In 1991, Point Break came to the silver screen, introducing Keanu Reeves as undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah and Patrick Swayze as Bodhi, a bank-robbing surfer who wants to ride a wave during the legendary 50-year storm. But what happened behind the scenes of the iconic cult classic?
From Swayze cracking four ribs during surf stunts to a live dog being thrown at Reeves, here are some facts that will have you looking to chase that last big wave.
The Idea Came From A Day At The Beach
Film plot ideas come at the most random of times. But when it comes to the concept for Point Break, it couldn’t have popped into Indie filmmaker Rick King’s head at a perfect location — the beach. He was in Malibu, California, learning to surf when he thought of the idea.
According to King, “I was sitting on a beach in Malibu, learning how to surf, and I’d just gotten out of the water. And I thought, ‘Surfers who rob banks. And an FBI agent that’s a good athlete that goes undercover among those surfers.’ It just made a lot of sense, and everything just flowed from that.”
Reeves’ Hair Is Longer In The Final Scene For A Reason
One of the big plot points in Point Break is the myth of the 50-year storm. According to legend, every 50 years, a storm will roll through, creating a monster wave that only the most skilled surfer will contemplate riding. Well, that storm finally rolls through at the end of the film.
But fans will notice that Keanu Reeves’ hair is much longer in that final scene than in the rest of the movie. This is because the scene was filmed while working on another movie, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Why Anthony Kiedis Is Knocked Out Right Away
A surprise cameo in Point Break was made by Red Hot Chili Pepper frontman Anthony Kiedis. He’s one of the surfers Johnny Utah accidentally mistakes for an ex-president, the crew he’s going after. Cutting them off on a wave, Kiedis’ crew starts a fight with Utah.
Most of the cast worked with stunt coordinator Glenn Wilder, going through extensive fight training for the scene. Kiedis missed training, though, so Wilder decided his character would be knocked out with one punch!
It’s Actually Swayze Jumping Out Of The Plane
For insurance purposes, Patrick Swayze was coaxed by producers not to do the skydiving stunt, even though the actor enjoyed the sport as a hobby. As a compromise, they allowed him to do one jump! Amazingly, that one jump is the one that made the final cut.
Swayze spoke of the experience during an interview, saying, “[I] had to battle insurance companies to get to do the skydiving in the movie…I never came close to dying once. But they never said one word about me getting my brains pounded in by the biggest surf on this planet.”
The Film’s FBI Consultant Thinks The Movie Is Dumb
During filming, an FBI special agent, William J. Rehder, was hired to advise Keanu Reeves on his character, undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah. According to the real-life agent, Reeves listened to everything he had to say but didn’t deliver on any of it. Rehder wound up calling the film one of the dumbest bank robbery movies ever!
According to the special agent, “in real life, FBI agents do not actively participate in armed bank robberies in order to infiltrate a bank robbery crew…[I’m] personally responsible for what was surely one of the dumbest bank robbery movies ever made.”
Kathryn Bigelow Wasn’t Going To Do The Movie Without Reeves
When a director has their mind set on something, chances are it’s going to happen. For Point Break director Kathryn Bigelow, her mind was set on getting actor Keanu Reeves to star as Johnny Utah. With his resume primarily consisting of comedies and dramas, the screenwriter and producers weren’t in love with the idea.
According to producer Peter Abrams, “Kathryn was fixated on [Reeves]. To her credit, she was the one that said, ‘I’m gonna turn him into an action star.'”
Patrick Swayze Cracked Four Ribs Surfing
Performing stunts is no easy task. But Patrick Swayze was a very physical actor who enjoyed working on his own stunts. So, he took his chance surfing, as his character, Bodhi, was the ultimate wave chaser. Unfortunately, surfing wasn’t as easy as the actor thought it was going to be.
Not a seasoned surfer, Swayze wound up cracking four of his ribs while performing stunts. He even said he thought he would go under the water and not come back up a few times. During an interview, Swayze said, “I almost died six to 10 times… I thought I was outta here.”
The Three Leads Had Never Surfed Before
Being in a surf flick, one would think the lead actors would have some skill on a surfboard. Well, that wasn’t exactly the case for Point Break. Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, and Lori Petty had never surfed before, with Petty actually never stepping foot in the ocean!
It took some time, but trainer Dennis Jarvis, aka the surf doctor of Hollywood, brought the three actors up to speed. It took some time, mostly on the parts of Swayze and Petty, to look like professionals, but the three finally got the hang of it!
Kathryn Bigelow And James Cameron Rewrote The Script
They might not be credited for it, but when Kathryn Bigelow agreed to direct Point Break, she and her then-husband, director James Cameron, decided to rewrite a solid chunk of the script. W. Peter Iliff was the original writer on the film, something that was titled Johnny Utah.
Not an established writer at the time, Bigelow recruited Cameron to tighten up some plot points in the storyline. Obviously, they also reworked the title to Point Break.
Patrick Swayze Wasn’t In The Iconic Chase Scene
One of the more memorable moments in Point Break is when Johnny Utah chased the ex-presidents through the streets post-bank robbery. It’s actually quite funny (even though it’s meant to be serious). But how serious can things be when a guy is running in a rubber Ronald Reagan mask?
