Obviously, any time a remake is going to be done, the question is always, “Why?” And when it came time to remake the 1991 movie Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah and Patrick Swayze as Bodhi, even director/cinematographer Ericson Core asked the very same question. That is, until he realized that what he wanted to do was re-imagine the connection between two men on a level deeper than what we often see in film.
This time around, with Luke Bracey as Utah and Edgar Ramirez as Bodhi, the film is about a young FBI agent who infiltrates a cunning team of thrill-seeking elite athletes suspected of carrying out inconceivable crimes. With the most daring athleticism ever seen in a motion picture, all shot in-camera with no CGI, these action-adventure feats are performed by real elite athletes representing the world’s best in big-wave surfing, wingsuit flying, sheer-face snowboarding, free rock climbing and high-speed motorcycling.
To promote the film’s release on Christmas day, actor Edgar Ramirez, filmmaker Ericson Core and wingsuit pilot/technical advisor Jeb Corliss gathered at the screening room at the London Hotel in West Hollywood to screen some footage for the press. We got to see a number of scenes that gave real insight into the type of film they were looking to make, and it was obvious why it was so important to bring together the greatest extreme athletes alive today and get them to do the most incredible action sports on the planet.
The first portion of the film that we saw showed a young and reckless Utah, as he and his friend decided to ride their dirt bikes through a treacherous trail and record themselves doing so. The footage was shot from above, below and every possible angle, so that when tragedy strikes, you feel the full impact. Seven years later, Utah has joined the FBI and is brought in on a case with a crew of individuals who are committing seemingly impossible crimes, including the most recent diamond heist where they were on motorcycles with the faces of presidents on their helmets. But this crew is not in it for the money. Instead, these guys are eco-warriors looking to survive and complete eight athletic ordeals through the most treacherous natural terrains and conditions.
The second portion of the film that we saw highlighted a surfing sequence with boats in an ocean party atmosphere while surfers are riding some of the world’s biggest waves. The surf footage is really awe-inspiring, as you watch these individuals surf waves that could easily engulf them, never to be seen again. This is the first time that Utah crosses paths with Bodhi and his crew, and through conversations during a yacht party, the two men start to feel each other out and get to the bottom of each other’s motives. Utah lets Bodhi know that he’s aware that he and his crew are trying to complete the eight mythological trials in nature.
The most truly death-defying sequence was in the third portion of the film that we were shown. After Bodhi takes Utah down a peg in his over-confidence, he also tells him that, “A man who pushes boundaries ultimately finds them,” and that there is a point with which everyone breaks. We then saw the wingsuit sequence with Bodhi’s crew joined by Utah, as they jump off a mountain and fly through areas that could seemingly kill them, at any moment. It is a sequence that will have you on the edge of your seat, especially as you think about the fact that not only was it shot for real, but proximity flying typically never has more than two people in line together and this scene had four.
Point Break will clearly be fast-paced and intense, and at its core, it’s message is that people should do something with their life that they’re deeply passionate about. Actor Edgar Ramirez said that he sees the athletes in the film as more than just athletes, and that their philosophy and approach make them poets because when you witness the majesty of nature and see how much these athletes respect it, you realize how much they appreciate life and want to live fully.
Here are some highlights of the Q&A:
How this Point Break is different from the original:
ERICSON CORE: The original Point Break is something that I’m a big fan of, and Kathryn Bigelow’s work is something that I’m a giant fan of. Ultimately, the original movie stands on its own and is fantastic. We all love it, and it influenced many of us, especially a lot of the athletes that are doing such extraordinary sports outside of the realm of what was possible in 1991. For me, when I heard about the title Point Break, I said, “I absolutely don’t want to remake that.” At the same time, there was something that I wanted to re-imagine about it, which was the overall story of Johnny Utah and Bodhi and the concepts that were there, and bring it into our time, in 2015, with the socio-environmental issues that are going on today and with the sports that have pushed the limits. I live in Venice Beach where the original story was told. I love that story, and it’s very much about America and it’s very much about the Southern California lifestyle. We wanted to expand beyond that, both in terms of actors that were more international and much more on a world stage, which we attempted to do.
