A Whale of a Tale

TFK chats with John Krasinski, star of the new movie Big Miracle, now playing

Feb 03, 2012 | By Vickie An
COURTESY UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Inspired by a true story, Big Miracle follows a family of gray whales as they become trapped by rapidly forming ice off the coast of Barrow, Alaska. The three gentle giants must find a way back to the open sea—and fast—if they are to survive. As news of the situation spreads, different groups from all over the world join the rescue effort. Will they be able to free the whales in time?

Actor John Krasinski plays Adam Carlson, the TV news reporter who first tells the story of the whales. Krasinski’s character is a combination of several reporters who covered the real event in 1988. TFK spoke to the actor recently about the film.

TFK:

Did you know this was a true story before you signed on?

JOHN KRASINSKI:

I’ve got to be honest. When I read the script, I thought, what a great story. It’s so sweet and so heartwarming. And I said to the director [Ken Kwapis], “The only comment I have on the script is that we might want to trim back on the heartwarming stuff, because no one’s going to believe any of it.” He was like, “John, it’s all true.” And I said, “Ken, I don’t know how long you’ve been living in Hollywood, but obviously, it’s gone to your head. There’s no way this is true.” So to find out it was a true story was incredible.

TFK:

You were about 9 years old when the real event played out, right?

KRASINSKI:

Yes, good math! I wasn’t necessarily a good current-events kid at that point. So I don’t remember hearing anything specific about it. But now that I have learned all about it, it’s incredible that I missed it. It was this huge national event. The whales were a bigger story than the presidential election [at the time], which is kind of amazing.

TFK:

Is it surprising to you that so many different groups of people came together to save these whales?

Adam (played by John Krasinski) and Rachel (Drew Barrymore) watch as one of the trapped whales comes up for air.
COURTESY UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
Adam (played by John Krasinski) and Rachel (Drew Barrymore) watch as one of the trapped whales surfaces for air.

KRASINSKI:

Absolutely. It’s always inspiring when people come together for a great cause. But to have so many different people with so many different agendas come together and put those agendas aside to help these whales… It’s incredibly inspiring. I’m a sappy guy. I believe in the power of goodwill and good intentions. I think that when you get a lot of people together to accomplish something, you really can do anything. A lot of people always wonder, “What’s my voice going to do?” One voice can be the catalyst [or spark] to an incredible amount of change.

TFK:

Your character, Adam, was the catalyst for all of the events in the movie.

KRASINSKI:

He was indeed. He sort of stumbled upon the greatest news story of his life. He may have been the catalyst, but he still needed the right combination of people [to help get the story out]. The fact that [NBC Nightly News anchor] Tom Brokaw saw it and decided to put it on the national news, and the fact that kids all over the country were watching the news with their parents… all these things came together to make journalists cover the story more and more.

TFK:

Unlike some of the other characters, yours was not based on one real person. So, where did you find your inspiration for the role?

KRASINSKI:

Much of my inspiration came from the news clippings. I was focused on the responsibility and the power of the media. When you put a big light on any story, incredible things can happen.

TFK:

As an actor, reporters interview you all the time. (Like right now!) How did you like being on the other side of the interview for once?

KRASINSKI:

I loved it. It definitely gave me a lot of insight as to what reporters go through. All the people that you have to go through to get a story made… You guys do a lot of hard work!

TFK:

Were you prepared for the chilly weather in Anchorage, Alaska?

KRASINSKI:

Well, I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, so I’m used to cold weather. But Alaska weather is a whole different kind of cold. I kind of got tricked because when I first went up there in late October, it was 55°F. I thought it was going to be colder, so I said, “Oh, this isn’t that bad.” Then a couple of days later, the temperature dropped and never came back up. It went below 0°F.

TFK:

What was the one cold-weather accessory you could not live without up there?

KRASINSKI:

There are these hand warmers you can buy. They’re little packets that magically heat up. Those are pretty great. I call them magic bags. The other things were the clamps I wore on my boots—the little teeth on the bottom of your boots—that give you extra grip. Those were so necessary you wouldn’t believe it.

TFK:

The whales were actually giant puppets. What was it like to work with them?

KRASINSKI:

To watch the special effects guys operate them was incredibly cool. The whales look so real. On the first day, I forgot we had put the whales in the water. I remember walking past and seeing them and screaming out loud and completely embarrassing myself. I was terrified because they look so big underneath you. And to have them on set and to get to act with them and to have them popping out of the water added such an amazingly cool element to all of our performances.

TFK:

Did you have a favorite whale to work with?

KRASINSKI:

I definitely would say Bamm-Bamm, the baby. We worked with him the most. The detail on him was incredible.

TFK:

Much of the cast was made up of Alaska natives. How was it to work with them, and did you learn anything about their cultures and traditions?

KRASINSKI:

I learned a whole lot. I was so in awe with admiration, because their culture is so firmly based on respect for nature and each other and family and all of these amazing ideals that we should all be following more often. As far as acting goes, they were so natural and so gifted. They said that they’re storytelling people. They rely on their storytelling abilities to tell the history of their people. They were so much fun to work with. Everybody was fantastic.

TFK:

What would you say was the most memorable part of filming for you?

KRASINSKI:

Oh, wow, that’s a tough one. Probably the most memorable thing was the first time we stepped out on the ice. Seeing the scope of the set really gave me an idea of what this movie could be and how large the scope was and how many people were a part of this. It just made you feel really good that everybody was coming together to tell such a unique and special story.

TFK:

What have you personally taken away from this experience?

KRASINSKI:

You always take away great friendships, and obviously, being up there in the cold and going through an experience like this with everyone was phenomenal. And then on a personal level, what I took away from it, and what I hope everybody takes away from it, is a sense of responsibility. Setting aside differences to make real change is so important and really easy to do. I was just so inspired by this story.

TFK:

Many of your characters have interesting hidden talents. Do you have any hidden talents that people don’t know about?

KRASINSKI:

I do voices a lot, like silly voices. I can do an Elmo voice. I think it’s pretty good. I got to be on Sesame Street and got to meet Elmo, and that was amazing. I grew up watching Sesame Street, and now my nieces and nephews are, too. I said I was doing the show for them, but I was secretly doing it for me.