The critical events surrounding the 2010 oil rig explosion that killed 11 men and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with oil in the nation’s worst environmental disaster will be relived on the big screen.
Realistic oil-rig sets already are under construction in Chalmette, and a casting call is out across south Louisiana for real-life oil workers as extras in the filming of “Deepwater Horizon,” an estimated $156 million production that will star Mark Wahlberg.
Besides Wahlberg and other recognizable actors, filmmakers want actual rig workers to appear in on-rig scenes, Adam Hochfeld, director of Central Casting Louisiana in New Orleans, said of workers involved in dangerous deepwater drilling.
“Our hope is to have all actual oilfield workers so that it looks true to the story,” Hochfeld added. “We don’t want it to look like Hollywood. We want it to look real.”
The casting director said the same will be true for scenes involving some Coast Guard and merchant marine sailors.
“If they’re going to portray any of the 11 men who were killed, then I’d like them to talk to family members. And the truth is, I think they would,” said Baton Rouge attorney Keith Jones, who lost a 28-year-old son, Gordon Jones, on the Deepwater Horizon. Gordon Jones left behind a wife and two sons.
Hochfeld said shooting doesn’t start until May.
“Everything is going to be mock-ups built on land,” Hochfeld emphasized. “Everything will be filmed in southern Louisiana. We won’t be in just one city.”
That could mean movie paychecks for oil workers at a time when some have lost money because of cutbacks or consolidation in the industry caused by plunging oil prices.
“I would say we’re going to need a few hundred,” said New Orleans resident Todd Lewis, production manager for the film.
Lewis would not identify the specific location where the largest of the sets will be erected for filming purposes.
Film and television company Summit Entertainment, of Santa Monica, California, budgeted “Deepwater Horizon” at $156 million, according to records of Louisiana Economic Development. Summit estimated its Louisiana payroll would total about $83 million. The company plans to spend an additional $35 million for food, fuel, lumber and other supplies and services in the state.
Summit, through Baton Rouge affiliate Long Night Productions, parted with that information in order to gain preliminary approval from the state agency to eventually seek tax credits totaling 30 percent of its total Louisiana expenditures and 5 percent of its Louisiana payroll.
The 5 percent payroll tax credit will be disallowed for any portion of any salary in excess of $1 million, according to the state’s go-ahead letter of Feb. 19.
Summit, which was acquired a couple of years ago by Lionsgate, estimated it would hire 2,500 production workers for the project.
The specific number of workers needed and their pay scales are not yet available, Hochfeld said.
“I would say, over the course of production, that many people (2,500) may be employed, probably not all on one day,” Lewis said.
Lionsgate has had some big hits among its movies and television and cable shows.
“They did the ‘Twilight’ movies in Baton Rouge,” Lewis noted. “They also did the ‘Hunger Games’ films.”
The Lionsgate website also lists smaller moneymakers like “Divergent,” “Red 2,” “Now You See Me” and “Ender’s Game.” On television and cable, Lionsgate has produced “Mad Men,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Nashville,” “Anger Management,” “Weeds” and “Nurse Jackie.”
Lewis said work on the movie in the state should end in August but added that bad weather or other problems could extend the time needed for filming.
Lewis also was the production manager for the latest “Fantastic Four” movie, which was made last year in Baton Rouge. He said that film should be released sometime this fall.
Meanwhile, some survivors of the men who died because of the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon in April 2010 are not sure whether they will view the movie.
Jones said he doesn’t know if he will see the movie. “I know this: Other people will see it and tell me about it before I do.”
“I can’t imagine them putting anything in it that would really upset me,” Jones said.
“The Deepwater Horizon is constantly going on in my life. So the movie is not going to do anything to me badly,” he said.
“It may remind other people of what happened,” Jones noted. “But after five years, I don’t think many people around here have forgotten it anyway.”
Shelley Anderson, 40, lives in the same Midfield, Texas, home she shared with her husband, Jason Anderson, prior to his death. They had two young children. Jason Anderson was 35 when he was killed.
Not long after her husband’s death, Anderson took her two children to see “Cars 2” in theaters. She was caught off-guard when one of that movie’s scenes featured an explosion on an oil rig in the middle of an ocean.
She said the experience was jarring.
This time around, she will wait to hear about “Deepwater Horizon” before deciding whether to join the audience.
“I don’t think that I would see it,” Anderson said, “especially not right off the bat.
“I hope that they can get as true to reality as possible” Anderson added. “I hope that they can lean more toward honoring the 11 men that died and the 115 people that survived rather than blaming them, especially the ones that can’t speak up for themselves.
“I would like for them to ask the families some questions. If they are portraying some of the 11 people that have been killed … learn their personalities and the way they acted,” Anderson suggested.
No one involved with the movie has contacted her so far, she noted.
Anderson said her two children, particularly her daughter, have become increasingly curious about their father. Almost every night before bed, Anderson’s daughter asks for a new story about her father. Her son, too, has been more inquisitive lately.
Hochfeld said offshore rig workers interested in casting should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hochdfeld said each applicant should attach a photo, along with contact information and a list of the offshore jobs worked.
If applicants wish to speed the process, Hochfeld added, they can go to Benson Tower, 1450 Poydras St., Suite 1420, New Orleans, and register with the same information.
The same is true for applicants with experience in the Coast Guard or merchant marine, he said.