De Niro barks and Gooding suffers in the true story of Carl Brashear, the Navy’s first black master diver, whose raw determination was an example the filmmakers were forced to follow. For a shoot full of tricky underwater scenes, Oscar winner Gooding almost dropped out when the production balked at employing his preferred stunt double (his buddy eventually came on board). To get into the spirit, Tillman and producer Robert Teitel (who collaborated on ”Soul Food”) each submerged in dive gear, but sweated more as executive musical chairs at Twentieth Century Fox threatened to jeopardize the project. ”We went from a family drama [”Soul Food”] to making an epic that spans 25 years – and on the water – for $37.5 million,” says Teitel.
For Gooding, one of the biggest challenges was keeping up with De Niro, who plays the hard drinking, antiauthoritarian instructor who torments, then mentors Brashear. ”De Niro never says anything unless he believes it,” Gooding says. ”If his line is ‘Hello, how are ya?’ he will do 50 takes until he believes it. It was like acting school – you can never fake the funk.” GOOD SIGN It’s an old fashioned, inspirational military drama. THEN AGAIN ”Old fashioned” and ”inspirational” could also mean ”hokey.”