The aftereffects of the oil spill were felt in various sectors across the Gulf Coast. Environmentally, thousands of species were affected by not only the oil spill but by the chemicals that were released in the water to disperse the oil, leading to deformities, destruction of habitat, and life-shortening health issues.
But marine animals were not the only ones affected by the spill. Hundreds of cases of human oil exposure were reported to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals only months after the spill. One physician described it as “the biggest public health crisis from a chemical poisoning in the history of this country.” Other adverse health effects are still being reported from Gulf Coast residents, including mental health problems.
Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits were filed against BP and Transocean. In one suit, the largest-ever of its kind, BP agreed to pay the US Government $4.5 billion in fines. The company would pay dozens of billions more for its role in the spill.
But major players in the petroleum industry are extremely powerful and influential. Although BP suffered many legal consequences, the company also released its own independent reports that downplayed the role BP had in the disaster as well as the effects still being felt in and around the Gulf. So naturally, when Hollywood decided to release a movie villainizing the company and championing the men and women who worked and perished aboard the rig, BP wasn’t happy about it.
In an interview with NPR, Deepwater Horizon director Peter Berg explained, “We had problems because BP was not particularly thrilled that we were making the film. You know, BP and the oil industry in general appropriately wields a lot of power in that community, and they pay a lot of mortgages. And because we were making a film about the oil spill, the oil blowout and what happened that day, BP was not— not only were they not a big advocate or very supportive, but they actually became a very effective disruptor.”
That’s right: BP actively tried to make filming this movie as difficult as possible, if not stop it completely.
Berg went on, “We couldn’t get access to many of the things that we wanted to. We couldn’t get access to the boats, to some of the helicopters, to some of the men and women that we wanted to speak to. But the biggest thing we couldn’t get access to, which is what we wanted the most, was an oil rig. You know, one of these big, deepwater platforms. We tried and were politely but firmly declined on at every turn. And that was challenging because we— I had always thought we would be able to film a portion of the movie on a real, you know, rig. And when it became apparent that we couldn’t, the next best option was to build a sizable 85 percent to scale recreation of a rig, which we did.”
Clearly, BP is not happy about this dramatic and souped-up testimonial of what happened aboard the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010. Could it be a further admission of their guilt? Regardless, BP understands the negative effect a highly-publicized retelling of this story will have on its reputation.
But are the oil companies the only ones to blame for the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Perhaps not.
Oil is all around us. You use it. I use it. And where there is demand, there must be a supply. What feels like need on our day-to-day level can translate to major greed on a larger scale, be it between businesses or nations. And many times, this greed results in political or environmental disaster with consequences that we, the average citizens, feel and bear the brunt of in our day-to-day lives.
Here’s director Peter Berg’s take on it:
“You know, I’ve been asked why I didn’t make a film about the oil spill or about the environmental aspects of […] this event. And my answer is […] I believe that’s been, you know, pretty well covered. I think we all understand. And most people, if they do any research at all, understand that, you know, BP’s paid in excess of $60 billion in fines as a result of that incident. And people are aware of the oil spill.
“I didn’t really think it was critical to make a film attacking BP. Although I think, you know, John Malkovich does a great job of conveying the ruthlessness that some of the BP company men, you know, used to create pressure to get what they wanted. BP was behind schedule and they were over budget with this rig. And there was a lot of pressure to cut corners.
“But […] you know, as true as that is, it’s obvious that we are all complacent in this addictive dance that we do with fuel. And, you know, anybody that flies in planes or wears petroleum-based clothing or takes their children to work or, you know, anything. And we obviously […] are very interdependent and in many ways responsible for this drilling.”
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Deepwater Horizon hits theaters September 30.