Robert Schwentke

After making Red and R.I.P.D., Robert Schwentke is turning away from comic books and toward reality for his next directorial effort. Schwentke has entered talks to helm Disney’s The Finest Hours, based on the U.S. Coast Guard’s heroic efforts to rescue two oil tankers during a blizzard in 1952. As concepts go, it’s not as cute as elderly assassins or undead cops, but it should provide plenty of drama all the same. Hit the jump to learn more about the epic tale.

James Tamasy and Eric Johnson (The Fighter) adapted the screenplay for The Finest Hours from the 2009 book of the same title, by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias. Two oil tankers were torn in half when a nasty nor’easter hit the Atlantic Ocean in 1952, leaving 84 men struggling for survival. The Coast Guard swooped in to try and save the crew members, and succeeded in saving 70 of them.

Tamasy and Johnson did extensive research on the project, even interviewing some of the survivors of the incident. They pitched the adaptation to producer Jim Whitaker, who then brought it to Disney. The studio optioned the book in 2011.

HBO vet Tim Van Patten (Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire) was circling the project last fall as a potential feature directing debut. But as evidenced by the fact that Schwentke is now negotiating for the gig, that deal fizzled. Schwentke previously worked with Disney on 2005′s Flightplan, which was his first English-language movie.

Schwentke has been linked to a few projects in recent years, but as far as we know he doesn’t have any directing commitments locked in for the near future. There’s no word on when The Finest Hours might start shooting, but with that in mind it could be sooner rather than later.

Here’s a synopsis of the book via Amazon:

The true story of an incredible disaster and heroic rescue at sea told by two masterful storytellers

In the winter of 1952, New England was battered by the most brutal nor’easter in years. As the weather wreaked havoc on land, the freezing Atlantic became a wind-whipped zone of peril.

In the early hours of Monday, February 18, while the storm raged, two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, found themselves in the same horrifying predicament. Built with “dirty steel,” and not prepared to withstand such ferocious seas, both tankers split in two, leaving the dozens of men on board utterly at the Atlantic’s mercy.

The Finest Hours is the gripping, true story of the valiant attempt to rescue the souls huddling inside the broken halves of the two ships. Coast Guard cutters raced to the aid of those on the Fort Mercer, and when it became apparent that the halves of the Pendleton were in danger of capsizing, the Guard sent out two thirty-six-foot lifeboats as well. These wooden boats, manned by only four seamen, were dwarfed by the enormous seventy-foot seas. As the tiny rescue vessels set out from the coast of Cape Cod, the men aboard were all fully aware that they were embarking on what could easily become a suicide mission.

The spellbinding tale is overflowing with breathtaking scenes that sear themselves into the mind’s eye, as boats capsize, bows and sterns crash into one another, and men hurl themselves into the raging sea in their terrifying battle for survival.

Not all of the eighty-four men caught at sea in the midst of that brutal storm survived, but considering the odds, it’s a miracle — and a testament to their bravery — that any came home to tell their tales at all.

Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman have seamlessly woven together their extensive research and firsthand interviews to create an unforgettable tale of heroism, triumph, and tragedy, one that truly tells of the Coast Guard’s finest hours.

[Source: THR]

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