Surfer Press Junket
The Luce Hotel
March 31, 2011
Written by Paulette Cohn
An in-depth chat with AnnaSophia Robb and Bethany
Watching AnnaSophia Robb shoot
the curl in the upcoming movie Soul Surfer,
you would never guess the disparity between her
and real-life surfer Bethany Hamilton, who she plays
in the inspiring true story about a teenager who
lost her left arm in a near-fatal shark attack and
overcame towering odds to become a champion.
But when the actress and the athlete
recently walked into The Luxe Hotel in Brentwood,
California, the statuesque, blonde Hamilton towered
over the petite, 5-feet 2-inch Robb. But it was
obvious that size didn't matter, as the two appeared
to be great pals and members of a very special mutual
"I think of her as a friend,
instead of a role model," says Robb, but she
also admits that Hamilton's courage and unwavering
Christian faith are a source of inspiration to everyone
who hears her story.
Hamilton, actually chose Robb
to bring her dramatic story to life, because the
surfer had admired Robb’s work in several
of her movies which include, Because of Winn-Dixie,
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge
to Terabithia and Race to Witch Mountain.
Now that Soul Surfer,
originally a book but turned into a film by director/writer
Sean McNamara, is coming to the screen, millions
more will see the inspirational story of Hamilton's
fight to regain the dreams she thought she had lost
following the October 31, 2003 shark attack, which
nearly took her life.
Soul Surfer, from TriStar
Pictures & Film District, opens in theaters
nationwide on Friday, April 8. The movie also stars
Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Lorraine Nicholson and
marks the film debut of Carrie Underwood.
Question: Sean McNamara, [the
director], told me that you picked AnnaSophia to
portray you in the movie.
Hamilton: Yes. My mom and I had seen her
in a couple of movies like Bridge to Terabithia,
Because of Winn-Dixie and a couple of others.
I don't know. I just really liked her. She is blonde
Question: How quickly did you
respond to her pitch?
Robb: I didn't know she had handpicked me.
My agent sent me the script and I read it. I was,
‘Did this actually happen? Did she really
do this? Did all this amazing stuff really happen?’
So when I met with Sean, I asked him all these questions.
He was, "Yeah, that actually happened. Yeah,
she actually did that.’ I was blown away.
I couldn't believe it. I was so excited as an actress
to be able to play the role. When he told me that
Bethany knew about me and recommended me, I couldn't
believe it. So, of course, I wanted to do it. I
wanted to do it since I read it, but then that was,
‘Of course, I will do it.’
Question: Anna, you are so young.
Can you imagine having a crisis like that and overcoming
it like Bethany did?
At 13…I am 17 now. If that had been me, I
don't know what I would have done. I most definitely
wouldn't have been that strong. It is pretty incredible.
Her faith at that age … maybe it was because
she was that age that you felt you were invincible
and kept going for it. I so admire her and her family,
too, for continuing.
Question: Did Bethany teach you
how to surf?
She came out to Hawaii as soon as she could prior
to filming and she came to my island and my coach
Russell Lewis and I team-tagged coaching her. It
was really fun. She didn't have enough time to nail
surfing. It takes years and years. I just really
wanted her to have fun and get comfortable in the
ocean, so when she was out there shooting the ocean
scenes, paddling and sitting on the board and duck
diving, she would be able to do it. You did really
Question: What was the hardest
thing for you to master?
I don't think I ever mastered anything. I can always
improve, but I guess it would be … I fell
in love with surfing. Spending time in the ocean
and becoming comfortable with it and gaining a passion
for it and a love and appreciation, that wasn't
the most difficult thing, but it was key to Bethany's
role. You can't really learn that. You have to experience
it and bring it forth.
Question: One of the things we
saw in the film was Bethany working out to really
get in shape to compete with the other girls. Did
you have to get in shape?
Yeah. I worked my butt off. I worked six weeks in
Hawaii training and two weeks back in Colorado,
swimming and doing breath-holding stuff. Then two
hours of surfing every day and working out on land.
Bethany helped me change my diet so I could gain
more muscle. David Zelon, our producer, trained
Lorraine and me and he would be in our face going
… I feel like doing wall squats because we
were so strong and I wanted to get that strong and
get surf muscles. He would be, "Would Bethany
give up?" We were, ‘No!’ And I
would do another minute of wall squats. You laughed
with me all the time.
Question: Have you kept up with
any of it?
I try. I do certain stuff. I did wall squats for
a while, but no, it was like a full-time job working
Question: Bethany, do you have
to be stronger than the other women to compete?
I think for me it is just … I am not thinking
how the other girls are fit. I am just trying to
bring my fitness to its personal best. I am super
passionate about it. I love working out. I have
a really good trainer on Kauai, who is very wise.
