The new family drama “Soul Surfer” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, April 8th. The film is the true story of Bethany Hamilton a star surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack at the age of 13. Bethany chronicled her journey to get back on her surf board in the 2004 book “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to get back on the Board.”
Now, that book has been adapted, somewhat faithfully, into the movie Soul Surfer starring AnnaSophia Robb and Dennis Quaid. Here are five things to know about Soul Surfer.
Soul Surfer is a based on a true story
Bethany Hamilton began making headlines in her home state of Hawaii at a very young age for her surfing prowess. Those headlines went national however, on October 31st, 2003 when, while on a morning surf at Tunnels Beach, Kauai, Bethany was attacked by a Tiger Shark that she never saw coming.
The attack took Bethany’s left arm off just below her shoulder. She lost 60% of the blood in her body. Less than a month after the shark attack Bethany was back in the water learning how to surf with just one arm. The comeback was both physically and mentally daunting but with the help of her father, coaches and the inspiration from a trip to Thailand following that countries devastating 2005 tsunami, Bethany Hamilton became a champion professional surfer.
AnnaSophia Robb was Bethany’s first choice to play her
Though they don’t share much of a physical resemblance, Bethany Hamilton knew after a single meeting with 17 year old AnnaSophia Robb was the perfect actress to portray her in “Soul Surfer.” Director Sean McNamara introduced the actress to Bethany Hamilton and the two became fast friends with Bethany teaching AnnaSophia how to surf with one arm.
Hamilton served as Robb’s double during the more difficult surf stunts. The makers of “Soul Surfer” relied on a number of camera tricks and effects to hide the fact that Bethany nearly 6 inches taller than AnnaSophia.
How did they make AnnaSophia Robb’s arm disappear?
More than 750 visual effects were used in post-production to take away AnnaSophia Robb’s left arm and replace it with the distinctive stump that Bethany lives with everyday. The effects team at ‘Engine Room’ in Los Angeles placed a green sleeve on the arm and hand of AnnaSophia Robb and used effects very similar to those used in “Forrest Gump” to digitally remove AnnaSophia’s arm.
Kelly Underwood makes her acting debut in Soul Surfer
Country superstar and former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood joined the cast of “Soul Surfer” as Sarah Hill, Bethany’s youth group leader. It was Sarah who took Bethany on her transformative trip to southeast Asia where the devastation of the tsunami inspired Bethany to use her story to inspire those in need. Carrie initially had no interest in acting but after reading the script for Soul Surfer and spending time with the real Sarah Hill she could not resist the chance to make this movie.
And yes, Carrie Underwood does sing and surf in “Soul Surfer.”
The whole cast learned to surf for Soul Surfer
While AnnaSophia Robb learned surfing from Bethany Hamilton herself, the whole cast of “Soul Surfer,” including Dennis Quaid as Bethany’s father Tom, Helen Hunt as Bethany’s mother Cheri, Lorraine Nicholson (Jack Nicholson’s daughter) as Bethany’s best friend Alana Blanchard and Kevin ‘Hercules’ Sorbo as Alana’s father, were all novices before making the movie.
The cast gathered in Kauai a month before shooting began and took lessons from area professionals. While stuntmen handled the more difficult stunts, audiences can look forward to seeing the whole cast of “Soul Surfer” out on the waves in the less demanding scenes.
“Soul Surfer” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, April 8th.