Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star in the true life tale of a family of whales trapped beneath the ice in Alaska and how their story galvanized the world in 1989. The pair sat down with Movie Fanatic to chat about their film and what it was that compelled them to make Big Miracle their next movie. Krasinski plays the Alaskan reporter who broke the story and Barrymore is the Greenpeace worker who fought to ensure the whales’ safety.
Krasinski was slightly aware of the Big Miracle story from the late 1980s, but he was too young to have it register. “I remember definitely knowing something about it, but I wasn’t necessarily the most active current events guy at age whatever-I-was,” Krasinski said. It was hard for the actor to believe that all that happened in the film was true to life -- particularly that a President Reagan aide would fall in love with an Alaskan National Guard Colonel.
“But, when you read the script I thought it was really sweet. My concern, and I told Ken (Kwapis, director), ‘Yeah, it’s really good, but we have to cut back a little bit of this stuff. Some of this stuff is a little unbelievable.’ And he’s like, ‘Nah, it’s all true.’ And I was like, ‘Alright, Ken. I don’t know how long you’ve been in Hollywood, but none of this is real.’ And he said, ‘It’s all real. And yes, these people got married.’”
That aspect is actually the most minor of unbelievable aspects of the film. You could not write a screenplay with so many “Hollywood endings.”
The film spoke to the actor’s desire for entertainment that also brings people together. “I think it’s just a great movie, especially at this point in time to believe in the power of unity and getting together for a cause. I think this is the time where not only can you have a voice, but your voice can be the catalyst for something massive.”
Barrymore worked closely with her real life character's organization, Greenpeace, to do justice to not only the person, but the establishment that lives and breathes for the preservation of animals big and small. “I went and studied whales up in Seattle with Paul Watson, who did Whale Wars. And then I spent a lot of time with Cindy Lowry, who is the woman that I play in the film,” Barrymore said. “She’s just rad and a total badass and super cool and we really actually connected, which is the way you hope it will be, but maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But we were like two peas in a pod. It was great.”
Both Barrymore and Krasinski have had previous experience working with Big Miracle director Kwapis. The Office star was cast by him on the sitcom and worked with him on License to Wed. Barrymore had the pleasure of being directed by him on He’s Just Not That Into You. This movie was clearly a whole new animal for all involved. “He was, in a good way, very stressed, and I say in a good way because I think he understood the difference in the level he was trying to achieve in this movie versus the movie that I did with him and the movie you [looks at Drew] did with him and certainly The Office,” Krasinski said and laughed.
“He wanted to make it really fantastic and I think he knew immediately that the visual spectacle would be an essential part of the movie. He’s very aware that he, at this point, wasn’t known as the visual spectacle guy. He knew he could do it and he wanted to do it right. And I remember his shot selection and his preparation and going over the script he was so dedicated. It was amazing to see him do it because the movie I had done and especially on The Office, he’s so performance-based -- and he still was on this movie -- but to see him be able to be performance-based and do these incredible crane shots, I was just so incredibly proud of him.”
Barrymore and Krasinski share a scene that serves as a turning point for the film on many levels. The actress has to delve deep into her emotional toolbox and she found it one of the flick’s most rewarding. “It’s about making it very personal rather than just soapbox-y,” she said of the scene. The key, as Krasinski’s character says in that part of the film, is to be real to yourself. “I think the more you do speak from the heart, rather than thumping the agenda, I just think that’s what people listen or relate or open themselves up to more. That’s one of the things I really loved about that scene.”
“When you bring it to a small level and sort of make it easy to access, which you did, I think it’s the most powerful part of the movie,” Krasinski added.
Spending months in the remote wilds of Alaska allowed the actors to get close. When asked what each adored most about the other, it was hard to get them to stop! “I really appreciated how professional she was,” Krasinski said. “I don’t think anybody really fully understands what it’s like to be at the level that she’s at and the amount of responsibility that it is. I think that I’m one of the people that feels very, very lucky to be there -- but I’ve only been doing it for a certain amount of time. She’s been doing it for longer and achieving so much more than any of us could even hope to do. She was always so positive and it set the tone for the whole rest of the shoot.”
Barrymore welcomed the opportunity to work with The Office star that she had long admired from afar. “I was so excited because Ken told me that maybe this could happen, but there could be a schedule conflict with The Office,” Barrymore remembered. “Ken called me in the San Francisco airport that it was OK and I started running up and down the halls I was so happy and so excited.”
“She was like, ‘Steve Carell’s going to be in our movie!’” Krasinski interrupted, laughing.
“I do love him, but I was so excited about you,” Barrymore said and beamed. “I was so excited about doing this with John because I love his acting and I just think that he’s a good person. [Laughs] We both had our dogs up there too, and our dogs love each other -- it’s too cute.”