By PETERSON GONZAGA
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—It was a homecoming of sorts for Myles Pollard and Sam Worthington as they came together to produce and star in “Drift,” a film based on a pair of Australian surfers/entrepreneurs who revolutionized the surf scene by taking their products global during the 60’s and 70’s. It’s been a long time since Sam Worthington (“Avatar,” “Class of the Titans”) worked on a small, independent film in his native Australia. The film is available on VOD July 2 and opens in theaters nationwide August 2.
Wanting to highlight the significance of West Australia’s surf culture in the world, producer Tim Duffy approached Pollard with a script in 2007. “The X-Men Origins: Wolverine” star enjoyed the rough draft so much he came onboard as a co-producer as well as a star. As an avid surfer, Pollard decided to pitch the film to surf buddy and film industry friend Sam Worthington to also star.
The three Aussies realized the potential for a great surf story turned movie and for six weeks during August to September 2011 filming commenced in Western Australia’s scenic South West region, know for its big waves.
With the backdrop of the rugged coastline, “Drift” is about two brothers, Andy Kelly (Pollard) and Jimmy Kelly (Xavier Samuel, who starred in “Twilight: Eclipse”) who take their passion of surfing and turn it into business by making surfboards, wetsuits and T-shirts. Their new friends, filmmaker/photographer JB (Sam Worthington) and his surfing companion, Lani (Lesley-Ann Brandt), persuade the brothers to take their business to the next level.
As they follow their dream to turn their love of surfing into a self-sustaining business, they must overcome various adversities. Those hurdles, at times, make them question their passion, friendship and loyalty to each other.
On a recent afternoon, Worthington, Pollard and Samuel talked about the excitement of making their film showcasing Australia’s surf community.
Q: Being from Australia and being a surfer, how exciting was it to be a part of this film?
Worthington: It’s really exciting. I mean, we got to shoot it in places and towns I knew as a kid and as a teen, going through the rite of passage down south. That’s what’s nice about doing a film at home.
Q: Would you consider this a homecoming for you since you’ve been all over the world?
Worthington: Yeah. Kind of. You’re always searching to do a film in your own country. The story has to be right. I knew Myles and the director for at least 16 years. That was a plus.
Q: What made you decide to join this film? Was it knowing Myles and the others on this project?
Worthington: Oh yeah. I could have signed on earlier and if they got their money quite quicker, sure. It’s nice to see your mates not use you and work to develop something they are passionate about. In the end, I had to beg them for a job because I thought they were on the right path with a very nice message. I just thought it was a nice gentle family film. The message is about a guy trying to achieve his dream for his family. It’s very simple and very sweet.
Q: Myles, how did you decide to bring Xavier onto the project?
Pollard: He was a “castable” actor, typically. Several years ago when we were developing the film, he was on the top of the cast list then he went on to do “Twilight” for some reason. I don’t know why, but he did. It came back full circle and we couldn’t find the Jimmy (character) that we were looking for. Then Xavier comes in with a lot of credentials and a lot of experience. He looked the part and was perfect for the part and he took the job.
Q: Did you really have the long hair back then? It seems to be a featured look in the film.
Samuel: I think I might of at the time. It was really important to have the 70’s vibe and get the mustache going as well.
Q: Sam, for your role as JB, did you mold your character and his look from anyone in your life?
Worthington: My uncle. My uncle’s called Rainbow. He’s a bit of a hippie. When he saw “Avatar,” he thought it was real. I didn’t know if it’s mushrooms he’s still on. He had long hair like (JB); colored hair and a big beard. He has that free spirit attitude.
Q: Were you all able to be free and relaxed on set?
Worthington: Ah, it’s good. You’re surrounded by friends. It’s different for me. I normally play the lead and have all the pressure. There’s no pressure when you’re fat with a beard and wetsuit two sizes two small. I wanted to look like a fat seal.
Q: Sam, so did you gain weight for this film?
Worthington: I was lazy. I didn’t bother working out. I think Myles wanted me to be buff but that can be Xavier’s job.
Q: Myles, you’ve worked with Sam and you’re mates also. How did you mesh together when you brought Xavier on board?
Pollard: It was easy and seamless to be honest. It doesn’t make headlines to talk about somebody positively necessarily in this game. I mean we needed to create a rapport very quickly because this is a story about family coming together and overcoming obstacles to create something better in our life and Xavier is a gentleman. I know he gets embarrassed when I say that. He’s not a diva and he’s easy to work and actually good.
Q: Did you have any hesitation about working during the winter Down Under and going into the cold surf?
Samuel: (He laughs.) There weren’t any tantrums thrown like that if that’s what you’re alluding to. No, I mean, Sam and Myles kind of grew up in the water so it was like a holiday for them. On the other hand I was like, “Where the hell am I?”
Q: Sam, since you’re mates with Myles, how was the experience working on this film? Did you get to ad-lib or joke around quite a bit on set?
Worthington: Yeah, all the time. We went through drama school together. He had a great career in Australia and your careers always diverge. We’d keep in touch every week. It’s not like we’re strangers. When you’re acting together, you feel comfortable that (you) can push each other’s buttons.
Q: Your character seemed like a bit of a friend or father figure to Xavier’s character. How was it on set with Xavier?
Worthington: In the story, he’s kind like his guardian angel. He pops up whenever there’s trouble. He’s just pushing these two brothers down their path. When you’re working with Xavier, he’s very easy, cool and professional. It’s the kind of relationship we wanted to build.
Q: Why should people watch this film?
Worthington: I don’t think you’ve actually seen any surf footage like this in a dramatic feature. We actually had proper surf photographers who have done (pro surfers) Tom Carroll and Kelly Slater’s movies. That was a plus. It’s also (about) a man trying to protect his family.
Pollard: It was really important and vital for us to get approval from our core audience (surfers). It was a daunting process when they got to finally see the film. We’ve had Jake Paterson, Taj Burrow. We’ve had surfers like…
Samuel: (Pro surfer) Pete Townsend was there…
Pollard: …Ross Clark Jones, Mark Ochhilupo (and) Stephanie Gilmore. All these surfers coming out saying how definitive this film has been in doing that part of history and doing it authentically. We’re very proud of that.