It's woman versus wave in an exciting new sports movie set in the adrenaline-charged world of competitive surfing. Alan Silverman has a look at Blue Crush.
On the north shore of Hawaii's Oahu island, mountainous waves curl into the classic "pipeline" shape that attracts surfers from around the world for the rides of their lives.
"It looks heavy out there. It's fierce!"
Conquering the legendary "pipeline" is a personal goal for Anne Marie, a local Hawaiian surfer who dreams of joining the ranks of champion women surfers. To play the role actress Kate Bosworth had to conquer her own fears and get out in the waves.
"Oh yes, we were out at 'pipe' on the most dangerous days in winter so it was all real," she says.
The southern California native admits she had never before been up on a surfboard so Blue Crush meant a crash course in riding the waves.
"Well, we had a limited amount of time to learn, but the training consisted of surfing, weight training, running and something called 'rock running,' " she explains. "You see it in the movie. You hold a rock underneath the water and run as far as you can. It's for lung capacity."
The "sports metaphor" drama about achieving your dreams is a Hollywood staple; but Kate Bosworth is pleased that Blue Crush puts a woman athlete in the spotlight.
"First of all I'd like to say 'it's about time!' " she exclaims. " I think it's inspirational to see anybody go out and ride waves that big and have the belief in themselves to do the best that they can do out there. I think since they chose to show it through a woman, it obviously empowers women in general. [As the character,] I want to be able to pay the electricity and phone and the rent all in the same month," she adds. "I want to be on the cover of Surfer magazine. It would be great if that girl were me, but any girl will do. And I really, really, really want to win 'pipe masters' tomorrow. That's what I want."
John Stockwell co-wrote and directed Blue Crush to showcase the sport he passionately enjoys. Amazing camera angles from above, on and beneath the waves put the audience right on the surfboard with his star; but Stockwell found filming much more challenging than it looked on the drawing board.
"Mother Nature does not respond well to direction and she was probably the biggest Diva on the set," he admits, "so we had to work around her. Often times it was myself on a surfboard and a 35 milimeter camera right in the 'impact zone' and my girls. I was yelling instructions to them. I had a waterproof walkie-talkie that I would be trying to talk to the shore with, and we were sharing the 'pipeline' break with 150 real surfers who all wanted the same wave that we did. It was a challenge in so many different ways."
What director Stockwell says is not a problem, however, is making Blue Crush and its arcane surfing world come alive for audiences in places like landlocked Nebraska, far from any ocean.
"Part of this movie is 'girl against wave' or 'girl against monster.' I could have made a movie that was more about ' wow, look at that cutback. I can understand why they got a 6.3 as opposed to a 6.1,'" he explains. "But we really upped the stakes, I think, and made it such a life or death experience and actually transported them. I think the movie will play better in Nebraska than it will in San Diego, in some respects, because it really is an exotic experience for them and it truly takes them to a place they've never been before. You don't have to have ever been on a wave or a surfboard to appreciate what the girls go through in this."
While the lead actresses learned to surf (or, in the case of Hawaii native Sanoe Lake, already were skilled on a board), Blue Crush also features several top-ranked women surfers as body doubles and, in the climactic competition scenes, as themselves. Wary at first that the film might be another Gidget, Australian champion Kate Skarratt says the filmmakers won them over by accurately portraying the sport.
"We've always dreamt of showing women's surf in its true form, and I think this is the first time that's happened," she says, "and I think it's great that this movie has been able to express women's surfing and surfing in general the way it has, because it's a unique thing."
Blue Crush was filmed on location on the Oahu north shore. The cast also features Michelle Rodriguez and Mika Boorem. The eclectic soundtrack ranges from hard rock to rap to reggae.