What's the deal with your blond beard?
I [grew] it for a photo shoot two weeks ago.
It gets a little sun-bleached out there.
So you're not bleaching it?
If you watch the film, it gets whiter and
whiter as we stayed out in the sun.
Did you ever lose it on the boat?
I never puked. Wahlberg went down.
He said it was food poisoning.
Food poisoning, yeah.
Does being a fisherman get you babes?
I think so. You know who I'm dating right
now? Apparently Mark Wahlberg. It was in some paper. Oh yeah, Mark
did a People magazine interview where he said, "I'm very attracted
to George," and he called me and said, "I think I may
have made a mistake."
Originally, Mel Gibson was to play Billy Tyne and you wanted to
play shipmate Bobby Shatford, which eventually went to Wahlberg.
They wanted Mel, and I don't blame them. I
said I wanted to play Bobby because I wanted to work with him. I've
heard three different stories but the one that seems closest to
what sounds right is he couldn't work it into his schedule. So Wolfgang
called me and said, "You want to play Billy Tyne?" I said,
"Yeah." A couple of days later, he mentioned a couple
of actors he'd talked to [for Bobby] and I mentioned Mark and he
said [imitates Petersen's German accent], "You've just done
a movie with him and what if you suck?" So we arranged for
him to see some footage from Three Kings and he hired Mark based
Gibson was beside himself when you admitted he was the first choice.
Do you feel you're violating Hollywood protocol when you say things
But I don't say it, it's always sort of in
the press and people know it. It's silly when you try to hide s--t,
like something bad's going on. This is just the way the business
works. If I was a producer and was going to go hire an actor, I'd
go to Mel Gibson first. And if you can't get Mel, then you come
to some other names on that list, including me. I understand that.
What is the secret to your chemistry with Wahlberg?
I don't know. The funny thing is, it was
by accident we got together on Three Kings, it was just how people
get a job. On Perfect Storm, it was me saying, "I can't think
of a better actor more right for the role." Then my company
was doing Metal God and I couldn't think of anybody more right for
that role. And he wanted it and really lobbied for the part.
That's continuing now with Ocean's Eleven.
Yeah, I brought Mark into Ocean's Eleven,
but that's different, it's a real, real ensemble. Brad Pitt, Julia
Roberts. The Wilson brothers, Owen and Luke, who are playing brothers,
and Don Cheadle, and, I think, Bill Murray.
Are you doing the Rat Pack?
No, we're not doing those guys, Sammy and
Frank and Dean.
Steven Soderbergh, the director, said the casino heist concept
is the same but otherwise it's a revision.
Yeah, completely different. I don't want
to badmouth the original and I don't quite know how to say it yet,
but the truth of the matter is Ocean's Eleven is a great, fun idea
for a movie and we love those guys but
it's a pretty bad
Sort of like the remake of the The Thomas Crown Affair?
That's a great correlation. It's a movie
that could be really redone. We won't be as cool as those guys but
we might be able to make a better film. [Soderbergh and I] met with
Warner Bros. and they said, "Go get yourselves some people."
And we met with Brad and he said he wanted to do it. Steven was
working with Julia [on Erin Brockovich], so I sent Julia a script
with a $20 bill in it and a note that said, "I hear you make
20 a film now." She said yes. It's going to be such a fun time.
More fun than making Perfect Storm?
It was six months soaking wet. It was miserably
cold. Mark got the worst of it, he had an ear infection. We put
wax [earplugs] in our ears, because it's ice water and these cannons
will literally knock you off the boat [even though] we're cabled
in. It came from the side and it hit him and knocked the ball of
wax [deep] into his ear. He ended up getting an ear infection [before]
they could get the wax out and he had it the rest of the shoot.
He was just miserable.
What was going through your mind when you're there filming the
climax in the water for Perfect Storm?
Swim. The only time I was nervous shooting
[was when] they took the wheelhouse, not the boat but just the wheelhouse,
and turned it upside down and hung it by a crane [over] this 90-foot
tank [that] was about 25 feet deep. They had Mark and I go underwater.
They had two oxygen tanks on each side, hidden. They would release
the cable and this wheelhouse would float down. It had air in it,
so we had to time it to float down, we actually cut lines to fit
it perfectly as the water would rise. We shot that scene all in
one take. The water would come up this wheelhouse is now
all the way to the bottom and everything is upside down, it's sort
of murky water and you're caught in there. You start to panic because
you're afraid. Are you going to make it to the oxygen mask?
Was PETA protesting the killing of fish for this?
