Heartbreaking but good times!
Think of it as a disaster movie.
For many years now.
To be invited to Hollywood to write a movie about surfing and then have them actually want to make it and then to talk them into hiring all your friends to do it with you and then to have to stand by and watch the Hollywood machine turn the story into a compost heap was absolutely heart breaking.
But at least my friends and I had a ball making it.
People like Matty Liu (who surfed that giant day at Jaws but did not make the final cut), Shane Dorian (who I believe was at a contest in Brazil when I called him and asked him to star. He was fifth in the world I think but jumped…uhm…on board just to get out of two-foot slop there), Shaun Tomson (who when I called him asked “Will they clear the line-ups?”), Brian Keaulana (who no surf movie in their right mind would not call), Darrick Doerner (who provided the name for the movie after describing a terrifying wipeout at Waimea), Dave Kalama (who was convinced we were all gonna die doing our own stunts without any jet-ski experience and came damned close to being right), Pete Cabrinha (genius, and the best actor in the bunch, who had just invented kite surfing, which did not make the final cut either), Rush Randle (who was the strongest man in the world who when he hugged me in thanks bruised two of my ribs), and yes, even the band Poison’s front man Bret Michaels, (but more, much more, on that later).
So for those self isolated, and those brave enough to sit through In God’s Hands again (If you watch it with German subtitles it actually has a plot), here is a series of behind-the-scene capers to keep you occupied during the love scenes.
EXT. PADANG PADANG – NIGHT
I had never heard anyone laugh at ten million dollars before.
But that was our budget.
I learned very quickly that movie producers are like government officials. They make alot of promises but keep all the money.
The joke goes: Why do producers hate making movies for a million bucks?
Answer: How the hell are they gonna steal half of it? Ha ha..yeah I know…not funny. I fucking lived it.
So yeah, as much as ten million dollars sounds, we were strapped the whole time and quite often making shit happen was up to me.
Anyway, we were in Bali and I wrote this huge party scene that was to take place at Padang Padang. I needed at least fifty people but the producers came to me and said that they couldn’t pay for any extras.
So the way I remember it, Shane Dorian, Matty Liu and I walked down Jalan Legian handing out my home-made flyers for a huge blow-out full moon party the next night at Padang Padang (even though the full moon was ten days away)
“All the free beer you could swill!” said the flyer.
I also spread the rumor that it was going to be a shroomfest. Remember, this was 1996 and mushroom shakes were still legal in Bali.
The thing was, we didn’t have any shrooms and between the three of us, we could afford about three beers, which we drank while we handed out the flyers. So I guess you could say we left it In God’s Hands.
We needed a band, we’d at least promised that.
That’s when we heard a noise that sounded alot like an electronic cat fight in a slaughterhouse.
It was coming from one of the more notorious…uhm…welcome bars on the Legian strip.
A few of the ladies and, well, a few of the…uhm… dressed up boys, were hanging out front looking for early customers.
Matty realized we had found exactly what we needed.
Dragging us into the place Matty introduced us to the source of the catfight. It was a Russian industrial metal band called KAOS who had rented the place for band practice for a jug of black market Vodka. All KAOS demanded from us for the gig was a tip jar, a stage and ice cubes for their last jug of vodka (Which was honest to God black by the way. Christ, I’ve never figured that out).
I said sure, easy.
Have you ever accidentally thrown a baseball through a window?
We should have known when we pulled up and the scooters were backed up to the White Monkey Surf Shop.
We were chewing our nails worrying about how we were gonna throw a party with no favors when over a thousand people had shown up with their own eski’s and stash.
If you watch the big party scene, which we shot live, in the rain, and all night, you can see most of the famous cast all gone nuts. And we were. Me, Matty and Shane nuts with relief that we pulled it off, most others gone nuts on shrooms.
(Including a female cameramen, which explains the core of the movie in many ways, but more on that later…).
So under the deluge the rain poured down, the river broke through, generators blew out, the stage collapsed, someone’s hair was set on fire by the sparklers, the tide came in, the body painting contest got way out of hand and there was even a spaced out impromptu marriage between the female camera operator mentioned above and the mohawked drummer of KAOS.
Which was officiated by Bret Michaels in his famous male mascara (lead singer of the band Poison, if you have forgotten that point and for you romantics rumor has it the happy couple are still together).
By dawn the beach looked like the morning after the D-Day invasion combined with a human version of a turtle breeding season.
Dozing new couples lying in humps in each others arms and the walking dead making their way up through the cave with hangovers that I swear to God you could actually hear.
Meanwhile, Shane, Matty, Shaun Tomson, Bret Michaels and I were up on the shaded remnants of the listing bamboo stage.
(The band had fled fearing immigration reprisals, but they made sure we knew where to find them if we did this sort of thing again).
Being very South African, Shaun had somehow found some morning tea that wasn’t spiked and we all sat considering the impressive wreckage.
Shaun broke the silence.
“So Shane…If you didn’t body shave you’d be quite a hairy bastard, yeah?”
Even the female survivor on Bret Michaels lap busted up. (She was the Italian fire dancer and hula hoop instructor who had thoughtfully provided all the sparklers).
And that was when Bret grabbed his guitar and serenaded in the new day of what was one of the many mad moments in the remarkable surfing production that was In God’s Hands.
Bret, in very amused frame of mind, chose to sing the acoustic version of his number one hit from 1988.
And it could not have been more fitting.
“Every rose has it’s thorn
Just like every night has it’s dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has it’s thorn
. Yeah it does…”