Battleship director Peter Berg and his film’s star, Brooklyn Decker, recently met Movie Fanatic at the annual pop culture fest Wonder Con to talk about their new film. From Berg’s work on Hancock, Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom and Collateral, he has clearly learned the most important thing about filmmaking. “You have to really listen to your audience,” Berg said.
In that capacity, while he was getting his head around bringing the iconic Hasbro game to life, at the game company’s suggestion, he met with a game psychiatrist. You read that right!
“Brian Goldner, the president of Hasbro, called me when I was getting ready to do some work on the script. He said, ‘I want you to meet with one of our game psychiatrists.’ I’m like, ‘Game psychiatrist? What’s a game psychiatrist?’ Really, they have these game psychiatrists that work for the toy companies and their basic job is to figure out what it is about a certain game that hooks you,” Berg said.
“Battleship is a very easy game obviously to make fun of and say, ‘Okay, this is preposterous.’ But the reality is that Battleship has been around for 85 years. We will all be dead and Battleship will be around. There has to be a reason behind that.”
He sat down with the woman charged with psychoanalyzing the ins and outs of Battleship and the experience proved revolutionary. “This woman came and she gave me this lecture about Battleship and what the whole idea of a blind reveal is. I didn’t really buy it. She said, ‘Let’s play the game.’ So we’re playing the game and I say, ‘B 5.’ She says, ‘Miss.’ ‘D 5.’ ‘Miss.’ ‘B 8.’ ‘Miss.’ She says, ‘D 12.’ I say, ‘Hit!’ She says, ‘How do you feel right now?’ I said, ‘I feel (expletive) horrible.’ ‘What do you feel?’ ‘I feel like I’m in danger.’ ‘What do you mean in danger?’ ‘Why? Because you’re trying to kill me!’ ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘I feel anxious and I feel an imperative to find you and I need to kill you. I want to kill you.’ She goes, ‘Exactly. You want to kill me and I want to kill you.’ The thing about a blind reveal where two people don’t know where each other are and are trying to locate each other, when they do locate each other, there’s no talk, there’s no negotiation. There’s lethal violence.”
It was in that moment that Berg found his film. “If you think about it, that’s great DNA for a movie. That’s a very simple, very real concept -- a concept that can drive a film and that’s something that we definitely used,” Berg said.
For Decker, she found the Battleship experience one to treasure for a young actress building a career after her debut in Just Go With It. It all has to do with the fact that her second feature is helmed by a guy who keenly understands actors, as he is one.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience with directors. He’s known for having a way with directing actors and that’s something that I heard prior to meeting him. That’s something I heard going into filming. He’ll put himself on the line to make sure he gets what he wants from you in a scene,” Decker said. “There were times when he’d be screaming along with me. There were times when he would fire a machine gun off in the bushes to get a reaction he wanted. He’ll do anything it takes to get what he wants from an actor.”
That familiarity with what Decker was experiencing went beyond the craft that goes on display when a director yells, “Action.”
“He knows the nerves and the emotion and everything that’s going on underneath, to showing up to work every day,” she said. “To have somebody there that can tap into all that, I felt lucky to be under his direction.”