Auditions in Alaska for whale rescue movie

Anchorage, Alaska (AP) June 2010

The makers of the film “Everybody Loves Whales” have started auditions in Alaska.

The Anchorage Daily News reports auditions were held over the weekend in Anchorage for the role of an Inupiaq boy and a Native elder whaling captain.

The Universal Pictures movie has a $30 million budget and begins filming this fall in Anchorage and Barrow. It tells the story of the 1988 attempt to rescue three whales trapped in ice near Barrow.

News of the movie have stirred Hollywood dreams in would-be actors across Alaska. More than 1,000 people have e-mailed or called in hopes of winning speaking parts or extras work, said Deborah Schildt, one of two Alaska casting directors.

“I have to clear my voice mail two or three times a day,” she said. “Teenage girls are especially tenacious.”

The auditions move to Barrow next weekend, in time for the spring whaling festival, Nalukataq. After that, it’s Western Alaska, then off to Fairbanks for the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in late July. Multiple auditions are planned for Anchorage, Schildt said, with the filmmakers looking to cast Russian-speaking sailors, a helicopter pilot who can actually fly a helicopter, cameramen and restaurant workers, in addition to an army of extras.

Steve MacLean, an Inupiat born in Barrow who now lives in Anchorage, came at his wife’s urging. A program director at the Nature Conservancy, he holds a master’s degree in wildlife and fishery sciences from Texas A&M University, where he studied bowhead whales, MacLean said.

While this is his first casting call, MacLean’s brother is in the business. Andrew MacLean directed “On the Ice” in Barrow.

Steve MacLean said he’s hoping the moviemakers do their homework and do right by Inupiaq culture in the movie.

“There are some things that were not exactly right in some of the lines that were given. Some misperceptions of some small details,” he said after the audition.