[The Wavelength Drive-In Cinema is back for 2021, bringing you a range of surf cinema, cult classics and family favourites from the clifftops of Cornwall, including two screenings of Blue Juice. Browse the full lineup and get your tickets here. Or, subscribe to Wavelength now to get free entry to a screening of your choice.]
“I’d just surfed in the British at Fistral and I’d got knocked out in the semis…again,” remembers St Agnes surfer Rob Small of an autumn day in 1993, “and I was having a bit of a tantrum.”
“I was effing and blinding and being a dickhead really,” he continues “and these two guys big guys of Sicilian extraction with horn-rimmed specs came over and started chatting to me and told me they were making a surf film.”
The guys names were Carl Prechezer and Peter Salmi and the film was Blue Juice.
Carl had had his interest in the Cornish surf scene piqued a few years earlier after his best mate had taken up with a girl from Newquay. “He came home with tales that weren’t quite California,” he told SUP mag, “and I was hooked.”
However, during that first meeting in the car park at Fistral, Rob was quick to steer the pair’s attention away from the UK’s surfing capital.
“I went something like, ‘Oh fuck fucking Newquay, you know, come to St Agnes if you want to see real surfing…’” he remembers. “I said come and meet us at Harry’s wine bar later, which was in Peterville [St Agnes]. I told Steve England and Dustin Ward that there were some guys from London knocking around who might be good for a few beers. But then they turned up later in a little Fiat 500 or something and we found out they were camping nearby and we were like, ‘These guys have got less money than us!’ But they were very cool.”
“They kept coming back,” Rob continues, “And then in the November of that year they said we need to scout some locations, we’ve got some budget!”
Soon after, the boys got a first look at the script. “By that stage they’d spent quite a lot of time with us and we could see they’d been inspired by certain things,” says Rob. “JC’s bad back in it is certainly mine and I’d like to say his sort of oh do I settle down with Chloe or do I go off surfing around the world? shit maybe might be something to do with Steve!”
By the following summer, Rob and Steve had been officially appointed as surf consultants and stunt doubles for the movie. Their roles would comprise everything from surf gear procurement and big wave water safety, to holding the actor’s boards steady with suction pads during lineup dialogue scenes once production began. However, their first task was to teach the actors how to surf.
Rob picks up the story:
In August, they sent Sean [Pertwee] and Ewan [McGregor] down to Cornwall. I think Carl and Peter were a bit nervous. They said, “These guys are London actors, you can’t just be dickheads to them.” The first day we met them we said, “Right, no surf today boys,” so we took them down to Driftwood Spas [in St Agnes] and got hammered, played pool and talked shit. By the end of the night, they were more integrated into St Agnes than we were! They just got on with it. And then of course as we got closer to the shooting schedule my job was to train these guys to surf. Later on in life, I learnt about how to surf coach properly, but in those days it wasn’t really very developed so I just winged it.
Sean’s character was supposed to be a surfer; whereas everyone else is supposed to be a blow in, so he was here longer and had to do more than the others. I suppose they call it method acting and they worked extremely hard, beer for beer, as it were. You know we did stuff like how to walk up and down a stairwell carrying a board and how to spin around for a wave and look natural. Ewan had just done Trainspotting, so he’d just spent a load of time with drug addicts in Edinburgh, learning how to shoot up, and then he was here doing duck dive practice. I didn’t realise that preparing for a film was such an intense, all-encompassing process before that.
Later, the rest of the actors turned up. Like Steve Mackintosh, who plays the DJ and Peter Gunn, who’s supposed to be able to surf by the end of course. We pulled up down at Hendra and I said, “Right boys let’s get the suits on, we’re gonna hit this!” And Sean’s off and Ewan’s down there and Stevie goes, “Yea let’s have a go.” And Peter was sort of standing about and I said, “Come on we need to crack on,” because he was quite late to training. He said to me, “Ahh, I don’t like water,” he said, “I’m terrified.” And I said mate, “You’re going to be off the back of a boat in two weeks in St Ives bay!” He told me he had some personal stuff going on and he needed the money, and I was like, “Ok.” So next thing we’re down at Portgwidden and there’s me, this 23-year-old surfer bloke and then this slightly older chubby bloke kneeling on the sand with six-inch waves breaking on us. And I was holding his hand and I’d say, “Ok let’s go another six inches deeper,” and then a little set would come through, and I’d say, “Ok Pete, you need to put your head down now…” And eventually, he conquered it! He was a lovely man. It was my birthday during the shoot and he actually bought me a little grey and white dolphin as a thank you, which to my shame I’ve lost.
Sean was doing really well, but just before shooting he still wasn’t quite there. He could paddle into waves, he could take off, but we needed him to go left and right. So one day we drove down to Gwenvor and there weren’t any crowds in those days, you could go and surf there by yourself. It was 2 foot and clean, and we said, “You’re not getting out the water till you’ve done it…” And he did it! So we went to the Swordfish in Newlyn and got pissed to celebrate. He had a great time, he was hanging out with all the fisherman out the back and I went off to phone someone and I came back and he was holding court with all of them and they loved him. Not in a sort of ‘I am’ way, they didn’t know who he was, they just thought he was a surfer from St Agnes!
Read part two of our interview with Rob here.