Gerard Butler talks Chasing Mavericks and near death experience
Feature by Rob Carnevale
THERE’S a moment towards the end of surfing drama Chasing Mavericks when Gerard Butler’s character Frosty Hesson remarks: “As for the rest, all I will say is… the ones who push the limits, discover the limits sometimes push back.”
It’s a sentiment that almost proved prophetic for the Scottish actor, who almost perished himself while filming a key sequence.
Chasing Mavericks is inspired by the true story of another surfing legend, Santa Cruz’s Jay Moriarty, and his journey towards greatness under the tutelage of local hero Hesson. It also examines a surfer’s fascination with chasing the kind of waves (or mavericks) that could just as easily kill them.
And Butler found out first-hand the cost of toying with Mother Nature at her most formidable.
“It was very painful because, you know, not being able to breathe for a long time. When you’re in a wave… I’ve surfed a lot of different waves now and this wave was probably 30 or 40 times more powerful than even some of the normal ones,” he recalls.
“It’s like you’re in an avalanche and you don’t know if you’re ever coming up and you can’t breathe and there’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s holding you down and you’ve lost your board, and you’re spinning and you’re spinning and you’re spinning, and nobody can do anything for you because you’re miles away.”
Did his life flash before his eyes?
“Well, then, you go ‘why did I do this? What was I thinking?’ But it’s too late,” he elaborates. “I remember other surfers talking about that, and one guy saying that when he was under he really thought that was it and he said to himself ‘I could be surfing two foot waves with my son in Hawaii right now’.
“And I know, or I’m sure there are a lot of people who have had those thoughts that never made it back up, that went ‘why? Why am I doing this’? And the thing is, I did make it back up but then it all started over again because no one could get to me. So, I went down another twice and that really… without a doubt that put the fear of God into me.”
Ironically, the man at the centre of the film wasn’t quite so lucky to survive as a footnote at the end of the film reveals that Moriarty was killed while free-diving in The Maldives. He was just 22.
Chasing Mavericks is released in UK cinemas on Friday, July 5, 2013.