Is Finestkind Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Paramount+

In Paramount+’s crime thriller ‘Finestkind,’ we follow the story of two brothers who reunite after many years. In the time that they bond with each other and the younger one gets to explore his elder brother’s lifestyle, things go unexpectedly topsy-turvy, and they end up getting involved with a dangerous crime syndicate. What makes the film interesting to watch is how closely it depends on the characters to further the plot. It’s like watching a real-life story unfold because the film has been shot in a way that makes it feel more grounded and real. How close to reality is it really? SPOILERS AHEAD

Brian Helgeland Drew on His Childhood Experiences to Make Finestkind

Image Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Paramount+

‘Finestkind’ is not based on real events. It is based on an original screenplay Helgeland wrote when he was in his late 20s, but he didn’t get to make the film until about three decades later. The director grew up in a family of fishermen. Everyone, from his father to his grandfather and other family members, was into commercial fishing. When Helgeland was done with college, he, too, took up the profession and worked on a boat for about a year and a half before he discovered his love for making films.

Calling it a surreal experience, Helgeland revealed that the story had been brewing in his mind for a long time, and at one point, he had Heath Ledger attached, ready to work on the film when the time was right. At some point, Jake Gyllenhaal, too, came into the fray, but nothing quite worked out. When it did, Helgeland was ready to give it his all. Due to his extensive know-how of the workings of a boat, he served as his own technical adviser on the movie.

Because the director had spent so many years writing the story and rewriting it over and over in the following years, he became intimate with every single detail about the characters. He had every specific detail in mind, including the neighborhoods in New Bedford where the characters grew up. Reportedly, he even drove actress Jenna Ortega around the town to show her the place her character grew up in.

Image Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Paramount+

In another similar anecdote, the director revealed that Tommy Lee Jones, when approached to work on the movie, asked very specific questions about his characters. He noticed that his character in the movie was from Texas and asked what he’d be doing in Massachusetts. Helgeland had the answer ready and revealed the details that eventually made it into the film. The director later came across a fisherman’s car in New Bedford, which had Texas plates. He made a video of it and sent it to Jones to show him how his character’s backstory wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the movie. Reportedly, the price of scallops in New England was also one of the things that helped convince Jones to take the role.

Considering that Helgeland infused the movie with so much of his own experiences, it makes sense that he based the characters on the real people he’s known over the years. Particularly, the relationship between Eldridge and Tom was crafted after the difficult relationships Helgeland had witnessed between several fishermen and their fathers.

Having worked so assiduously on the script, Helgeland didn’t want to leave any holds barred when it came to shooting the film. He took the cast and crew to New Bedford, which is where the film is originally set. This is also where the director grew up, and his knowledge of the neighborhood came in handy while scouting locations. He’d been adamant about shooting the film on the real location rather than filming somewhere else and making it look like New Bedford.

Another thing that the director was keen on was to use as little CGI as possible, and best not to use it at all. When it came to filming on the sea, the director took the cast and crew right in the middle of the ocean. Reportedly, there’s no CGI water in the movie, and all the scenes shown on the seas were actually shot there. Some of the scenes in the movie were filmed on the boat of one of Helgeland’s family friends, who took the actors on a ten-day fishing trip before the filming commenced to give them a taste of the life they were about to portray on the screen. Even the Coast Guard in an early scene is a real Coast Guard unit from Cape Cod.

Considering all this, it’s clear that while the characters and the plot might be fictional, the story is deeply rooted in Helgeland’s experiences as a young man on a fishing boat. He has drawn the film entirely from everything he knows about commercial fishing and the people for whom it’s a way of living. He wanted to portray that as accurately as possible, and the way the film has turned out, we can say that he has succeeded.

Read More: Where was Finestkind Filmed?