You all know the classic story of Moby Dick, and if you don’t, well, the cliffnotes are online. But Encore has a retelling coming to television in just a few days. Starring the incomparable William Hurt, Gillian Anderson, and Ethan Hawke, the story is something that both the network and the stars feel “it’s time the story to come back.” And with such powerhouses behind it, you should feel pretty confident that the two-night tale is bound to be a modern classic all on its own.
“I only do classics,” Anderson smirked on stage during Encore’s TCA panel in Los Angeles earlier today.
But on a more serious note, she tossed the credit for her involvement not to the novel as her co-stars did before her but instead to her co-stars directly.
“I came on board, William and Ethan were already cast, and if they hadn’t been, I don’t know if I would have read the script,” she admitted. “But because they were, I read the script and really liked the adaptation and wanted to be a part of something they were a part of.”
Melville’s novel is a story we have all heard time and again– in fact, Hurt called it “biblical” and “the greatest American fiction” to him personally– and in order to diversify the telling of the tale, this almost four hour long movie will make brief alterations from the source material. A “version” of Starbuck’s internal struggle over the fact that he knew they were off-track but couldn’t gather it together to act on it.
“It’s often hard to play the good guy, the guy who’s morally just, because you often know what he’s going to do,” Hawke, who prefers to portray more complex, and at times “bad” because of it guys, explained.
“What is fascinating about Starbuck in the book is that he really doesn’t do the right thing. It’s really his silence to stop the inevitable…I loved trying to play this character who had a great love and respect for his leader, but actually when it’s all said and done, he’s the one person who really knew they were off track, and he couldn’t act.”
Meanwhile, for Anderson, the character was meaty despite only being in a short portion in the beginning of the film, but the responsibility was even greater. After all, as the most personal link to Ahab (Hurt), it is her responsiblity, ultimately, to humanize him. In a very short amount of time.
“I think I’m in about five minutes of it,” Anderson smirked at the audience. “[But] I think it’s a sweet beginning to this story.”
We will see them together before he goes off on his journey, and we will immediately be thrown into the stakes of what he is giving up– what he is leaving behind– because of it. As the rest of the movie goes on, though, we will get hints of her presence– her importance– in his life without actually seeing Anderson on screen.
“He carries a painting of her; he places it in a drawer. I think that’s a profound decision, and there’s a lot of emotion that we see Ahab make the decision to put it in the drawer and then pursue his passion, which is the big white whale,” Anderson pointed out.
Choosing one great love over another…will Encore’s version make you think differently about this well-known tale? Find out when Moby Dick presmieres on August 1st at 8pm and conclude the following evening.
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