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Big Miracle—Amazing Story, Amazing Location, and the Amazing 80’s

Great elements come together in Big Miracle to craft an endearing film, but the three most important are the story, the location, and the 80’s!
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A few weeks ago Rachael sent me an email that said:

DUDE. Do you want to go to LA to see Big Miracle and interview the cast...including Drew Barrymore and not one, but TWO, members of the Handsome Men’s Club

I sent her back an email that said:

Dude. Stop messing with me. 

It turns out, she wasn’t messing with me! So last week, I headed to sunny Los Angeles to see an advanced screening of Big Miracle and participate in round table interviews with more famous people than you can shake a stick at.

I liked this movie so much. SO MUCH.

I’m a sucker for a film with animals. Even more so when so many individual story threads come together in a touching, entertaining, and family friendly way.

Big Miracle is inspired by the true story of a family of gray whales that found themselves trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle in 1988. News of the trapped whales spreads and a local reporter, played by John Krasinski, and an outspoken environmentalist, played by Drew Barrymore, bring together unlikely coalition of Inuit natives, oil companies and Russian and American military to set aside their differences and free the whales.

A lot of great elements come together in Big Miracle to craft an endearing film, but for me the three most important pieces are the amazing story, the amazing location, and yes, the AMAZING 80’s.

Here is what the cast had to say about the story and real people behind Big Miracle:

I was wondering if preparing for a role in a movie that's based on a true story takes more work and more research?

John Krasinski: Yes, you can't get it wrong as much. It's an important thing. Especially this one, the story's so incredible that you want to make sure the movie's as incredible as the story, which is very, very difficult to achieve.

I remember reading the script for the first time, and I remember saying to Ken [Director Ken Kwapis] and I'd been friends with Ken for a while, and I said, it's really, really good, I like it, it's very, very sweet, I just think we've got to pull back some of these storylines, nobody's gonna believe them.

He said that they're all true.

And I was like, okay, Ken. I don't know how long you've been in Hollywood, but that's not possible that all these are true.

And he's like, they're all true.

And that blew my mind.

And then, I thought that there was something really, really special that would bring together these people.

Is it harder to play someone, a real person as opposed to a fictional character?

Drew Barrymore: I mean, in some senses, it's hard. If you're playing somebody people know, then the imitation is so excruciatingly intimidating because I would wish that I just didn't exist and I could just be that person. And I sort of get really angry at myself that I'm even in the way of just the best imitation I can try to study. But then, you think, no, I can't get rid of myself, so how can I add to this.

And then, playing someone who you want everybody to know about and who was such an important person in this whole movement, you just want to sort of do right by it and get it right and do it well, which is a little bit different than imitation.

Film Title: Big Miracle

Is there a temptation for you? I know it's a feel-good movie, but were you tempted to make this character a little bit more self-serving and bad?

Ted Danson: Clearly, my job was to be slightly humorous and bigger than life, but at the same time, you don't want to make him a dismissible joke, because he wasn't. This guy, although he was there to promote himself and try to get some good PR back in Washington, ended up putting in millions of dollars of his own, which without it, some of this would not have been possible.

Dermot, your character was based on a real person, did you feel any responsibility portraying Col. Tom Carroll?

Dermot Mulroney: Well, I was really interested in that aspect of the character, but what I was kind of shocked to learn and maybe I shouldn't admit that I didn't already know it until the day I got to the set the first day to learn that he had died since the actions in the story took place, in a plane crash. He was a really well-known pilot and sort of was the pioneer leader of the Alaskan National Guard.

And also, on that first day, I met Bonnie Carroll (Col. Carroll’s widow), and we both really sort of started to cry, just the moment. It came so unexpectedly to me.

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So that, for me, in that instant became so personal for me to honor this man by portraying him in a way that she'd like. I just wanted her to like me as him, you know? So, it actually simplified.

