FIRTH’S LEFT ALL AT SEA
British star learns to sail for latest role based on the true story of a man’s ill-fated mission to triumph in a round-the-world nautical race
Colin Firth found his sea legs playing the role of a British man on a round-theworld voyage When Jessica Watson completed a successful solo circumnavigation of the southern hemisphere in 2010, the Queensland teenager captured the hearts and imaginations of the public with her extreme feat of endurance.
In Colin Firth’s latest film The Mercy, the Oscar-winning actor takes on the role of British sailor Donald Crowhurst who attempted a similar challenge in 1968, also amid huge public fanfare.
While Watson successfully returned after 210 days at sea, travelling 19,631.6 nautical miles (36,357.7km) on her Pink Lady yacht, The Mercy’s director James Marsh ( The Theory of Everything) says Crowhurst endured a very different fate as one of nine contestants in a solo roundthe-world-yacht race.
“With Jessica Watson it was such an extraordinary thing for a girl of that age, to have that ambition and to pull it off with such distinction,’’ he says.
“It’s a very interesting comparison with a middle- class English businessman who sailed in a very different era.
“He was almost totally cut off from the rest of the world, while these days we know exactly where sailors are ... and there is more audio contact with the world now.’’
Crowhurst, a marine salesman and inventor who entered the race to boost his failing business, lacked openocean sailing skills and experience. His trimaran was not fully equipped for the dangerous Southern Ocean, missing vital safety equipment and hampered by a leaking hatch.
Crowhurst, who left from Devon in England, was sponsored by millionaire businessman Stanley Best (Ken Stott) and took on ex-Fleet Street reporter Rodney Hallworth (David Thewlis) as his press agent. Even though Crowhurst faces financial ruin if he does not finish the race, he secretly abandons the event and reports false positions after facing difficulty almost from the start.
His loyal and loving wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) and four young children, who idolise their large-than-life father, wait at home for his return.
Marsh spent many hours listening to audiotapes made by an increasingly unhinged Crowhurst before his disappearance during the race.
“On a yacht on your own is a very lonely place in a storm,” he says.
“With Crowhurst it was a combination of isolation and deception which led him into extreme mental disorder.’’
During the making of the movie in Malta, in the central Mediterranean, Marsh discovered he was “not a natural sailor’’ – unlike Firth, who does most of his own sailing.
“Colin spent some time learning the basics of how to sail and became a fluent sailor. I wanted to shoot the film in a real sea, for better or worse,’’ Marsh says. “Colin also did a lot of research into his character; we had endless conversations about how Colin should play him. Colin is an easy actor to work with and a natural collaborator.’’
Marsh vowed never to return to the sea for another project and has received “welcome respite’’ with his current Michael Caine movie The King of Thieves, which features a team of veteran robbers doing one last job.
Marsh admits he is attracted to stories which cover extreme emotions and situations after directing the five-time Oscar-nominated movie The Theory of
Tarantino, who is writing and directing, described it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippie Hollywood”.
DiCaprio will play Rick Dalton, former star of a western TV series, while Pitt will be his longtime stunt double, Cliff Booth.
“Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognise anymore. But Rick has a very famous nextdoor neighbour – Sharon Tate,” Tarantino added.
The fate of Sharon Tate went down in history when in 1968, the pregnant Tate, was brutally murdered by the Manson “family” in her Los Everything (2014). Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease as a brilliant 21-year-old Oxford University student. “Hawking’s challenges came from outside with illness while Crowhurst’s challenges were ones he created for himself,’’ Marsh says. The Mercy opens in cinemas today Angeles home. She was pregnant at the time to her husband and Hollywood director Roman Polanski.
Her friends Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski were also murdered.
Gold Coast actor Margot Robbie has been rumoured to play the role of Tate, with Tarantino saying that he would love for Robbie to play the part, and Robbie expressing her enthusiasm for the role too.
The film will be released worldwide on August 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the day that the Manson family committed the LaBianca murders and the day after Tate was killed.
Donald Crowhurst (played by Colin Firth) becomes increasingly unhinged as the action unfolds in The Mercy.