In the final scene of the 1991 film "Point Break," the late Patrick Swayze surfs to his death in monstrous waves in what his bank-robbing character, Bodhi, calls the "50-year storm."
Last week, that scene may have been replicated by helicopters and stuntmen at Jaws, the world-famous surf site in Peahi, for a new version of the cult classic in gigantic waves described by a meteorologist as a "once in a decade" happening.
"It was really amazing," Maui County Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett said Thursday. "I've spent 18 years in the movie industry and working on big movies and big stunts. But that was one of the most impressive things I've ever seen.
A surfer carves a wave at Jaws at Peahi during the giant surf on Jan. 23. Film crews for the movie “Point Break,” a reboot of a 1991 classic with Patrick Swayze, were shooting in that huge surf last week.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"Guys were saying it was easily 50-foot waves, maybe a couple feet bigger."
Film crews spent three days shooting the scene from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with several cameras stationed in the water, off nearby cliffs and inside two Windward Aviation helicopters, Bennett said. He said one of the more memorable stunts involved a helicopter hovering low to the water and passing over waves.
"When you hear (the film crew) explain how it's going to be and then see it in person, it's incredible," said Bennett, who watched the stunts with Director Ericson Core and other producers on the Peahi cliffs. "I've been on sets with explosions and car crashes and (they) are very controlled. This was a little different because the helicopter pilot had to rely on his ability" to judge wave heights and speed, as well as swirling winds.
"There were many more variables," he said.
The new film, which is slated to be released next year, already has signed Gerard Butler, but details about how close it will mirror the 1991 film have not been released.
While executing last week's shots was dangerous and difficult, film officials said the preparation and permitting process to authorize the shoot were just as complicated.
State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said that her office had been in contact with Core, whose credits include "Invincible," and the film's producers "long before" last week's shoot but still had to "scramble." They were notified of the filming in late December.
"I got the call a couple days before Christmas, which is when they started to mobilize on the onset of these giant (surf) days," Dawson said. "I got them registered for Hawaii's tax credit and also started the process of getting them permitted to not only shoot at Peahi on Maui but also the North Shore of Oahu. We doubled down and cleared the way for them to shoot in both places so they could have maximum flexibility to where the conditions were the best."
The film, which reportedly had a team of forecasters, had entire crews set up at the two locations.
"It just became a matter of making that last-minute decision and executing," Dawson said.
Dawson's office, which includes only three others, is no stranger to working with big productions under tight deadlines. The commissioner has worked with TV shows such as "Lost" and "Hawaii Five-0," as well as the 2002 film "Die Another Day," which shot its opening surf sequence at Jaws.
The office processes nearly 2,000 permits a year and has jurisdiction over 1.3 million acres of land, 3,184 miles of submerged areas and waters 3 miles off of every island.
"That's a very large territory," Dawson said. "And keep in mind it's so difficult for people to understand the responsibility that it represents because you're serving an industry that's moving very quickly with a lot of money at stake, and things can go wrong."
For the complicated and dangerous stunt at Jaws, Dawson's office needed to get permit approvals from the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. The film crew also had to have sufficient liability insurance, an "ironclad water safety plan" reviewed by the state, and qualified water safety personnel on scene for the entire shoot, and they could not interfere with nearby surfers, Dawson said.
"Whenever film productions shoot on public lands, it's never for exclusive use, and they need to accommodate the public," she said. "There were other people out there, and the production did a good job coordinating with those other users."
Bennett said the film crew with the "Point Break" remake may return to the Valley Isle for additional shots after being impressed with Maui Film Studios in Kahului. The 22,000-square-foot warehouse in Maui Lani is the largest sound stage in the state and will soon be home to the next "Lord of the Rings"-style movie.
The film, "Ethyrea: Code of the Brethren," is the first of five science fiction adventure movies written and produced by Danica Fontaine. According to IMDb.com, the movie's storyline is based on Fontaine's novel "The Order of Ethyrea: Code of the Brethren" and follows a "race of elemental warriors" seeking to overthrow an evil queen.
Bennett said the script has been finished and that film crews are planning to open offices in late February to early March. He said principal photography is to begin in June or July.
"As of right now, they don't have a cast, but I believe they are doing auditions," he said.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.