Film Title: Big Miracle

Big Miracle was filmed in Anchorage, Alaska...not quite the Arctic Circle, but cold and amazing nonetheless. Here’s what the cast had to say about filming on location:

When you guys weren't filming, what were you doing in Alaska?

Kristen Bell: Well we ate dinner together almost every night. We explored the city to a certain degree, and there a lot of wonderful sort of cozy pizza joints and movie night places that we went to together. We played a lot of poker in John Krasinski's room, which was very fun. We ordered a lot of room service.

Had you been to Alaska before?

John Krasinski: I had never been. I had always wanted to go. I had woods outside Boston, or so I called them woods. And then, you get out there and you're like, oh, that's wilderness. That's a different thing out there.

It's so unbelievably beautiful. The people are incredible. They're so proud to be up there. It's not this idea that they’re in a remote state. It's really, really an amazing place to be.

Seeing a film set in the 80’s is a nostalgic trip back in time...there are a lot of things I’d forgotten (or thankfully, retired). Here is what the cast had to say about the 80’s:

I love the White House as a setting in a film. Can you elaborate more on what a big deal it was for the US and the Russians to get together to free these whales during the Cold War?

Bonnie Carroll*: Back then we really thought the world was going to end. That's how intense it was between the Soviet Union and America. So, Ronald Reagan worked so hard to build that connection with Mikhail Gorbachev. But, the whale rescue was really before that had happened. And, wow, it was incredible.

*Bonnie Carroll is the real person that the character Kelly Meyers is based upon. Bonnie was working as the executive assistant for cabinet affairs when the news broke of the trapped whales. President Reagan enlisted her help to get in touch with the National Guard, as she was also a Guardsman, to see what could be done to help. 

I loved the '80s and we haven't seen a lot of movies with that setting. And the phones, the hair, the earrings. Do you think we'll see more of that?

Ken Kwapis: That was kind of a wonderful layer, especially in terms of media and technology. To look at how cumbersome that Walkman is around Nathan's neck or when Krasinski hoists a big old beta camera on his shoulder. It's amazing and shocking how much technology has changed.

"Everybody Loves Whales" photo by Darren Michaels

This is a pre personal computer story, pre laptop, pre iPod, and it's also interesting to me to see in terms of the '80s, when you see people on television, like when you see Connie Chung in the frame, that's all you see. Now, you would see Connie Chung and 15 different pieces of information. To me, that's what makes the period really stand out. It was just so simple.

I was expecting your hair to be big.

Kristen Bell: Listen, if I had the time to be hot, with granny hot rollers in my hair every morning, don't think I wouldn't, because there were moments when, before we teased it up, where we'd take it out of the hot rollers, and I'd look in the mirror, and I'd be like, "Yes. I can do it. I can pull it off.” It's pretty fun. I'm not going to lie.

"Everybody Loves Whales" photo by Darren Michaels

But, hands down, no pun intended, the only thing that was important to me were the nails, because I remember the nails of my mom, and it was always a pastel sort of iridescent pink. And I wanted the Lee Press-On nails.

And so, we got the longest ones that we could find and ovaled them out, and I wore them every day.

I asked permission from Ken Kwapis, obviously, when you want to make a character choice, you ask the director, and he's like, "I don't care. And I'm working with three gigantic million dollar animatronic whales. Whatever. Paint your nails.”

And I said, "Okay because I really think it's pivotal." And then, when he was in editing, he did give me a compliment. He said, "The editors do want more shots of your nails, because they love it."

Just saying.

Big Miracle Poster

That's it for now! I’ll have more to share about my Big Miracle interviews, including the lowdown on the whales in the movie and some delicious random tidbits from the stars.

In the meantime, brush up on your whale facts by visiting this wonderful Big Miracle Infographic (kids will love it). Plus check out the very special Twitter Sweepstakesfeatured within where 100 randomly selected Twitterers who follow @UniversalPics and include the hashtag #everybodyloveswhales will win a Big Miracle T-shirt!


Film Title: Big Miracle

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