August 6, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tuvalu: Scuba: Movies: Crime: Baton Rouge Advocate: Diver's parents have no interest in 'Open Water' film

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tuvalu: Special Report: The loss of Tuvalu RPCVs Tom and Eileen Lonergan: August 6, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tuvalu: Scuba: Movies: Crime: Baton Rouge Advocate: Diver's parents have no interest in 'Open Water' film

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Diver's parents have no interest in 'Open Water' film

Diver's parents have no interest in 'Open Water' film

Diver's parents have no interest in 'Open Water' film

Diver's parents have no interest in 'Open Water' film

Entertainment writer

John and Kathy Hains are well aware of "Open Water," a new movie inspired by the disappearance of their daughter and son-in-law off Australia's northeastern coast.

"Open Water" debuts in limited release today. It opens in hundreds more cities, including Baton Rouge, on Aug. 20.

The Hains have no interest in seeing the film.

"It truly doesn't mean anything to us," John Hains said this week.

"We won't go see it. Friends and members of our families will probably tell us all we need to know about it."

"We've had a bazillion phone calls from media people," Kathy Hains said. "Other than that, we've not given it any thought."

The Hains' 28-year-old daughter, Eileen Lonergan, and her 33-year-old husband, Tom, were the subjects of worldwide news stories in 1998 after a dive boat left the Baton Rouge couple in the St. Crispins Reef area of the Great Barrier Reef, about 38 nautical miles from the resort town of Port Douglas, Queensland.

Although the Outer Edge Dive company noticed the Lonergans were missing when the boat returned to Port Douglas that Sunday, the company did not alert authorities until Tuesday.

The massive, three-day search that followed yielded no clues to the Lonergans' whereabouts.

An inquest ruled that the Lonergans died at sea because they were left behind by their dive boat.

A 1999 trial, which the Hains attended, acquitted the boat's skipper, Geoffrey "Jack" Nairn, of manslaughter.

"The dive industry was totally against us and the kids," John Hains said. "They were protecting their interests. Every year several people had been left behind. There had been some deaths over the years, but nobody had ever been charged with anything. This was the first time anybody had ever been charged, but they got him off."

Publicity for "Open Water," a Lions Gate Films release, doesn't mention Eileen and Tom Lonergan by name. A studio press release says "the idea for the film came from a particular news event that circulated in dive magazines and newsletters a few years ago."

Chris Kentis, the film's writer-director, distances himself from the Lonergans in the Lions Gate publicity.

"When I sat down to write the film," Kentis is quoted, "I wasn't interested in portraying the real people involved. I did no research on them. I didn't want to represent their relationship or their lives."

"If they made this couple like Eileen and Tom really were," Kathy Hains said, "they would be so boring that no one would go to the movie. Tom had his nose in a book all the time. Neither one of them was a conversationalist. They were quiet, they pretty much kept to themselves, which is probably one reason why nobody ever noticed they were there."

Eileen Lonergan's brother, John Hains Jr., wishes the film's director had made at least minimum contact with his parents.

"It would have been cool," he said from St. Louis, "if he'd given Mom and Dad a call and said, 'Hey, I'm making a movie. I want you to know so that you don't get blind-sided by it.' But I don't begrudge him making the film. I am a little aggravated that Lions Gate is trying to put as much distance between the film and Eileen and Tom as possible. It's almost like they're lepers to Lions Gate. They could at least say, 'Yeah, there's a lot of similarities.' "

Kathy Hains is more sympathetic.

"If they'd asked for permission," she said, "then they'd have nosy parents and siblings telling them, no, this isn't right, no, this isn't what they were like. Then they couldn't have gone and done their little artistic thing that movie people do."

The "Open Water" synopsis describes the film's principals as a workaholic couple with a strained relationship. Just before flying to their island holiday, they realize they desperately need a vacation.

"Eileen and Tom were different," John Hains said. "They just had three years of escape working in the Peace Crops, which they loved."

Eileen Lonergan was a native of Baton Rouge; her husband a native of New Orleans. The couple met while attending LSU.

"Tom," Kathy Hains recalled, "was a fabulous husband to Eileen. He worshipped the ground she walked on."

Before the Lonergans' trip to Australia, they'd worked in the South Pacific as Peace Corps teachers in Tuvalu and Fiji. Her daughter, Kathy Hains said, especially enjoyed spartan and remote Tuvalu.

"No electricity, no beds," Kathy Hains said. "Eileen loved those people. Even though she was blond with blue eyes, she wanted to blend in. I asked her to take a video camera so I could see where she'd been. She said, 'No, I don't want to look like a tourist. I'm there for those kids, not to be taking pictures of everything.' "

Australia was to be a stop on a world-circling journey including Indonesia and Paris. After their trip, they planned to return to Baton Rouge and later attend graduate school in Hawaii.

"They were excited about their trip around the world," Kathy Hains recalled. "They were gonna do a lot of scuba diving, which is what they love to do best."

The Hains cherish their memories of their daughter and son-in-law. The fact that their tragedy at sea inspired a movie won't change that.

"There's not a day that goes by that our hearts don't ache for Eileen or that we might cry a little. But we don't mind the movie. If the movie makes a difference in the dive industry, if it saves somebody's life, it's a wonderful movie," Kathy Hains said.

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Story Source: Baton Rouge Advocate

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tuvalu; Scuba; Movies; Crime



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