Anyway, the character Utah is supposedly chasing is Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze. The thing is, it isn’t actually Swayze under the mask, but his stunt double, Scott Wilder. At the time the scene was filmed, Swayze was in Europe promoting Ghost.
Ridley Scott Spent Five Months Prepping Before Walking Away
While Kathryn Bigelow would ultimately direct Point Break, she wasn’t the original choice. After being tossed around Hollywood, Ridley Scott stepped in, liked the concept, and went into preproduction. Apparently, Scott put a lot of time and money into set design and various ideas for the film.
But, as Rick King recalls, after five months of set design and working on the film, Scott just walked away, no longer interested in making the movie. Bigelow eventually stepped in, but it was years later.
A Real Dog Was Thrown At Keanu Reeves
During the chase scene in Point Break, Bodhi throws a dog at Johnny Utah. Amazingly, the dog isn’t a prop but an actual live pitbull! The crew made sure to put a padded mat underneath Keanu Reeves’s feet, just in case he missed the dog. No need for the four-legged cast member to get hurt!
And while that pooch is real, a second later, a fake one is lying on the ground. This very blatantly fake stuffed dog is one of the many reasons this film is a cult classic.
The Producers Wanted A Big Name For Johnny Utah
While casting for the role of Johnny Utah, Point Break producers were set on getting a big name, someone an audience would recognize. Their original thoughts were geared toward the likes of Charlie Sheen or Johnny Depp. Even Patrick Swayze auditioned for the part!
In the end, Sheen and Depp got the boot, Swayze got the role of Bodhi, and Kathryn Bigelow got her way. The comedic actor Keanu Reeves got the role of the lead character Johnny Utah.
The Ex-Presidents Are Real Surfers
The crew of ex-presidents are ride-or-die surfers. But instead of finding actors who just happened to know how to surf very well, director Kathryn Bigelow decided to do something a bit different. Instead, she went looking for surfers who just so happened to know how to act.
BoJesse Christopher and John Philbin, who play Grommet and Nathaniel, respectively, are actually professional surfers who just so happen to act a bit on the side. They were the perfect choice for the film.
Darrick Doerner “Had To Die For Swayze”
The 50-year storm is one of the big talking points throughout the film. It finally happens at the end of the movie, with Bodhi paddling out to meet his end. Well, it’s not actually Patrick Swayze paddling out to meet this 20-foot wave, but legendary big wave surfer Darrick Doerner.
According to Doener, Swayze called him up, saying, “I need you to die for me.” To which the big wave surfer responded, “I don’t die for anybody, man.” He wound up taking the gig.
The Movie Went Through Several Title Changes
Movies go through title changes all the time. Point Break, for example, went through two before it was finally decided that the title would be based on a surfing term. The first working title was Johnny Utah, the name of one of the main characters.
During the first half of production, though, the title was changed to Riders on the Storm, referencing the characters chasing the 50-year storm. Before production came to an end, Kathryn Bigelow decided on Point Break.
Keanu Reeves Is Now A Bona Fide Action Star
After appearing as Johnny Utah in Point Break in 1991, Keanu Reeves starred in many more action flicks. His action credits include Neo in the Matrix franchise, Officer Jack Traven in Speed, DC character John Constantine in Constantine, and the title character in the John Wick franchise.
Of course, he didn’t outright ditch comedic roles. He reprised the character of Ted “Theodore” Logan a few times, including the 2020 film Bill & Ted: Face the Music. Most recently, he’s been working on a fourth Matrix movie, set to release in December 2021.
Gary Busey Made his Way To Broadway
Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Busey played Johnny Utah’s partner, FBI Agent Angelo Pappa, in Point Break. Known for his roles in The Buddy Holly Story, Predator 2, and Lethal Weapon, Busey has been going in a different direction in the entertainment industry recently.
In 2019, it was announced that Busey would be appearing as God in the Off-Broadway musical Only Human. Then, in 2020, the first season of Gary Busey Pet Judge aired. The show has Busey as a literal pet judge in court, helping owners resolve issues.
Lori Petty Is Still In The Industry
Actress Lori Petty played the role of Tyler Endicott in Point Break, the obligatory love interest of the main character, Johnny Utah. While she is still in the entertainment industry, Petty has come a long way from being that orphaned surfer girl.
She went on to star in films such as Free Willy, A League of Their Own, and the 2020 film A Deadly Legend. Petty also appeared as Lolly Whitehill in 19 episodes of the hit Netflix series Orange Is The New Black.
John C. McGinley Went On To Star In Scrubs
In Point Break, actor John C. McGinley played the role of FBI Agent Ben Harp, Johnny Utah’s boss who wasn’t too happy when he walked through the office with a surfboard. As it turns out, McGinley has that cranky man role down quite well, as he went on to star as the cynical Dr. Perry Cox in the hit medical series Scrubs.
While he was very busy with the series, it didn’t stop McGinley from appearing in various other shows and films. Some of his credits include Office Space, Intensity, The Sting, and, most recently, he voices the character of Grumblegard in DreamWorks Dragons: Rescue Riders.