[Smiles] Some people came out. We had 100
rubber fish laid out and three people came over and had signs and
were yelling about the fish. I said, "They're rubber. I feel
for you, I know how it's awful to kill fish for a scene. But they're
What was your reaction watching the movie on a big screen?
It's pretty spectacular. It's funny, I know
people say it's a CGI film but in this 90-by-90-foot world we were
in, we were in the middle of it! We were getting pummeled. All this
stuff about computer graphics, we looked at each other.
What do you do after taking a beating every day?
You'd go home to a hot shower. Because really
what it is, is it's cold. I don't mind a hit so much, because you
can take that. When you read the script, you know what you're getting
into. But what you can't ever prepare for is how cold you are. You
get there at seven in the morning and they just start dumping this
ice water on you.
Have you ever really felt like you were in danger of drowning?
You know, it's funny, I went to the Hamptons,
where I'd never been before, over Labor Day while we were shooting
near here. I got caught in a riptide. My friends are sitting on
the beach, just laughing and stuff. I'm out there with this other
guy and we're just getting pulled further out. The harder I'd try
to swim in, the farther out I'm going. It's two guys and I don't
know the guy, and it's the stuff where we're laughing at first,
and swimming, and getting further out. Finally this guy goes, "We're
not doing so well," and I go, "No, we're not." Then
it's, "I'm not a great swimmer," and I'm, "Me neither."
Then we finally caught a wave and went back in. That was the only
time I felt I was going to drown.
Did you feel uneasy about making entertainment out of a tragedy?
The concern is not that, but doing it so
quickly after that. It's different when it's Saving Private Ryan
and it's 60 years. It's a lot tougher when their kids are around
this town and they are 15. Roberta, Billy's sister, was here and
she was really a wreck, she was like this [shakes his hands]. She
wouldn't come down to see the boat. Finally I said, "You have
to understand it is make-believe. We're putting them in the best
light. We're not going to make them out to be the bad guys. We're
not going to make them out to be idiots. That's our jobs, to make
sure they made the right decisions and it's bad luck."
Did you feel a certain responsibility in making the film?
We had two real responsibilities doing the
movie: One is to these families and the other is to Sebastian [Junger],
who wrote a best-selling book. As we all know having seen adaptations,
that doesn't guarantee a good movie. More often than not it's the
opposite. Keeping that in mind, I'm proud of what we did.
Do you have any stories about the pub featured in the film, the
There are none. Mark had all the good Crow's
Nest stories, I was trying to catch up. I was here for two weeks
and was coming off the Coen brothers film [O Brother, Where Art
Thou?] and was running as fast as you can to catch up. We were drinking
over there a lot, just to hang out.
Did you meet Bobby's mother, Ethel, the bar's owner?
Ethel's great, but she wasn't working there then, she had cancer.
She was pretty sick. The first time I walked into the Crow's Nest
was the second day I got here, a couple of weeks before we started
shooting. I'm sort of lucky in one sense. People will come up and
bug me for a while but also let me just be a guy after a while.
I try not to treat myself as a celebrity and so usually after a
few minutes they stop treating me that way as well.
How do people bug you?
People in general? Well, it's very different
being famous from television as from film. Mel Gibson is the biggest
star I know, he's a gigantic movie star. You pay $8 and make a decision
and go see him and he's 60 feet tall and he's a movie star. I got
off a plane with him and everyone is silently going, "Mel Gibson,"
and everyone is reverent of him. I'm on television, that's what
I'm famous for. So I'm this big [gestures with two fingers] and
they can make me talk or not talk and they can watch me in their
underwear and they know me personally. I get off a plane and it's
[in a loud voice], "George! Hey man, it's Dave." It's
because you've been in their home.
What happens to your sense of trust when you become a celebrity?
It depends on you. Nothing has changed. I
trust the people I've always trusted. Trust is sort of reciprocal.
As long as you do things that are trustworthy then people in general
will trust you, I find. From the beginning, I thought if you do
the right thing, people will treat you the right way. I've tried
to do that.
Do you think an event movie like this will change your status in
I don't know what it is yet. You can't tell
what's it's going to be. The truth is, I've enjoyed a really great
career and I haven't had a blockbuster. I've managed to go and do
films I wanted to do and I haven't been pigeonholed. In a strange
way, not being especially successful in films keeps them from saying,
"You can't do something." You'll do Out of Sight, Three
Kings, and this; they don't really say no to you. If you're in a
big action hit you get stuck. So I don't worry about it and I don't
count on it.