Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, July 29, 2002

Michelle Rodriguez, left, and Sanoe Lake, personality opposites, were roomies and surf buddies on the "Blue Crush" set.

Local girl holds her own as
she surfs into fame in ‘Blue Crush’

By Tim Ryan

Just what is it about local girl Sanoe Lake that made her think she could hold her own against one of the biggest attitudes in Hollywood?

But here's the Kauai-born-and-raised surfer-model turned surfer-actor sitting relaxed and confident next to outspoken, potty-mouthed New Jersey "girl" -- by way of Texas, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico -- Michelle Rodriguez.

In the 20 minutes I'm allotted to interview the two stars of "Blue Crush," Lake never takes a back seat to Rodriguez in answering questions or correcting misunderstood assumptions about female surfing during the media junket for the film at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina.

While Rodriguez, who appeared in "Girlfight" and "The Fast and the Furious," is quipping and swearing and trying hard to be edgy, Lake's answers are thoughtful, honest and informative.

"Hopefully, what audiences see female surfers do in 'Blue Crush' will open more doors for them with sponsors, mainstream media and Hollywood about women's stories in general," says Lake, 22, who portrays Lena in the film to be released Aug. 16.

Lake, 22, of Japanese, Hawaiian and English descent, is one of the film's three female leads. She was allowed to do most of her own surfing, unlike Rodriguez, who portrays Eden, and star Kate Bosworth, who had only two weeks of surfing lessons before filming began.

"Getting paid to surf; it doesn't get better than that," says the green-eyed Lake. "I always wanted to act, but I couldn't handle the classes ... too boring. So getting this role wasn't exactly planned."

Lake auditioned in Honolulu along with dozens of other female surfers.

"I guess getting such a big part my first time out is probably irritating to actors who worked a long time and have not been as lucky," says Lake, who was relieved by the script's authentic depiction of the North Shore and surfing subculture.

"It sure helped that (director) John (Stockwell) and (producer) Brian (Grazer) surf," she says. "This was Brian's baby, and I know he didn't want the film to be some cliche."

A strong part of the film's accuracy came from Stockwell not trying to define surfing narrowly.

"He showed a broad range of that culture: the punks, the druggies, the pros, the wannabes," Lake says. "He didn't say, 'Here is what surfing is and that's it.'"

The three female actors shared a house at Sunset Beach during filming.

"I know John and Brian threw us together to do that female-bonding thing," Lake says, smiling. "It could have been disastrous, but it worked. ... We did become close friends even though we worked together all day.

"I think we were probably too tired to argue."

RODRIGUEZ, 24, says the filming "turned out to be cool."

"I didn't have to do battle as much I planned," she says, laughing. "The early rewrites by non-surfing people were bad, really bad."

Lake and Rodriguez found the down time between scenes boring.

"Such a f---ing drag," Rodriguez says. "I had to sit around for two f---ing weeks in a maid's uniform for scenes after they had me take two weeks of surfing lessons.

"I forgot everything I had learned about surfing. How f---ing smart was that? Jesus!"

Lake was surprised about having to be on set for 12-hour days, six days a week.

"I tried to use some of the down time to observe things, learn about filming, so I might be better prepared next time out," she says.

Lake seems certain to get more acting roles. That was the opinion of several film reviewers after last week's "Blue Crush" preview screening.

"I really just tried to be myself," she says. "Hanging out on the beach and surfing comes natural to me. And when we shot interior scenes, I just pretended I was with friends and we were talking story."

But even Lake used a surfing double for some of the big Pipeline wave action.

"I don't surf Pipe anymore," she says. "Too crowded, such a heavy wave with all those caves and shallow reef.

"A lot of men are scared to surf there," she says. "I never had a horrendous wipeout there, but then I never surfed it on overhead days."

RODRIGUEZ IS BORED. She plays a hand-held video game while Lake talks. Then she looks up.

"I did all the Jet-Ski driving with Kate in those waves," Rodriguez says. "I wanted to do all my water stuff, but they wouldn't let me.

"I'm a Puerto Rican girl, a tropical girl. The island is surrounded by water, so whaddya think? I know water."

Reminded that New Jersey is not the North Shore, Rodriguez says, "That makes no difference."

"It's all up here," she says, pointing to her head. "I was never scared out there."

Lake is shocked.

"There you go again, girl," she says. "Anyone who's surfed the North Shore has gotten scared there. It's part of the program."

"Whatever," Rodriguez says.

Lake, who wrote and sings the song "Walk About" on the film's CD, plans to take a surfing vacation and evaluate the audience appeal of "Blue Crush" before hitting the audition circuit.

"I do want to act again," she says.

Rodriguez's next project is the action drama "S.W.A.T." with Samuel L. Jackson.

"That's going to be cool, but I don't think they'll have us carry machine guns because I guess you don't need that kind of hardware," she says.

"Guess it's not a beach film," Lake jokes.

As the two women leave, Rodriguez looks back.

"Aren't you glad you didn't have to ask me about being raped?" she says. "Nah, just joking."

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