Why he wanted to tackle Point Break, at all:
CORE: Point Break is a very classic tale, in terms of the relationship between Utah and Bodhi. It’s a chance to see that connection between two men on a deeper level, which we don’t get to see in films very much. Bodhi’s spirit is one that recognizes in Utah that darker side and that edge that he has. He sees someone that he can bring into his own family and save him, in a way. For Utah, it’s a question of whether he can move that far in the direction of Bodhi, as much as he is pulled to that world and knows it well. It’s about whether his compass can point to his own true north, instead of Bodhi’s.
Capturing the action, as the director and cinematographer:
CORE: It’s a challenge. The reason why most people shoot on green screen stages is that it’s much easier, but there’s a different feel to it. As entertaining as all those films are, there was something about the authenticity of the mentality, the thoughts, and the extreme nature behind it that we wanted to capture. Authenticity was really important, so to make it authentic, we wanted to do it for real. When I approached actors, and certainly the extreme athletes, the idea was that we were going to pull no punches. We were going to do these sports for real. We didn’t want to use CG and push them beyond the capabilities of what’s natural because they’re so extraordinary in their own way. It made it much more challenging to film. We went to 11 countries on four continents. A lot of those locations were picked by the athletes. We went to Switzerland because of Jeb, who’s flown the crack before, which is an extraordinary jump of thousands of feet that winds up flying below the earth’s surface into a crack. We went to Venezuela to climb Angel Falls. The athletes were not just stunt people in this, but they were everything. They were location scouts, they were collaborators, and Luke Bracey, who did an extraordinary job playing Utah, and Edgar Ramirez, who did such an amazing job playing Bodhi and giving such life and humanity to that character, there’s more than that that played Utah and Bodhi. The athletes also embodied those characters. It was a collective and ensemble cast that made it all together. So, it was wonderful, but it certainly made it difficult to shoot.
The importance of authenticity in the performances:
CORE: It was a wonderful around-the-world adventure for us. It was less of a classic film production and much more of an expedition for all of us. As a result, it was an expedition mentality. We all lived together. We all stayed in tents in Angel Falls. We all hauled gear up the mountains together. We used helicopters to transport ourselves. We were always on ropes. We were up in ice, we were on rock, and we were underwater. There was a lot of danger involved, and I give everyone credit for that. Not only the crew for the way we needed to do it, but the producers at Alcon allowed us to take incredible risk to go around the world to so many countries in so many tenuous locations with such danger, and allowed us to support it with the best of safety support. We allowed the athletes the time it took to jump, climb or ski down the mountain when the avalanche danger, the winds and the conditions were appropriate. It was an incredible risk for all of us. The actors, who are incredible craftspeople, were willing to be strapped to the top of mountains to learn to climb, or to be in the water to do scenes underwater with sharks in the background. There was tremendous risk, but the rewards always outweighed that. For the athletes, we went to the real places that were the holy grails of each of the sports.
That the original film inspired the modern-day extreme sports movement:
JEB CORLISS: If you think about it, ‘91 was pre-X Games. That movie came out and inspired a whole generation of people. It inspired my generation of wingsuit pilots and skydivers. There’s no question that movie created a movement of people towards skydiving. It just did. Period. It’s interesting because, when I got approached by Ericson, just hearing Point Break brought back these memories of childhood because it was one of the inspirations that got me into jumping, in the first place. And at least five of the other jumpers in the film, that was their motivation to get into jumping. It’s a really special moment to be able to be a part of something like that.
How much Corliss influenced the characters of Bodhi and Utah:
CORE: These guys look to live fully outside of the realms of what we do. Point Break had that spirit in it. Bodhi talked about trying to do something outside of the bounds of what he considered commerce slavery, or the way we all live 9 to 5 lives and then die. So, the idea is to push that limit while living life fully. Each of these guys have such respect for the natural landscape and the beauty of nature that’s around them that that became the premise for much of the film. It was necessary for Bodhi, in this film, to champion that sense of nature, what’s wrong in the world, and how to make it better for the limited time that we’re here. Jeb was the inspiration for a lot of that. A great deal of who Bodhi is in the film is Jeb. The earlier version of Jeb, in his earlier life, is Utah.
Point Break opens in theaters on December 25th (Christmas Day).
Check out images from the Point Break preview event below. All images are credited to Christina Radish: