic adaptation—and the trailer is very promising. Amid a boatload of CGI effects, Hemsworth and the rest of the crew—including Benjamin Walker as Captain George Pollard, Jr. and Cillian Murphy as second mate Matthew Joy—battle one catastrophe after another as the music builds to a haunting crescendo. In the Heart of the Sea hits theaters in March.