The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion resulted in what’s been named the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. On April 20th, 2010, the explosion on the rig took the lives of 11 workers and caused an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil and methane gas to leak into the ocean for 87 straight days. Now the remarkable story is being told on the big screen in Mark Wahlberg’s newest disaster film (which has the look and feel of a typical movie in the genre: big explosions, a dramatic score and a hero.) However, it can’t help but cause a stir as you realise, this really happened.
“It has those elements of a disaster movie but it’s a true story,” said Mark Wahlberg, who plays Williams in the film, which is being released by Summit Entertainment. “We didn’t want to paint by numbers — you have to make it as realistic as possible. I loved the studio’s courage to make a character-driven adult action movie where there’s no chance for a sequel.”
The basis for the film’s script, written by Matthew Sand and Matthew Michael Carnahan, was an exhaustively reported 2010 New York Times article on the Deepwater Horizon’s final hours by David Barstow, David Rhode and Stephanie Saul. Figuring out how to boil the sprawling story down to a manageable size was no easy task. But eventually the narrative centered on a handful of real-life figures including chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), Transocean offshore installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), bridge officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and BP rep Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich).
Mike Williams and Caleb Holloway were both on board the Deepwater Horizon the day of the explosion, enduring a life changing tragedy and losing many friends. In an interview they tell the truth about what happened that day, and how it felt working with film producers to get the untold story of their fallen friends across.
As one of the crew members most familiar with the workings of the rig — and one of the last to make it off of it alive — Williams was an invaluable resource, said Wahlberg. “Once I met Mike, I just insisted that they bring him on as a consultant,” he said. “I wanted him to be there with us and make sure we were getting it as accurately as possible.”
“It was actually a little eerie being on set,” said Holloway, who is played in the film by Dylan O’Brien. “It was almost like I wanted to go to work, it was so real. But my main goal was to ensure that everybody knew Shane [Roshto] and Adam [Weise] and Karl [Kleppinger] and the guys that passed away. I wanted the actors to know who they were on a personal level.”
“We did everything we could to get as many people off of there and to try to salvage what we could on the rig. Whenever it finally sunk, the 11 guys that were missing were the guys from the drill crew. It was very, very hard for me to accept. I wasn’t ready to give up. I wanted to go back out there and search some more,” he said.
Looking back on the tragedy, Williams, whose head smashed into a door when the rig was rocked by explosions, says it’s a miracle more people weren’t killed, himself included.
“Just bad weather would have increased the fatality rate by who knows how much,” he said. “I’m under no illusions — I should never have come out of my shock. After that door hit me in the forehead, I should have still been in there, laying on the bottom of the ocean. But I was too hardheaded, I guess.”
In the months after the explosion, criminal investigations into the incident revealed that BP may not have kept up with multiple design and procedure standards. Their well design had a missing seal that left a gap for gas to escape from, they skipped crucial tests of the well cement lining, and despite various warning signs of an oil leak, rig managers did not evacuate Deepwater Horizon until it was too late.
Still, no one could’ve imagined the devastation that actually occurred.