In the Heart of the Sea: Tom Holland describes nausea-inducing whale scene as ‘like being born over and over again’

Don't sign us up for a sea-based movie anytime soon

Tom Holland as cabin boy Thomas Nickerson in In the Heart of the Sea
Tom Holland as cabin boy Thomas Nickerson in In the Heart of the Sea

When playing a man lost at sea without food or fresh water, you have to look like you’re on death’s door. Which is exactly what Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland and Benjamin Walker did while shooting Ron Howard’s latest movie In the Heart of the Sea.

“The hunger came in three stages. The first stage was you were irritable, the second stage was you were emotional and the third stage with the tiny calorie counts, we were just faint,” says Walker, adding that feeling so uncomfortable actually made his job easier as the whalers would have been “really miserable” by the end.

“Because we were so thin, our bodies weren’t buoyant. We didn’t have enough fat to float. There were a couple of days where we were all sinking, going ‘I think this is bad!’ but we didn’t have enough energy to swim to the surface.”

Ben Walker - In The Heart Of The Sea

The hardest part was having to switch suddenly from a diet designed to help the actors bulk up as sailors, to one limited to just 500 calories a day. Cast bonding nights out were out of the question too, both because alcohol is too calorific and any booze went straight to their heads.

“If we ever had a night off and could go have a drink, everyone just got drunk like that *clicks fingers* because we hadn’t eaten. So we just went home,” Walker laughs, with Murphy echoing that they were “cheap dates, that’s for sure”.

Cilian Murphy and Tom Holland - In The Heart Of The Sea

Eating next to nothing wasn’t the only problem. Aside from being soaked to the bone most days Holland, who plays cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, is forced to squeeze himself down into a whale’s belly to get the best of its oil in one nausea-inducing scene.

“Ron was adamant on making everything as authentic as possible,” he says. “He had a prosthetic whale head built and I had to cover myself in vaseline and clamber in. They threw a bucket down first and I banged my head on it.

“The worst part was trying to get back out again because it was so slippy. I’d get half way up and slip right back in again. Eventually they’d throw me a rope and drag me out. It was like being born, over and over again, all night long.”

In the Heart of the Sea opens in UK cinemas on 26 December.

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