Principal photography begins on Soul Surfer

Published 06 February 2010  |  
Transporting a real-life tale of adventure, tragedy, courage, and a story as impressive as Hawaii's most famous waves, principal photography began this week on the North Shores of Oahu and Kauai, on Soul Surfer. The inspirational film is based on the autobiography of 19-year-old champion surfer Bethany Hamilton, who, for over six years, has defied all odds to compete and win professional championships after losing her arm in a shark attack at age thirteen.

Soul Surfer stars Golden Globe nominee Dennis Quaid (as Bethany's father Tom), Academy Award winner Helen Hunt (as Bethany's mother Cheri), Young Artist Award winner AnnaSophia Robb (as Bethany Hamilton) and four-time Grammy winner and platinum-selling music artist Carrie Underwood (as Church Youth Leader Sarah Hill) in her film debut. The cast also includes Lorraine Nicholson (as Alana Blanchard) and Kevin Sorbo (as Holt Blanchard).

Newly launched Mandalay Vision and Brookwell McNamara Entertainment and Life's A Beach Entertainment present Soul Surfer, a Sean McNamara Film, distributed by Affirm Films, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company, financed by Enticing Entertainment and Island Film Group. Sean McNamara will direct from a screenplay by McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk based on the best-selling novel Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton. Contributors to the screenplay include Ron Bass, Jen Smolka and Kara Holden. The film is produced by Douglas Schwartz, David Brookwell, Sean McNamara and Roy Dutcher Hofstetter and executive produced by David Zelon, David Tice and Dominic Ianno.

Chronicling the rise of a promising young athlete, a debilitating tragedy and one of the greatest sports comebacks ever, Soul Surfer is a poignant story about the heart and soul of a champion. Hawaiian native Bethany Hamilton entered her first major surfing competition at age eight, going on to win contests such as the 1999 Haleiwa Menehune Championships and competing in the National Scholastic Surfing Association circuit. By thirteen she was well-respected in the surfing world, but her dream of becoming a pro surfer was interrupted, on October 31, 2003, when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai's North Shore.

Losing more than half her blood, yet miraculously surviving, Bethany was now living without a left arm. The determination to pursue her dream, however, had not been taken away. She was back in the water a month later, learning to paddle with one arm and to find her balance on the surfboard. Rip Curl, her surf sponsor and supporter of the film, never gave up on her dreams either. In fact, two summers later Bethany Hamilton took first place in the NSSA National Championships, a goal she had sought to achieve since before the shark attack. In 2008, Bethany began competing full-time in the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series and recently competed at the ASP World Junior Championships. In 2008 and 2009, Bethany finished in the finals numerous times including second place in the World Junior Pro in Portugal in 2009 to propel her into the top 12 world rankings. She won the Nickelodeon 2004 "Teen Choice" award and the 2004 "ESPY" award and 2005 USA Today "Free Spirit Award."

Bethany Hamilton has become an inspirational icon to people around the world, transcending the sport of surfing by overcoming adversity, achieving her dreams, and encouraging others to do the same.

"I've been a writer and producer for the past 32 years, and I've never encountered a more inspiring true story than Bethany Hamilton's" stated Doug Schwartz (Baywatch co-creator). "The movie will encourage people worldwide to rise above adversity."

"Watching her surf is like an optical illusion. She does things that your mind can't immediately comprehend," offered executive producer David Zelon.

"Witnessing Bethany's historical sports comeback and inspirational effect on people 8 to 80 years old has been a privilege" added Hamilton's manager and producer Roy Dutcher Hofstetter.

Hamilton's autobiography, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (Simon & Schuster) has sold nearly 1.5 million copies since its publication in 2004. A sequel, Soul Surfer –Now a Movie, is planned in conjunction with the movie's theatrical release.

Golden Globe and SAG nominee for his performance in Far From Heaven, Dennis Quaid is represented by William Morris Entertainment and currently stars in the film Legion and will next be seen in the HBO movie A Special Relationship where he plays former President Bill Clinton.

Helen Hunt was last seen starring in the critically acclaimed Then She Found Me – a film she wrote, produced and directed starring alongside Colin Firth and Bette Midler. She also has Every Day coming out later this year with Liev Schreiber.

AnnaSophia Robb made an impression on U.S. and global audiences with her breakthrough role as Opal, opposite Jeff Daniels, in the 2005 family film Because of Winn-Dixie. Subsequent films include Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde), Bridge to Terabithia (for which she won a 2008 Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress) and the science-fiction thriller Race to Witch Mountain. AnnaSophia was also nominated for the Critic's Choice Award for Best Young Actress. Robb is represented by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.

A five-time Grammy Award winner, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the 2009 Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, and three-time CMA and ACM Female Vocalist winner, Carrie Underwood has amassed more than 11 million in U.S. album sales since her debut CD in 2005, more than any other American Idol winner. Along the way, she has consistently broken new ground and became the first country artist in history to achieve eleven consecutive #1 singles. Underwood's North American 2010 headline tour, "Play On Tour," will launch in March.

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