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There's Nothing Like a Curl

[whitespace] In God's Hands

Matt George and Matty Liu talk about their new surf movie, 'In God's Hands'

By Richard von Busack

Matt George and Matty Liu are renowned surfers and friends who worked together on the new film In God's Hands. It's a drama about an aging, philosophical surfer named Mickey (George) who feels himself to be at the end of his ride, and his two buddies Keoni (Matty Liu) and Shane (Patrick Shane Dorian). Key to the film are scenes of the monstrous waves in Hawaii and elsewhere.

George, who not only did his own surfing but the writing too, has won Emmies for his sports documentaries and created a well-known CD-ROM, Extreme Sports. Liu is a many-time surfing champion from Oahu who has moved to Santa Monica to seek work as an actor.

Metroactive: Where do you surf now?

Matt George: I'm from the Bay Area. I live in San Francisco, and I surf Santa Cruz now. I have lots of connections to the Santa Clara Valley, though. A good friend lives in Los Gatos, and my mom lives off of the Monterey Highway. I want to say that there's a real surf heritage in San Jose, and the valley should be proud of it.

Metroactive: I noticed that the scene where Shane was surfing--which was supposed to be Mexico--was actually Pigeon Point, near Half Moon Bay.

George: Yeah, that was like a nod of respect to the locals. We wanted to get more into Shane's story, the maverick's tale, but there was too much story here already.

Metroactive: What was the writing process for In God's Hands like?

George: It was a collaboration with director Zalman King. I have a journalism background, so I wrote most of it fast, right here on Telegraph Hill [in San Francisco]. I wrote about stuff I knew, that mode of traveling on tramp steamers, getting broke and hungry, and boxing for money.

Metroactive: So you actually boxed for money, just like your character does in the film?

George: Yeah, it was in Australia; there was this guy who would take on all comers. If you lasted three rounds, you'd get $50.

Metroactive: And you filmed everything on location, including the best part of the film, the waves at Jaws.

George: I'm really proud of the fact that there are no scenes in studio tanks. The water work was done in the surf.

Metroactive: How do you look so calm on those huge-ass waves?

Matty Liu: Any time you surf like that, there's a lot of mental preparation. You have to keep a level head. It's like Michael Jordan when he's playing well in the zone.

Metroactive: Is that a real exercise that Matt George is demonstrating in the opening sequence: carrying a boulder and jogging under water on the ocean floor?

Liu: Actually, that is something surfers will do when the water is a little flat. It's a really comfortable way of exercising in the water. It's cardiovascular, opens your lung capacity--you should try it!

Metroactive: Where exactly is the beach known as Jaws?

Liu: It's in Maui--it's a place that holds enormous waves; you need to be towed in with a jet ski because you can't swim fast enough. When it's breaking right, it can be really big. The cool thing is that In God's Hands is made by surfers for surfers.

Metroactive: Is Zalman King a surfer himself?

Liu: No, but he's an expert diver, and he certainly has no problem being in the water. This really shows in the way King filmed the movie. He used cameras on the cliff and under-the-water housings, and he mounted a camera on the back on a jet ski. In God's Hands really puts the audience in the wave; it might be really great in IMAX.

Metroactive: There's quite a lot of women surfers now--did any one think of including them in the movie?

Liu: I respect women very much. They've been in surfing since day one; they're very graceful, and I'd admire women's pro surfing. But what we wanted to capture was the adventures of these three friends.

Metroactive: My favorite scenes out of the water were the scenes of the surfers analyzing the waves and discussing the surfing itself. Did anyone ever propose making this film as a documentary?

George: We wanted to bring to it a documentary feel since we were working with real surfers as actors, and we'd set them up in these real-life situations. That's why it had that documentary feeling.

Liu: I kind of like the story of this film, although a documentary would have been neat to make, and I'd like it make it really right on. But I think In God's Hands accurately describes the adventure of being a surfer. I'm really proud of it.

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Web extra to the May 7-13, 1998 issue of Metro.

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