Director Peter Berg's upcoming movie Battleship was fueled by his lifelong love of the Navy, and he managed to talk the military into granting him a few pretty major favors during filming. The biggest? Taking the USS Missouri—which has for years served a museum stationed at Pearl Harbor—out on the water for one especially memorable sequence. Getting special favors from the government was just one challenge Peter took on with the project. He also hired relative movie newcomer Brooklyn Decker and total acting novice Rihanna for two of the key roles. We talked to Peter about putting both women to the test and, during our chat, even got a surprise visit from leading man Taylor Kitsch. Check out our interview and catch Battleship in theaters on May 18.
My strategy is, you know, to make them cry, make them get intense, so you have some confidence. And whether you're out there on the mountain or you're out there in the middle of the ocean, that they're gonna be strong. I felt like a bad ass. Yeah. Like I've just got the Missouri towed out to the ocean. I mean I felt ten feet tall like Jay-Z or something. Your love of the Navy didn't start with Battleship. It sounds like you were really had a lifelong fascination with it. My father was a marine and he was a naval historian. And when I was a kid, he would take me to pretty much every naval museum he could find. He would just drill into me how courageous the men and women of the Navy were and how important they were and how vital they were to our freedom. And all these things. It was the last things I wanna hear when I was like 12 years old. Right. I wanted to escape growing up fine, and my dad just was like, "You're gonna understand this." And I kinda resented him but it obviously stuck because so many things that our parents and you don't quite get it until you get older, that, "Wow, I really did listen to that. Right. I really do now understand and feel the passion that my dad had or my mom had about something." And so this was, I'm drawn to film generally about men and women that put themselves in harm's way or put themselves in violent situations. For whatever reason, that's kind of my thing. That's my jam, you know? And so to be able to come and, you know, I've got a lot of friends in the Navy, and to pay my respects and to get to go out on these incredible ships, which to me, you know, I'm a 12-year-old kid all over again. Getting to live on an Aegis Class Destroyer for a week and, you know, really hang out with the guys enough. The girls are running ships and fight the ships. Sure. I just love it. So this is kind of a dream come true. Well, you did ask a lot of pretty big favors from the military in making this sometimes. Was there anything that they said yes to that you still just can't believe they let you do? Yes. They let me take the Missouri and tow it out into the middle of the ocean Right. And that was the biggest coup ever. Missouri is docked. It's now basically a museum. It is the flagship of our Navy. It's got the greatest history. Japan surrendered World War II on it, and I was there getting toward with the head of the Missouri Foundation, and I'm like, "Can we move this?" We can tow it, but we'd all move. Sure. And I'm like, "What if we just towed it out into the ocean and film it?" A couple of miles. He's like, "Oh,sure Pete, that's what we'll do. We'll just tow the Missouri out to the middle of the ocean, and we'll get geese that are just laying golden eggs while we're there, and, you know, mermaids and stuff then that'll be great." I'm like, "I'm serious, can we just." Right. And eight months later he was on the deck with me with tears coming out of his eyes as we towed the Missouri out. Took a little bit of an insurance policy...I would imagine. got it, and that was still, I get that from Admirals all over Pearl Harbor and Generals in the Army, they're like, did you really the Missouri, I felt really good. How did you feel that morning? I mean did you have some nerves about it going off without a hitch? I felt like a bad ass. I mean I just got the Missouri towed out to the ocean. I felt 10 feet tall, like Jay-Z or something. Exactly. I felt like Jay-Z and Kanye all whupped together. playing Madison Square Garden, I thought big. You've worked with Taylor for years now. How has he changed since you first met him on Friday Night Lights? He he's a great guy. And one of the frustrating things about making movies is, you know, a group of strangers come together, they have to share this really intimate, intense experience, you know? last maybe three or four months, and then that's it, it's over, you don't work together. And what generally happens is like a relationship. You know, by the time you actually get to know someone, where you've had a few fights, where you've gone out and got, you know, blackout drunk, where you, you know, run a marathon. I'm sorry to interrupt, but. Oh, and speak of the devil. He's was just so adamant, he just wanted lunch and I just want to give everyone a heads up of what is in, or what Pete Berg's diet entails. It's a happy face, but it's also. It's a snack, it's more of a snack. It 's more of just a carb load for lunch. Does he usually make you lunch? Ken always make me lunch. Yeah. Yes. Yes. Very sweet. What do we have here? What do you got? Just a plate of regrets that you love to inhale. Yeah, have at it, Pete. What it is, is this jealousy? I think. It's jealousy 'cause I'm a little bit older than him. And you're cut, like yeah. And I'm stronger, faster. This is what he wishes he could eat. I'm a little more clever. So, it's sabotage. It's sabotage. You get these young punk-ass Hollywood actors trying to back you up or soften you up so that they can take advantage. I see, and take your spot. It's like you're resisting. Never. I'll get him back. You had a lot of first time actors on this movie, Brooklyn's is new to it. Yeah. first time, and it sounds like he kind of put them through hell before they got these rules. Oh, it wasn't that bad. Really? They complain a lot. Well, was there a moment with both of them where you were like, 'Okay, they're up to the I mean, you know, in the audition process. And I think where I was thorough is the audition process. And I was taking a chance. Rihanna's clearly proven a certain charisma, and an intensity, and, you know, a fearlessness on stage. And she's, you know, clearly a performer. And I was pretty confident. You know, I worked with Tim McGraw and in The Kingdom. I was confident I could get it from pros like Brianna. Brooklyn, you know, a beautiful girl, but I wasn't sure, so my strategy is, you know make them cry, make them get intense, make them react, and be very intense in the audition process, so you have some confidence when you're up there in the mountain or you're out there in the middle of the ocean, that they're gonna be strong. Yeah, torture them a little bit. Get it right then because by the time you get to the set, it's too late.