Film Title: Soul Surfer (2011)
Film Type: Action, Drama
AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton
Dennis Quaid as Tom Hamilton
Helen Hunt as Cheri Hamilton
Carrie Underwood as Sarah Hill
Jeremy Sumpter as Byron Blanchard
Ross Thomas as Noah Hamilton
Lorraine Nicholson as Alana Blanchard
Kevin Sorbo as Holt Blanchard
The "Soul Surfer" film is a true-to-life story of Bethany Hamilton, a young teenage girl who lost an arm due to shark attack in 2003. AnnaSophia Robb plays the role of the 13 year-old Hamilton, while Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as the parents. Story will roll on the struggles of Bethany Hamilton and he family after the attack, and how she joined and won fifth in a surfing national competition.
Plans for a film existed since shortly after the shark attack on Hamilton in 2003 and her subsequent recovery. After several false starts to production, McNamara was attached to direct the film. While the film is based on Hamilton's 2004 biographical book, the director and producer David Brookwell interviewed the family to learn about unpublished conflicts to include in the film. Filming took place in Hawaii in early 2010, and Robb wore a green sleeve on her arm so visual effects could be added in post-production to create the appearance of a stump. Additional filming took place in Tahiti in August 2010.
- Soul Surfer is directed by Sean McNamara and is based on the 2004 biography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. The book and the film are based on the real-life experience of Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm as a result of a shark attack while she was surfing. She was 13 years old when she was attacked on October 31, 2003. Though she lost her arm, she was motivated to resume surfing and was able to compete in a major surfing competition on January 10, 2004, finishing fifth. Her story of recovering from the attack became widespread, and her family faced multiple media opportunities.
- Shortly after the incident and the media attention, the father of Bethany's friends Chantilly and Tiffany, Roy "Dutch" Hofstetter, became the Hamilton family's media manager. Hofstetter in February 2004 envisioned a film based on Bethany's experience, provisionally titled The Bethany Hamilton Story. Bethany published her biographical book Soul Surfer in 2004, and BBC reported that a film about her life was scheduled to begin filming in January 2005. Production did not begin as anticipated, and Time reported in July 2006 that production was scheduled for later in the year. Variety reported that the project at one point had an investment of $7.5 million and the backing of Peter Schlessel, a Sony Pictures executive.
- Though production had not begun by the end of 2006, in January 2007 Sean McNamara was announced to be directing the biographical film. While Hamilton had a series of surfing successes, turning pro in 2007, McNamara and producer David Brookwell sought more material for the film. The book was considered "a straightforward account" that was targeted to Christian readers, so the filmmakers met with the Hamilton family to determine if there were any unpublished conflicts that could be highlighted in the film. They discovered that the incident had strained the family, that family members questioned their Christian faith, and that Bethany Hamilton struggled with her physical appearance and how boys would perceive her. The media attention on the family was described by Brookwell as "a second shark attack" that had made their lives uncomfortably public.
- McNamara and Brookwell spent several years raising money for production. The director wrote an adapted screenplay with Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz and Deborah Schwartz. Additional writing was performed by Ron Bass, Jen Smolka and Kara Holden. Before the film entered production, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired distribution rights for North America and most other territories. The production companies Mandalay Vision, Brookwell McNamara Entertainment and Life's a Beach Entertainment collaborated for the production, with Enticing Entertainment and Island Film Group providing financing. In February 2010, McNamara cast numerous actors into roles for Soul Surfer. AnnaSophia Robb was cast as Bethany Hamilton, and Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt were cast as Bethany's parents. Singer Carrie Underwood, in her feature film debut, was cast as a church youth leader. Filming began the same month in Hawaii. Principal photography and second-unit aerial work took place for 40 days; cinematographer John R. Leonetti shot on 35mm film. During filming, Robb wore a green sleeve on her arm so visual effects could be included later. Though McNamara was editing the film by May 2010, additional filming took place in August 2010 in Tahiti. During post-production, the VFX company Engine House worked on 450 arm-removal shots, digitally inserting a stump in place of Robb's green sleeve. Ultimately, the film's budget exceeded $15 million
In 2007, A documentary was made entitled "Heart of a Soul Surfer: The Bethany Hamilton Documentary".
First Trailer Released:
Second Trailer Released:
Behind the Scene: (Bethany Hamilton meets AnnaSophia Robb on The Insider)