27 Things You Should Know | Crave Visits the ‘Point Break’ Set
If we’re not already at “Peak Remake” crisis for film, we’re getting close.
One film that is perched toward the top of fan’s “WHY?!” remake list is this year’s upcoming Point Break re-imagining. The original 1991 film, about an FBI agent – named Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) – who goes undercover with a gang of surf-enthusiast bank robbers – headed up by a Zen master named Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) – served its anarchist audience properly in the 90s, had a major critical reappraisal due to director Kathryn Bigelow’s 21st century re-emergence, and became a cult sensation for live theatrical performances (with wet audience involvement). Story-wise, it also laid out the entire foundation for the first film of one of the most popular action franchises in the world: The Fast and the Furious.
In a very modern, and very isolated Austrian house, I got the chance to sit down with Kosove, the new Utah (played by Luke Bracey, The Best of Me), the new Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez, Deliver Us from Evil) and actress Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) to discuss the similarities and differences between the two films. And, due to spending a few days in the small town we’d made it to, also run into the Olympic athletes and extreme sports stars in the local pub to do shots, and hear even more about the film that they’d been hired for.
Below, you will find 27 things to know about the Point Break remake. I was sufficiently pleased with their answers for not only “why”, but also “how.” We were shown footage of a wingsuit chase, and my only response was “wow.” And as for the film itself, it washes ashore on Christmas. Here is a spoiler-free summary of our interviews from set.
Reshaping the 1991 Film for Modern Audiences
- First off, we’re sure you want a longer explanation for “why remake Point Break“? Producer Andrew Kosove (The Blind Side, Prisoners) said, “There are two reasons we decided to re-imagine Point Break. Number one is because the movie struck a cord in 1991 because we were coming off of 12 years of Republican administrations, Ronald Reagan, and the Wall Street go-go-go 80s. It represented some sort of counterculture or statement against the man […] However, 25 years later, we’ve experienced a level of consolidation and globalization of corporate power across countries. And dealing with how that affects the globe was perhaps inconceivable in 1991. Going off the grid to live your own way will resonate in a way, now, that wouldn’t have happened in a jaded 1991. And so I thought that was an interesting thing for us to re-explore in the Bodhi character.”
- To punctuate the global scale, Point Break shot in more than 10 countries, in North America, South America, Asia and Europe. And the main roles are played by actors of many nationalities, but only Bracey (who is Australian) had to use his non-Native accent to play the state-named Johnny Utah.
- “This group is more radical because the actions are on a global scale,” Ramirez said about the “Wolf Pack.” However, Ramirez drew distinctive lines between 1991 Point Break and Point Break 2015. “Instead of committing a crime to finance another one, we take from the system in order to turn it around. To give back, which is an expression of rebellion, too. It blurs the rules. These guys come from all around the world, they speak different languages, they’re sophisticated and know how to infiltrate a corporate system in order to alter it, change it, break it, and turn it around to give back to the people that they take from.”
- Echoing the change in the warrior code, Palmer says this Point Break focuses on “People who are so incredibly passionate about doing right by the world that breaking the law is inconsequential. It’s people vs. corporations; saving humanity and saving nature in some pretty radical ways. That means that if people get in their way, then those people are going to get hurt.”
- Taking that idea further, Palmer says don’t expect typical romantic conventions in this Point Break. “They all know they are going to have short lives. They can’t form bonds like getting married or having children, or being involved with anyone that can affect the cause. They have to live presently and purely.”
- “These guys are doing things against the companies that pollute and destroy the environment,” Kosove said. “And at the end of the day, they believe that the ends justify the means. In the original, Bodhi and the crew are trying to enjoy the endless summer. These guys have a specific political agenda” to keep summer from being permanent. “They don’t believe that reusable bags at the grocery store is the answer to curing the environment.”
