You know it’s a bad year at the movies (Red Riding Hood, anyone?) when Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never was actually one of the better flicks you’ve seen.
But if the filmmakers behind Soul Surfer, the true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton’s quest to become a champion again after losing her left arm in a shark attack, have anything to say about it, that’s all about to change.
Starring Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, The Day After Tomorrow), Helen Hunt (Twister, What Women Want), country singer Carrie Underwood in her big-screen debut and AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia, Race to Witch Mountain) as Bethany herself, Soul Surfer, which hit theaters nationwide on Friday, April 8, is ultimately a story of stalwart faith in the trenches.
Before that fateful Halloween morning when a 14-foot shark came out of nowhere and could’ve permanently shattered Bethany’s big dreams of surfing grandeur, she was leading a pretty idyllic teenage life. Calling Hawaii’s beautiful island of Kauai home, Bethany and her best friend Alana, both naturals on the water, were fixtures in national surfing competitions. But in only a matter of seconds, that shark bite made Bethany’s journey back to what she loved so much – navigating those big waves – far more complicated.
In fact, if it wasn’t for her personal faith in God, the love and support of her parents and youth group leader, not to mention letters from millions of regular people around the world who’ve been inspired by her story, it wouldn’t have exactly been easy for Bethany to move forward.
But after losing more than 60 percent of her blood and enduring several surgeries, Bethany returned to the water just a month after the attack. If that news wasn’t already remarkable enough, her story only gets better. Only two months after making her way back to the surf, Bethany placed fifth in the prestigious Open Women’s division surf competition before claiming the national title a little more than a year later.
In 2007, four years after the attack, Bethany realized her biggest dream of all, turning pro, and her incredible story of faith, hope and love prevailing in the face of tragedy still continues today.
As it turns out, the real Bethany Hamilton specifically had AnnaSophia in mind when thinking about who’d tell her story best on the big screen – something the 17-year-old actress says is a real honor. “I was just like ‘Oh my gosh, I can not believe this,’” Robb said in a recent interview for the movie’s official website. “The fact that she [Bethany] wanted me there to tell her story really made me want to do it.”
For Underwood, the “American Idol” alum who’s only graced the small screen on TV’s “How I Met Your Mother,” as the co-host of country music’s annual awards show and her own music videos in the past, Soul Surfer was definitely the right project for her film debut. Playing Hamilton’s youth leader Sarah Hill, Underwood says being part of the movie was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"It's all so new," Carrie says, "It's a learning process. But everyone was so nice and helpful and patient, it was really exciting for me. I never set out to be an actress, but I always said if something came along and it was for the right reasons, I would do it. And this script just felt right.”
For more information on Soul Surfer, rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material, check out www.soulsurferthemovie.com.
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About the Writer
After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, Crosswalk.com (she review movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media, Songs4Worship.com, PassAlong.com and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.