Behind The Movie: The Man Behind Point Break's Johnny Utah

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posted by James Willmott

You’ve seen him in Australia’s Home And Away, you’ve seen him in the 2011 blockbuster Monte Carlo and now, it’s time to see Luke Bracey in the much anticipated re-installment of Point Break. The Sydney born actor has been taming the Hollywood movie scene for years, and with his most recent major role as the infamous Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves in the original), the action packed flick of the year, Point Break is one not to miss.

Keeping you on the edge of the seat with an in depth plot line and extreme sports scenes only the best of the best can master, Point Break brings the world of action sports to Hollywood’s big screen, featuring the biggest names of each respected industry and showcasing each of their incredible talents. From the best big wave surfers in the world, to snowboarders dominating Switzerlands gnarliest slopes and everything in between (literally), Point Break truly has something for everyone.

We caught up with Luke direct from Hollywood to discover more about the exciting role and what it truly meant to play Johnny Utah.

Thanks for taking the time to have a quick chat about the new Point Break, Luke!
Yeah, no worries! Thanks for having me guys!

What was it like working with the film crew? In comparison to other projects, what was so different about Point Break?
We worked with film crews from all over the world, which was a really interesting thing. We went to all these different places, 11 countries in 4 different continents so we were working with different types of people all the time which was amazing. But also I got to work with Dom King, who obviously is one of the legends in surf photography. For me, working with all these different people who specialise in all these different paths, it was a pretty awesome experience.

How do you think all the action sports were represented in the film?
Yeah, I mean the thing we made sure of in this movie is to make sure all the sports were very well respected. One thing we did was get together with all the best athletes in these sports to help advise and perform these stunts. We’d do stuff where we’d be on the top of a cliff in Switzerland and we’d have Jeb Corliss next to us to do the wing suiting sequence and we’d ask him things like ‘do we put our goggles on before we zip up or do we zip up and then put our goggles on? The one thing we really all wanted to do was show the ultimate respect to these athletes and these sports, because it’s really serious stuff these guys are doing. These days, people like this just aren’t there for a thrill on a Sunday, they dedicate their lives to this stuff and they are extreme athletes. For us, we really wanted to do Point Break justice and ensure everything was legitimate. The tiniest, fine details are really important, we want everyone to be able to go to the movie and know that’s exactly how these things happen in real life.

Do you participate in any extreme sports yourself? How different is Johnny Utah from Luke Bracey?
I mean, he’s pretty different from myself, but pretty similar too. I grew up on the Northern Beaches in Sydney surfing, with the original Point Break on the TV every week or two. For me, I really have a love for extreme sports, surfing in general and everything else around it. For me, it was like I was a kid in a candy store being able to hang out with all the world’s best extreme sports athletes.

Growing up did you ever think you’d have the opportunity? It must feel like a dream come true to play the character of Johnny Utah?
I had no idea I’d ever be an actor in general really and now all of a sudden I’m Johnny Utah, I’m still pinching myself. I thought I’d be a rugby player and a builder for sure!

You’ve done so well with the role so hats off! It’s almost like watching a David Attenborough film with narrative drive!
Yeah exactly, right!? All these places we went to really opened me up and allowed me to play the character to the best of my ability. My girlfriend even said it was like a David Attenborough movie in 3D times 10, so its good to know that opinion is across the board!

Obviously throughout the film all the locations were absolutely incredible. Did you have a favourite location to shoot at?
Selfishly I got to see the big swell in Tahiti, so that was really amazing. I was sitting in the channel watching Teahupo’o go off its nut was incredible. I was sitting there just watching Bruce Irons, Laurie Towner, Dylan Longbottom and Billy Kemper just playing surf rodeo with the pacific monsters, it was just amazing. It was probably one of the best days of my life actually. Another part was definitely camping underneath Angel Falls for a couple of weeks, living there in one of the most isolated places I’ll probably ever go in my life and being in a place where not many people get to go was really special. So yeah, Tahiti and Venezuela for sure.

Did you see Laurie Towner wipe out at Chopes?
I did yeah, it was pretty heavy. He got pretty banged up. I saw him a few days alter and in true Laurie style he asks how I’m doing first. I was like ‘How am I? How are YOU man?!’ He looked like he was in a car accident or something so it was pretty heavy. We also had a pretty gnarly moment when water patrol went to rescue someone in the water and his ski got literally dragged underwater by an absolute monster, that was pretty scary. Throughout the making of the whole movie we just wanted to make sure everyone got home safe.

Did you surf it at all?
Unfortunately, nah. I had two or three months left of filming and couldn’t really do that to the insurance company haha! I had to make sure I was being responsible. I remember going out he day after the huge swell and it was still 10 foot easy, and I was getting towed around by Laird (Hamilton) and dropping the rope and what not to get the shot. We came back on top of one and I remember Laird looking back at me as if to say ‘this is what it looks like to get properly towed into one’ and I edged out a little bit which would have looked like I was trying to whip myself into it. He turned back around and shook his head and went off the left as if to say ‘Nah mate…’

How long did it take to shoot the movie?
We did principal photography for about 6 months, and then some re-shoots and little bits here and there to give the final touches. Principal photography was defiantly the main thing. It was 5 to 6 days a week over the course of 6 months, in 11 different countries so it got a bit exhausting after a while.

What was your relationship with the director? Did you have much input to how Johnny Utah was portrayed on screen?
I did in a way, but then also it’s a completely collaborative art, with me just being the actor and saying the words. There is also the director and the studio above it all too. I got to play him as I wanted and then they got to choose the takes they wanted to choose. Overall I’m really happy with how it turned out though.

Did you create any good friendships along the way? As you said earlier you were with Laird, Dylan Longbottom, Bruce Irons and whatnot just to name a few?
Yeah I did, I still speak to Laurie on email and spoke to him a couple of weeks ago. I talked to Laird not along ago and also ran into a couple of the snowboarding boys the other night. I run into the wingsuiters here and there too. It’s amazing that I just have these guys on my emails and I can just shoot them a message to say g’day whenever I want. I’m stoked about that for sure.

If the opportunity came would you be interested in doing another Point Break?
Absolutely man! If people want to see another one I’d be stoked to be a part of it. I feel really lucky to have the experience I did and more me I had an amazing time making it but it’s no longer my movie, it’s the publics! If they want to see more of Johnny Utah I’d be the first one to put my hand up!

As for Luke Bracey, is there any other projects in the woodwork we can look forward to?
Yeah, I’ve just finished shooting a film for Mel Gibson so that was really good to be able to be home and cruise to my family’s place on a Sunday for a barbecue. The movie is a pretty epic one about World War 2 and a real hero who was awarded a medal of honor without carrying a gun so yeah, really cool movie. Be sure to stay tuned for it!

See Luke in the official teaser for Point Break:

For your chance to win a trip to Hawaii thanks to the kind folks at Roadshow Films, click here and follow the prompts!