- Heard enough about the political agenda, and just want to know about the action? The action will look as authentic as possible. How do we know? “My favorite channels on YouTube are the Red Bull and Go Pro channels,” Bracey declared. “It’s stuff I watch all the time. This movie really incorporates that world in a realistic and proper way. Having these world class athletes here gives us credibility because the people that are performing these stunts are the world’s best. Xavier de Le Rue snowboards in this movie. Chris Sharma does rock climbing stunts (as himself), and Laird Hamilton is surfing for us.”
- In addition to the athletic all-stars that Bracey mentions, Kosove confirmed that Jeb Corliss, the most famous BASE-jumper and wingsuit pilot in the world, supervised and participated in the major wingsuit getaway stunts. Surfer Sebastian Zeitz and skateboarder Bob Burnquist also contributed.
- “Extreme sports didn’t exist in 1991,” Kosove explained. “There were no X-Games, or wingsuiting. So the idea of surfing in Santa Monica on six foot waves needed to be blown out. So we took the idea and made it global, and explored the world of (multiple) extreme sports.”
- While this Point Break will touch down on almost every continent, there is still a home base for the Wolf Pack. Their’s will be off the grid—in a secluded cottage without electricity—in Cortina, Italy. Speaking to one of the themes in the film, Palmer plans on taking her children to the cottage to unplug. “I want our boys to be able to understand just how fragile life can be, and how simple life can be without having so much stuff,” Palmer said.
- While it is unclear if this is how Utah infiltrates the Wolf Pack, Bracey does say that he is initiated into the group via “an undercover fight club in a dodgy part of France.” In describing the choreography, Bracey smiles and says, “It’s very brutal, very street. Knees, elbows and head butts.”
Redefining the Characters
- Unlike the anarchist bank robbers and thrill-seeking surfers, Ramirez sees this Wolf Pack as “A ring of monks. We have a very strict code of ethics.” Ramirez says that while Swayze’s Bodhi “was more about the sense of pleasure to the rush from thrills, here the rush and pleasure comes from the high sense of retribution for what you can get from the Earth.”
- On tackling an iconic role, Ramirez said, “What Patrick Swayze did was beautiful and unique. There’s no point in either trying to pay honor to what he did, or trying to differentiate completely from what he did… We’re telling a different story here. The elements are there, there are daredevils and there is an FBI infiltration… but in this case we are ecological activists. For some people we are ecological terrorists. It’s a fine line and a matter of perspective.”
- Unlike Lori Petty‘s Tyler in the original Point Break, the main female role will be a leader within the pack of men. Samsara (Palmer) will get to rock climb, ride a motorbike and swim. But more than partaking in the action, Samsara will be central to Bodhi’s decision-making. “These boys band around Samsara and look to her as an oracle type. She is deeply rooted in her spirituality,” Palmer said. “She’s always focused on inner work and these men look to her for answers. She’s their guru.” Of course, this shouldn’t be a major surprise as “samsara” means reincarnation in many Eastern religions.
- The Buddhist and motherly connection is more than a name, however, as Palmer divulged that she was already reading Buddhism for Mothers when she was offered the part.
- Bracey’s Utah will have a more tragic backstory than the original Johnny Utah (Reeves’ Utah was recognized by Swayze’s Bodhi as the former quarterback for Ohio State who won the Rose Bowl but blew out his knee and never had a shot at the NFL). “Utah is really troubled,” Bracey said. “He was torn between two worlds for whis whole life. He’s been alone for most of his life, and he’s had to bring himself up. He fell into the world of extreme sports, and has had a death wish for most of his life.”
- Alluding to the possibility of knowing more of Utah’s family, Bracey noted that “His mother’s side is very spiritual, and connected to nature. His father’s side is very structured and strict and that’s what drew him to the FBI.” As for football heroism? Although Bracey played rugby for years in Australia, this Utah’s main sport will be snowboarding and motocross.
