Is 'Deepwater Horizon' A True Story? The Disaster Feels All Too Real

When it comes to his acting performances, you can always rely on Mark Wahlberg to put in the work, whether it's in serious dramas or intense action flicks. His role in new film, Deepwater Horizon, should prove to be no exception. The star plays Mike Williams, an oil rig worker on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon tank who is forced to make terrifying and heroic decisions as the rig explodes and sinks into the Gulf of Mexico. The intensity of the plot and the harrowing adventures of Williams feel all too real, which makes sense since Deepwater Horizon is a true story.

Those of us with our eyes glued to the news on April 10, 2010 can tell you that the broad strokes — that the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and killed 11 workers, then sank, leading to the biggest oil spill in U.S. history — are definitely all real. But what you might not know is just how much effort the filmmakers put into making sure that the movie, from script to set, was as true-to-life and accurate as possible. 

For one thing, Wahlberg's character is actually based off of the real Mike Williams (pictured below, far right, at the Deepwater Horizon premiere), an oil rig worker on Deepwater Horizon who, in 2010, was interviewed by Scott Pelley for a two-part 60 Minutes special and spoke about his death-defying escape from the burning rig, which had happened only days before. In that interview, Williams provided much of the detail and insight that went into making Deepwater Horizon as accurate as possible.

According to a September article from New Orleans' The Times-Picayune, Williams served as a consultant on Deepwater Horizon along with another surviver, Caleb Holloway, portrayed in the film by actor Dylan O'Brien. Both attended the film's premiere in New Orleans, and at the Sept. 20 event, Williams praised Peter Berg, the film's director, for his commitment to accurately representing the events of the tragedy and honoring the 11 victims of the explosion. Williams is quoted as saying, "I think he nailed it ... I don't know how he could have done it any better." The Times-Picayune also reported that family members of many of the victims, as well as many of the survivors, were in attendance at the premiere.

Berg and the rest of the film crew were similarly committed to getting the technical details right wherever they could. As another article from The Times-Picayune reports, to ensure an authentic feel and filming experience, the crew built a massive 85% scale model of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and filmed right in a Louisiana swamp. Berg even asked that the crew use genuine salvaged oil rig parts to build the giant set, which ended up weighing almost three million pounds and was eventually set entirely on fire in order to film the explosion scenes. In a September article for The Los Angeles Times, both Williams and Holloway gave stamps of approval to the painstakingly crafted set, with Williams noting accuracies "all the way down to the salt and pepper shakers in the galley,” and Holloway calling it so real it was "a little eerie."

And as for our action hero? Wahlberg told The Times-Picayune that all the extra work and dedication to details more than paid off. "Making it as real as possible," he said, "you get the best results." 

Image: Summit Entertainment

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