There are worse jobs to have than learning how to surf in Hawaii for a role in a movie, and Dennis Quaid isn’t complaining. In “Soul Surfer,” Quaid plays the father of Bethany Hamilton, who as a teenager lost an arm in a shark attack and went on to become a professional surfer. Quaid sat down with Metro to talk surfing, working in Hawaii and having the person your playing standing just off-screen.
Had you heard of Bethany’s story before getting the script?
I saw Bethany on the “Today” show on her book tour about two Christmases ago. There was something about her that just struck me, how inspirational and special she was, at the same time being so normal. I just welled up hearing her story. Then they called me five days later and my agent said, “Do you know who Bethany Hamilton is? They want you to play her dad.” So that was a pretty easy yes.
What was your reaction to her story?
It was inspiring, is really what it was. It’s just so special, the whole family, really. How they handled it. They really turned lemons into lemonade. And Bethany just took this horrific shark attack that happened to her and just made it a bump in the road of her life.
Had you done much surfing before the movie?
None. None at all. And it’s really hard to learn. I had really great teachers and the benefit of time. Once you actually catch a wave and ride it, it’s such a great feeling. I gave up golf for surfing for a while, which is a big thing for me. It was like two months that I had for training, all in Hawaii, where the water’s warm. Now I surf back here and I have a wetsuit that has a heating coil in it. Those winter months… The water’s, like, 87 degrees out there and 50-something degrees here. Big diff.
How was filming in Hawaii?
Hawaii is the greatest location. Usually I get locations where I’m in eastern Europe and I’m up to my shoulders in mud, and it’s winter and I’m wearing summer clothes at three o’clock in the morning. And to be in Hawaii with the whole family — nobody spent time in their trailers. We were just all out on the beach every day.
Any plans to play any more presidents?
Not at present. Once you get to be a certain age, they start asking you play the president. You know, once you start acting grey around your temples, I guess you qualify for president.