- What is the path that Samsara sets Bodhi (and Utah) on? “Essentially she tasks them with these eight physically, mentally, and spiritually challenging quests, and by the eighth you’ll achieve enlightenment. They both want to be on the same level as Samsara,” Palmer says. “Which I think is really refreshing.” But while Samsara pushes Bodhi to achieve enlightenment, Palmer says her character’s approach with Utah is different, as she attempts “to show him that he is an eco-warrior.”
- That ecological warrior society will be more open to adding new members than the original film was. Ramirez said this is because the society has a definition for being together. “We share similar views on the relationship between what we do to the Earth and what we take from the Earth. Whatever we do as a group has to do with the geological forces of the planet; if you take something from a geological force, then there’s a commitment—a responsibility—to give it back.”
- However, although the operation is global and not for personal gain, Bracey said we can expect the Bodhi-Utah connection to remain the same. “Bodhi still sees his younger self in Utah, with a soul that has a lot of skill, a lot of courage, a lot of drive but hasn’t figured out the right way to channel it. And I think Bodhi really wants to mentor him and push him.”
- And before you worry too much, “Surfing is still [Bodhi’s] superpower,” Ramirez said. “But these guys are not driven by the ego of conquering a specific stunt, it’s about connecting to that element.” To get into that spirit, Ramirez read the writings of a Buddhist monk; Ramirez said he internalized it because “Evolution comes in waves, the ocean goes in waves, energy goes in waves, sound travels in waves,” he smiled. “It’s a good concept; conquering waves and conquering life.”
Taking the Stunts to the Extreme
- Because director Ericson Core is also the cinematographer, the cast joked that he worked with two different professional faces. “He has his cinematographer face and he has his directing face,” Palmer laughed. “When he puts on the cinematographer face, he is looking through you, at the light, angles, and camera position. Then he’ll move into the directing face and reconnect with the actors he’d just looked through, ‘Let’s do rehearsal’.”
- Many of the big action sequences were done by second unit, however, as Kosove noted that weather would make them move shooting days around “because those are the real athletes doing those stunts and if the weather conditions aren’t okay, we need to wait it out… This is an in-camera movie, it’s not visual effects—other than some face replacement—but the stunts are real. Wingsuiting, skateboarding, motorcross, extreme towing, surfing, free-climbing, it’s a lot of cool stuff.”
- Ramirez felt not only a respect for the athletes who did their stunts, but also an obligation “to be respectful to these activities” and their reasoning for living life in such a way “that they try to make the best out of it while they’re here.”
- Kosove said that part of the reason they decided to remake Point Break was the different types of camera technology that allowed the camera to travel with the athletes. “It’s a pretty amazing job that Kathryn Bigelow did on [Point Break]… when frankly, camera technology didn’t exist to be able to do what we’re doing here. We are using GoPro, Red, Alexa, all kinds of different cameras… We have a remote control helicopter with 12 propellors that we can attach a Red camera to. And we can do that with a real stunt off the top of a gondola station at 10,000 feet.”
- Even with cameras on remote-controlled helicopters, most of the second unit shoots had camera operators following the action. “You’re with them,” Kosove noted. “I think this is going to be a really genuinely unique film experience in IMAX and 3D.”
- Kosove made all of these remarks in summer 2014, prior to the triumphant return of practical stunts in big-budgeted action films of this summer, such as Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, which geared up action fans who are tired of everything looking so fake and without consequences. However, Kosove did go further than just boasting of their stunts: “Basically, all action movies, now, are superhero movies. It’s action and violence without consequences. Guys and women go crashing through walls; everybody is fine, then he gets up and fights again. Point Break will be old-fashioned. It’s real action, that’s really being done, and there are real consequences for the characters. People get hurt, people die,” Kosove said. “It will be interesting to see if the audience still has a love for these kinds of movies—which is what action movies used to be—or have they gone so far into the world of superheroes? With Point Break, we’re trying to bring a genre back to some degree.”
Point Break will be back in theaters on December 25.