People ask me all the time, “how accurate is your movie Soul Surfer?”
It’s actually extremely accurate!
When my family and I were working on the script, we really wanted to make every scene represent what we actually went through as much as possible. We wanted the world to get a very real perspective of my story, not an overly-dramatized version for Hollywood.
Of course, there’s always little extra things to just make the storyline run a little smoother, but hardly any of that was needed because the actual events of the story were so dramatic!
Pretty much everything in the movie happened in real life!
I really did go to Thailand on a mission trip with World Vision. I did start receiving tons of fan mail and interview requests practically overnight (something that I was NOT used to haha)! I did struggle with frustration and insecurities and had my share of tough days as I learned to adjust to life with one arm. My family and community was so supportive, but at the end of the day, it was my faith in God that was (and still is) my rock to get me through.
I know it’s wild, but the hospital scene of Soul Surfer was actually almost 100% accurate.
My dad actually was in the hospital for a knee surgery the day that I lost my arm. He really did get wheeled out of his surgery room after a spinal tap and then I took his place in the same room with the same surgeon, Dr. Rovinsky. That was pretty crazy in real life and that was in the movie! Dr. Rovinsky was portrayed in the movie as a good family friend of ours and that’s also definitely the case. He’s super cool and is a surfer – I still surf with him to this day! And the guy who played him is a good friend from home so my family really loves that part of the film.
The only thing about this scene that didn’t happen in real life was that my dad and I didn’t actually cross paths in the hospital as I was coming out of the ambulance. In reality, my dad was wheeled into another room and forgotten about! My mom and my brothers forgot about him in the chaos of everything and felt sooo bad about this after the fact. (Sorry, Dad!) He didn’t know I had lost my arm until he went to visit me at my bedside after my surgery! It was a bit of a shock, as you might imagine!
One funny thing in the movie that was a little dramatized was the duck dive near the end of the movie where I duck dive under Malina and catch the best wave of the movie just before my heat ends. That was definitely Sean MacNamara’s artwork haha. I do duck dive under waves, but not usually under people!!
The actors and actresses portrayed us really well in the movie, I think, and I’m super stoked about that. We ended up spending a lot of time with the cast and crew and it was really cool because the cast wanted to get to know us well and learn our mannerisms, lifestyles, values, and personalities so they could portray us accurately. We surfed with them, hung out with them all the time and generally just all became really close friends. And they truly wanted our feedback on how we thought they were doing once the filming began. It was a bit of a funny feeling to have so many people studying you in such an intense way as you go about your life haha, but I was really grateful for it at the same time. AnnaSophia Robb especially did an incredible job at this – she was constantly asking me questions on script details or my perspective on something – and I think she nailed it in the role!
And yes, the portrayal of my friendship with Alana and our days growing up as little mermaids is right on point!
Check out this video to see the real-life footage:
My family and I were on the set pretty much every day making sure everything met our expectations – and it totally did!
We all had little cameos in the film (have you spotted us? haha) and my brothers helped on the crew as well. Noah helped produce the movie and Timmy worked in sound. Not only was the experience so fun, my family and I were so stoked with how the entire movie came together and the overall storyline of SoulSurfer.
P.S. If you like Soul Surfer, you’ll LOVE my documentary, Unstoppable! It captures my life from childhood to motherhood and it was a TON of fun to make!