Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in ‘Point Break’ (Everett)
By Adam K. Raymond
Twenty-four years after Kathryn Bigelow’s action opus Point Break was released comes an official remake, appropriately titled Point Break. (It’s hitting theaters on Friday) The surfboards are back and so are the stick-ups in an action movie about undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey, taking over the Keanu Reeves role) who infiltrates a ring of adrenaline-loving robbers led by the charismatic Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez, in the Patrick Swayze part). Even the infamous president masks make a return, albeit in a more extreme form than in the original. But before the rush of Point Break (2015) arrives, let’s revisit Point Break (1991) with these extreme facts collected from Blu-ray featurettes and interviews throughout the years.
1. Point Break co-producer Rick King arrived at the original idea for the movie during a surf lesson in Malibu. He’d just read an article about Los Angeles’s status as the bank-robbery capital of the world and the broad strokes of the idea came to him.
2. King took the idea to aspiring screenwriter Peter Iliff, who was working as a waiter at the time. Iliff received $6,000 to write three drafts.
3. Before long, Ridley Scott was attached to turn the script into a movie. “He spent as much in pre-production as I spend on a film, and then decided not to do it,” King said in a 2013 interview. In a Blu-ray featurette, Iliff recalls the crew, which had spent five months building sets, tearing it all down in one day after Scott pulled out.
4. The movie languished in obscurity until director Kathryn Bigelow came along and decided to make it her fourth film. Her then-husband James Cameron helped perform rewrites on the script, but received no credit.
5. Early titles included Johnny Utah and Riders on the Storm.
Watch the original ‘Point Break’ trailer:
6. Prior to Keanu Reeves’ casting as FBI agent Johnny Utah — whose name was inspired by Joe Montana’s — actors such as Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp and Matthew Broderick were mentioned as possibilities for the role. Bigelow wanted Reeves though. She insisted that she would be able to turn him into an action star.
7. Patrick Swayze read the script and immediately wanted to play the Bodhi, a character whose spirituality reflected his own. Swayze was at the height of his stardom when he was cast. Ghost had just come out, and he brought star power to a cast of otherwise little-known actors.
8. The rest of the ex-presidents gang was made up of actor James LeGros and surfers-turned-actors Bojesse Christopher and John Philbin. Philbin would go on to serve as surf instructor on Blue Crush. Christopher appears in the Point Break remake as an FBI agent.
9. Johnny Utah’s love interest Tyler was more of a traditional surfer chick in the script, King recalls on a Blu-ray featurette. After auditioning dozens of young, blonde actresses for the part, producers saw Lori Petty. She quickly became Bigelow’s choice. The director wanted to cast a woman who was more athletic than Hollywood’s typical beach babe.
Watch Tyler trying to teach Utah to surf:
10. Reeves and Swayze had previously appeared in the hockey movie Youngblood together. It was only Reeves’ second film, but he left an impression on Swayze, who finished Youngblood thinking “this guy is going to go somewhere,” he says in a Blu-ray featurette.
11. The nighttime beach scenes, including the football game, were shot at Leo Carrillo State Park, a popular location in Hollywood. Inception and The Karate Kid, among many other films, have shot there.
12. Swayze injured himself a couple times while preparing for and shooting the movie. First, he cracked a few ribs while learning to surf. Then he busted up his knee, an injury that made it swell so much, a doctor had to drain the fluid from it each night.
13. Since Utah was a former college football star, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel served as Reeves’ football mentor on set. His job was to teach the actor how to throw, but Reeves was hopeless. Bigelow had to use someone else to launch the balls because the actor couldn’t complete any of the passes.
14. In his 2004 book Where the Money Is, FBI Special Agent William J. Rehder writes that he spent some time with Reeves to give him tips for the role. “Unfortunately, none of those pointers came within a million miles of the finished film,” he writes. Turns out life as an FBI agent isn’t as exciting as Point Break makes it out to be. Nor is it very accurate. As Rehder writes, Point Break is “one of the dumbest bank robbery movies ever made.”
The Ex-Presidents crew from ‘Point Break’ (Everett)
15. Swayze, Reeves and Petty all trained with self-proclaimed “surf doctor of Hollywood,” Dennis Jarvis, to prepare for their roles. It was a challenge, he told EW in 1991, because they were all beginners. “Patrick said he’d been on a board a couple of times, Keanu definitely hadn’t surfed before, and Lori had never been in the ocean in her life.”
16. The frenzied foot chase through houses and yards of Los Angeles was filmed with a specially made rig, dubbed the “Pogo-cam.” It was a camera mounted on a stick with a gyrostabilizer on the bottom. Camera operator James Muro ran behind and in front of the actors, pointing the camera at them with as much accuracy as he could muster. “What excited me about that is how absolutely alive it made the frame,” Bigelow told the New York Times in 2012.
17. In the foot chase, Bodhi wears his mask the entire time, which is integral to the plot, but also necessary because Swayze was in Europe promoting Ghost at the time it was filmed. He only saw the scene after the movie was finished and said he was glad to have missed out.
18. Stunt coordinator Glenn Wilder trained the actors on how to fight for the scenes involving hand-to-hand combat. In a Blu-ray featurette, he says that everyone worked hard except for Anthony Kiedis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman who appears as a member of War Child’s gang. That’s why in Utah’s initial fight with the gang, Kiedis is punched out first. Kiedis didn’t like that, Wilder says, and he tried harder on subsequent training days to avoid being the sacrificial lamb.
Lori Petty and Keanu Reeves (Everett)
19. Skydiving scenes featuring the primary actors were mostly shot on a rig that held the actors out in the air, 10 feet or so off the ground. Cameramen were on the same rig so they would move as if they too were skydiving. High-powered fans were placed beneath the actors to simulate wind.
20. The rest of the skydiving scenes were shot with stunt men, including the scene that has the ex-presidents jumping with Johnny Utah over a body water. That water is Lake Powell in the state of Utah, where the film’s second unit shot for six days. Other skydiving scenes were shot in California, at locations such as Edwards Air Force Base.
21. Swayze took up skydiving during filming and persuaded several actors, including Gary Busey, to join in on jumps. Before long, the producers made him stop: It wasn’t worth the risk to them or the studio’s insurance company. Swayze wanted to continue jumping though, so he struck a deal with Bigelow. If he stopped jumping recreationally, he’d be allowed to jump once for the movie. That jump comes after Bodhi tells Utah “Adios, amigo.”
22. For Swayze’s big jump, Bigelow was in the plane with a parachute strapped on in order to direct the actors. Likewise, during surfing scenes, she was either on a boat just outside of the shot or “sitting on a surfboard, yelling 'action’ and 'cut,’ then falling off the board,” she said in a 1995 Film Comment interview.
Patrick Swayze in ‘Point Break’ (Everett)
23. Bojesse Christopher and John Philbin did their own surfing, while Matt Archbold and Dino Andino subbed for Swayze and James Le Gros during the surfing montages. For Bodhi’s final wave, big-wave rider Darrick Doerner doubled for Swayze and intentionally dove off his board to make it look like Bodhi was going down forever.
24. The film’s final scene was shot around six months after the rest of it. That’s why the characters have different hair than in the rest of the film. Reeves had grown his out to shoot the Bill and Ted sequel, while Swayze had cut his to shoot City of Joy. Ultimately, the new hair worked with the spirit of the ending, which had Utah abandoning the FBI.
25. The song “Nobody Rides for Free,” which played over the end credits was written and performed by musician Steve Caton before it was brought to Ratt to record for the movie. The band made tweaks to the song and recorded its own version, which went on to appear on its greatest-hits album.