Block Island tugboat stars in new movie

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 4:30pm
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Some nasty things are happening on Rick Batchelder’s tugboat. Fortunately, it’s all make-believe.

Batchelder’s Korean War-era tug, the Petersburg — often seen docked in Old Harbor — was seen up at its other home in Kingston, New York by a scout from a movie crew looking for an impressive sea-worthy vessel. The Petersburg got the role, and according to crew member Alex Chapman, it was an interesting ride.

The movie that was partly shot on the boat is called “Crypto,” a thriller using crypto currencies as a plotline, and will be released on Friday, April 12 in select theaters and video on demand. It stars Kurt Russell, looking rather beat up in the trailer, Alexis Bledel, and Luke Hemsworth.

Chapman, who lives on the island, got an up-close look at what is called “movie magic.” He was recruited, he said, “because they needed someone who knew the boat.” He said he ended up assisting the production quite a bit for the two days they were on the boat.

The film crew shot on the boat in two locations last June: Kingston and Poughkeepsie, New York. In one scene, the boat was “supposed to be out to sea but we were on the Hudson,” Chapman said. In another scene, the decks had to be completely cleared for a drone shot and, said Chapman, “there’s a murder on the aft deck of the boat.” But of course not really. (In the film, the boat is used to rescue a Russian bad guy stranded out in the water.) Chapman laughed when he said, “I guess the opening scene of the movie takes place in Rick’s bathroom.”

Chapman was impressed with the size of the production. When the crew was shooting on the water “they had a light crew,” but when they could shoot with the boat tied up, Chapman said the meals were catered and tents were erected for the production. On those days, he said, “the boat was packed with actors rehearsing lines, and the [Petersburg] crew hid down in the crew cabin.” He found out one of the actors was married and honeymooned on Block Island. When asked which one, Chapman said, “the one that got murdered.” He said he was talking to someone one day, who turned out to be one of the film’s writers, and Chapman told him that “the most impressive thing about the boat is when it starts up. The turbo and the engine really cranking up. The next day the writer had them record that, and hopefully they got that into the film.”

Some of the time on the production was not so interesting, he said: “A lot of moviemaking is waiting around.” But overall he said “it was an interesting experience. The director thanked me, said I really helped them out.”

When asked how he started crewing on the Petersburg, Chapman said he ran into Batchelder on the island one day years ago “and Rick asked me, ‘Do you want to go on a tugboat trip?’ I said maybe. He said ‘That’s not an answer.’ Then I said okay.”