We started with posture correction, keeping your
spine in proper alignment, so when you are training
your body is getting the right strength training.
If your body is out of whack, you are going to be
training your body to get more out of whack. It
is nice to have somebody on Kauai to work with me.
I don't know enough to guide myself, so I do strength
training, posture correction and eating healthy.
I eat all organic and a lot of vegetables.
Question: Your story is so inspirational.
How did you find it within yourself to continue
after such a tragic event?
It can be looked at as tragic, but I look at it
more, "What can I do now?" At the time,
surfing was and now is and always will be so special,
I am just passionate about it. I wasn't sure if
I was going to be able to do it and that scared
me more than the sharks. I just really had to give
it a try. I ended going out about three weeks later
– a little more than that – and I just
knew I would be doing it for a while once I got
up. Then I just worked hard after that and had fun
with it, too.
Question: It is kind of ironic
that 127 Hours
came out about the same time. Have you met Aaron
and seen the film?
I did see his film. I had a long flight to
Australia. That was one of the few films worth watching.
It was gnarly. The movie was really beautiful and
very creative in its filming. There is really only
him and a couple of other characters in the film.
It is really intense. I fast-forwarded through some
of it. It was amazing. He seems to be incredible.
I haven't met him yet. It is funny because his accident
happened the same year as mine and then we both
had a movie come out the same year.
It is funny because he is from Denver and I was
going to go see the movie with a friend of mine
and all of a sudden, I was, ‘Why are there
so many people here? This is really annoying. I
need to get in the movie.’ It was a small
artsy theater. Then they said the guy was there.
I knew he knew of you. I waited because the screening
was late. I said, ‘Hi! I am AnnaSophia. I
play Bethany Hamilton in her movie. I think you
are so awesome. I am excited to see your movie.’
He said, ‘That is so cool. I haven't met her
Question: Your film is much less
gory. Was it hard for you? You said you fast-forwarded
through . Was that the part? A girl passed out in
It is really gnarly. The attack in our movie is
really quick, but his is … he alone is removing
it himself. I didn't want to watch it. I was, ‘OOOO.’
Question: People have been telling
your story since it happened. Sometimes I am sure
it is nice and sometimes it hasn't been the way
you felt it happened. So it sounds as if you had
a lot of control in the way this movie told your
story. Did you realize how lucky you were to have
My family and I have been so blessed to have
Sean McNamara as director and everyone producing
was fairly receptive. It was nice that they allowed
us to give feedback and keep the story as true and
realistic as it could be. It is really hard to compress
it into an hour and a half. Even us, we were trying
to come up with fictional stuff to portray an emotion
that we wanted to share. But overall, seeing the
finished film, I think it captures who we are and
what we stand for and our passion for surfing. It
is exciting to have it and be happy with it.
Question: Why do you think you
were able to turn this story into a global phenomenon?
There is this one little thing in the end credits
when I was really little and I laugh every time
that I see it: "Me, quit? Never." I guess
that is just part of who I am ever since I was little.
I would say that in front of the camera. It was
like this big camera crew. It is part of who I am.
I don't think she ever thought of it as inspiring
other people, just doing something you love. Surfers
don't get that much media attention. It is just
something she wanted to do, not to inspire millions,
but to be happy with herself. To be able to live
and to continue doing what she loves. No one ever
wants to give up their passion, so she did it for
herself and God made it into a phenomenon.
Question: Millions were inspired
by this story. People are going to see this film
and go away with the message of her life. For you,
who got to know her, how did knowing her change
I am not like a completely changed person.
Bethany is a real person. She is my real friend.
I think we encourage each other to do our best and
keep the faith and not crumble under pressures.
It has become a really good friendship. I think
of her as a friend, instead of a role model. She
is. I do look up to her. I think what she is doing
Question: What is next for you?
Right now, it is my junior year. I am finishing
promoting this and then I have to get back to school
for [college prep tests] SATs on May 7th. We have
to prep. The ACTs also. The AP test and everything.
Question: Where are you going
to go to college?
I am looking a lot of places. I am not sure.
Question: What about the prom?
Are you excited for that?
I think I got my prom dress today.
Question: Is it a Hollywood designer
It is not.
Question: A thrift store?
I love thrift stores. If I could have, I
Question: What about a prom date?
Nope. It is in a month or two from now.
Question: Isn't it true that
a lot of high schoolers aren't taking dates to prom
A lot of us just broke up with our boyfriends, so
we are going to go in a big girl group and have
so much fun. It is about the dress and having fun.
Question: What is your romance
Question: It looks like there
was someone at the end of the film?
That was just a friendship and he was actually
a fictional character. I am a patient girl and all
my friends are the same way. We are not in a rush
for the right person. We want to wait for the right
person. I am definitely excited to meet that person.
I am saving my purity, plus I am so busy.