Battleship Press Conference: Q&A With Rihanna, Peter Berg, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker

At the Corinthian Hotel by the London Embankment on a punishingly hot day back in March, BATTLESHIP director Peter Berg, as well as stars Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna, turned out a modest half-hour late to begin a press conference detailing their latest project. THN was there, as ever, to catch some choice quotes.

Peter Berg on the origins of the movie:

“I’ve wanted to make a Navy film for a long time; my dad was a marine and an amateur Navy historian, and I was brought up studying the great World War II Navy battles here in the Atlantic, between Germany and you guys, England, and the Pacific, the battles between the Americans and the Japanese. I had a real appreciation and respect for the men and women who fought in those battles, so I wanted to make a Navy film. I also wanted to make a big summer popcorn kind of badass movie; I wanted people to have fun. The idea of England fighting China or the US fighting Japan felt a bit too rough, so I was trying to figure out who the nemesis should be, and I was watching a documentary by Stephen Hawking […] and in it he was talking about Goldilocks planets. Goldilocks planets are planets in other solar systems that have a sun that burns about as bright as our Earth’s does, and the planets are about as far away from their sun as the Earth is. So these planets should have about the right temperature for life. We are, on different places on Earth – America being the number one spot – sending signals out to these planets, and the point of these signals is to kind of say, ‘Hey, we’re here, we’re Earth, come visit us!’ Stephen Hawking says this is a really bad idea, he says it’s a horrible idea; he says if they’re out there and they come, the chances of it going well are virtually non-existent. It’d be game on. So I saw that documentary and I thought that kind of seemed to me to be a credible way to get into the alien component of the film.”

Taylor Kitsch on working with Berg:

“[Peter Berg and I] are friends first and foremost. He cast me and gave me the incredible opportunity to play Tim Raymond on Friday Night Lights, and we’ve been in touch ever since, and like I said, close friends. I was shooting a film here in London, and he came up to London and pitched this film to me; and it’s a big deal, especially being friends, for you to put that relationship out there and to engage in a film together, it can go one way or the other. Thankfully I think we’re even tighter now. Trust is everything on a set, and for us to have the trust that we have, it really is an empowering thing as an actor; it enables that friendship to go to the next level.”

Brooklyn Decker on working with Berg:

“This was my first time working with Pete, and the biggest thing that triggered me into wanting to do this movie was the fact that Peter Berg was directing. I’m a big fan of his work, particularly what he does with women; I mean if you look at Rihanna’s character in the movie, she’s really strong, independent, dynamic character, and that’s typical of Pete’s females in the movie. So I was just a big fan of his and that was our first introduction, our first meeting was over this, so I felt thankful that I got the chance to work with him.”

Rihanna on preparing for the role:

“[My trainer, Jackie] is in the Navy, and she’s actually a weapons officer, so she is the real life Raikes [Rihanna's character in BATTLESHIP], so I hung with her a lot, spent a lot of time with her in Hawaii, hanging out, listening to her iPod, watching her body language. She taught me a lot about weapons and how to handle them; she taught me a lot about drills and how to do the right salute. She was definitely there coaxing me along the way and I just wanted to embody her attitude and character. She’s very tough, very tough, intimidating girl, but she’s beautiful; you’d never think that.”

“I did some personal training of my own before we got to set; I did a lot of training with a soldier, and he was definitely scary. He got in my face – he trained me, though, he really got me to the emotional place that I could feel what it took to get where this character was. It wasn’t surface, there was a lot more depth to it, I was a lot more connected to the character when I went to play the part, because of the training. It was intense, but it was necessary.”

Peter Berg on the music of BATTLESHIP:

“I approached Rick Rubin, who’s a good friend of mine and who I think is as talented as anybody on the planet musically today, and he’s never got involved in a film, he’s never done this. So I asked him if he wanted to help and be a part of the music and help create a tone for the film, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, sure, what are you interested in?’ So I played him a couple of AC/DC songs that I liked, and he said, ‘You know I produced both of those?’ Great! And then I played an old ZZ Top song that I really liked and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty good, but listen to this,’ and he played me this crazy song called 25 Lighters, it’s this old gangsta hip-hop song about drug dealing, but it sounded like a rock song. I was like, ‘This is insane, who made this?’ and he said, ‘ZZ Top; it’s new.’ […] So we put that in. I was pretty sure I wanted a rock vibe for the film – we had a great composer, Steve Jablonsky, who’s as talented as anyone I’ve ever worked with, he worked close with Rick. We realised we needed to find a real rock guitar player, and Rick said, ‘Who’s your favourite guitar player,’ and I said it’s Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine, and he’s like, ‘No problem.’ A day later I was in Tom Morello’s studio, we had the movie up and Tom Morello and these guys were playing. To have someone as talented as Rick Rubin put his spirit into this film, and I’ve had a lot of people compliment that the film’s music is awesome. It’s a rock soundtrack, it’s a rock vibe.”

Rihanna on being ambushed by an Ashton Kutcher-related inquiry:

“How disappointing was that question?”

All in all a short and snappy session, with the cast all very happy to have made the film and Berg doing an admirable job of detailing the lengths to which he stretched his idea to fruition. All standard, really; no surprises, no upsets. Kitsch was likely quite happy to be spared any jabs about his latest foray into the blockbuster world, which turned out to be the momentous failure JOHN CARTER – all involved are hoping such a debacle won’t happen again. The proof is in the pudding however, as always; we’ll have a BATTLESHIP review up shortly.

BATTLESHIP is out now in cinemas nationwide.

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Nash Sibanda is a film student and aspiring blogger. He has dabbled in film scoring, songwriting, poetry and will one day finish his Great British Novel. Until then, he will watch films to his heart's content, stopping occasionally to ramble some nonsense about them.