Deepwater Horizon Exposed Kurt Russell To Tragedies He Never Knew About

Remember that time Mark Wahlberg said he could've stopped 9/11? He later apologized, but it seems the world-famous hamburger salesman likes to fantasize about being present for ripped-from-recent-headlines tragedies as a way of "honoring" the real people involved. In fact, he did this on no less than three occasions in the 2010s with director Peter Berg; first on the film "Lone Survivor" in 2013, and then twice in a single year with "Deepwater Horizon" and "Patriots Day" in 2016.

Of these three, "Deepwater Horizon" is probably the best, if only because it's devoid of the suspect political overtones of the other two. The film dramatizes the 2010 Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit explosion and oil spill, pointing the finger of blame squarely at the corner-cutting BP middle managers who ignored safety concerns raised by the rig's workers. With Wahlberg off playing action hero for most of the movie as Chief Electronics Technician Michael "Mike" Williams, some of the more purely dramatic moments are instead handled by Kurt Russell as the gruff, paternal Offshore Installation Manager James "Mr. Jimmy" Harrell. It's a role that fits the actor well (Russell himself would tell you his action hero skills have always been limited).

"Deepwater Horizon" itself marked a rare venture into true-story filmmaking for Russell, who's spent most of his career playing in assorted genre sandboxes (with exceptions like his Rotten Tomatoes-approved documentary "The Battered Bastards of Baseball"). Speaking to Collider in 2016, Russell explained that he heard about the film through his daughter Kate Hudson (who costars as Mike's wife, Felicia Williams). However, upon reading the script credited to Matthew Michael Carnahan ("Lions for Lambs") and Matthew Sand ("Ninja Assassin") — talk about a combination of writing credits! — he was "struck by a number of things" concerning the real-life events that convinced him to sign on.

Russell didn't know how many people died from the explosion

The actual Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill was a horrific and, by virtually all accounts, utterly preventable catastrophe. As Berg's film reveals in its closing moments, it resulted in the deaths of 11 people on the rig and 210 million gallons of oil being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Russell, however, admitted he was unaware of the death toll before reading the movie's script:

"I didn't know 11 people died. I didn't know that many people had been injured and that many people have survived and it was a harrowing night and the rig was on fire. I didn't know any of that. I only knew what the media was focusing on which was this oil going into the water. It kind of got me. I thought, 'That's interesting that we've gotten to a point where the media thinks it's more important that we have an ecological disaster happening than 11 people being killed and many others being maimed and hurt, etc.' [...]"

With all due respect to Russell, I think he oversimplified the situation here. A quick internet search will reveal multiple articles from major outlets prioritizing the deaths of the rig workers at the time of the event (including NPR). Even "Deepwater Horizon" itself is based on an article published by the New York Times some months after the tragedy. He's also a little guilty of doing the thing that Extremely Online people love to do on social media where they accuse you of "not caring" about an issue unless you're constantly posting about it 24/7. Remember folks, we can care about several things at once!

Anyway, I'm climbing off my soapbox now. If "Deepwater Horizon" leads to more people knowing the ins and outs of the actual tragedy, then it did its job (even with Wahlberg's strange need for hero-posturing).