Point Break: Luke Bracey Tells us about Johnny Utah

We go one on one with Aussie actor Luke Bracey about filling Keanu Reeves' shoes, Angel Falls, and the further adventures of Johnny Utah.

The Point Break remake is somewhat different than the 1991 movie of the same name. For one thing, it features more extreme sports, many of which weren’t even around in 1991.

It’s not all different, though. It does still feature the character Johnny Utah, an FBI agent going undercover, taken under the wing of a guru named Bodhi. Bodhi doesn’t lead a gang of bank robbers this time around, though. Now they’re eco-terrorists trying to save the planet.

Luke Bracey plays Johnny Utah in Point Break, with Edgar Ramirez as Bodhi. Bracey, an Australian actor, has been making a splash in Hollywood with films like The November Man and The Best of Me.

We sat down with Bracey in Los Angeles to talk about the new Johnny Utah.

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What do all of Johnny Utah’s tattoos mean and say?

I think the tattoos for Johnny Utah, it’s much like anything. Johnny Utah’s a young guy. I think he got a lot of them earlier in his life and they accumulated over time.

For him, it ties into his search for meaning, his search for who he is, his search for the path he’s going to go on which is what the whole movie is about: Johnny Utah finding himself, trying to figure out where he’s going to go in life, what his path in life is.

I’m sure people with tattoos, some of them regret some of them and some of them love some of them, but with Utah it’s all been a part of his journey. Some of them contradict other ones.

Which ones contradict each other?

Some of them are based in order and structure. A lot of them are based in chaos and abstract chaos, I guess, is the best word, craziness. There’s a contradiction in his tattoos and I guess that’s the kind of visual representation of the contradiction in himself and the contradiction in his upbringing and where he comes from, the path he’s on.

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Maybe they’re what you’d call “tough stickers.” As young fella he maybe got some tattoos to try and figure out who he was, to try and tell himself who he was, but ultimately you’re only going to find out who you are by living your life and following your path.

How long did you learn to hold your breath for?

I grew up on the beach surfing when I was kid so when there was no surf, we’d go snorkeling and spear fishing and stuff like that. I kind of already knew how to hold my breath quite well.

I find diving really fun. I can’t believe that was a day at work. I get to dive down and have fun frolicking in the water pretending to be a dolphin for a day.

Were they looking for actors who already had a background in surfing?

I have no idea but I did definitely let them know. That’s the thing that Ericson and the producers, Andrew and Roderick did know as well. They knew that it needed real stunts and the best athletes in the world to do it. So I was just lucky to come along for the ride and I think my job is to bring that intensity that the movie has in it, that the movie owes.

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That commitment to the role and the movie, I certainly was 100% committed, 110% committed. I’ve never been so committed to something in my life. I felt pretty privileged that I got to push myself as far as I did, and to really push myself for maybe the first time in my life to really do something, to have something that I feel like I accomplished and struggled through and got to the end of. So I feel quite privileged to have that experience and have it on this movie.

What was the moment you felt you crossed that line, where you were in new territory for yourself?

I think just getting the movie, to tell you the truth. Maybe the day I saw my schedule for that first time and I just saw exactly what this movie’s going to involve. 10 different countries in six months, you know. That was such a challenge, just for anyone. No matter if you’re just going there on holiday. To go to all these different climates and these different time zone and try and make a movie while you’re doing it and not get sick and stay fit and healthy and keep your energy up, to keep your mind switched on creatively and intellectually, all these things. That’s the challenge I found.

Once I got the ball rolling with it and I found I was getting up every morning and just putting one foot in front of the other, doing what I had to do that day and a little bit more, I grew in confidence. Then suddenly you find yourself hanging off Angel Falls 3000 feet above the earth, a kilometer above the earth just going, “What am I doing?”

I know that’s really you on Angel Falls, but was there some wire removal for your safety harnesses?

Yeah, I did have a wire on. My mother’s happy about that.

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I love the idea that the name Utah is now a source of guilt. Did that help you find a new way into this character?

Yeah, Utah in this movie, we find out a little bit more about where he comes from, his background. He’s got a real weight on his shoulders you see from the start of the film. When he gets to the FBI there is a weight he carries with him and he carries throughout his life, that he might carry throughout his life.

Utah’s search is finding out what his path is, that is unburdened by this. Yeah, I think that really helped me in informing where he’s coming from, where he’s got to go in the film. He’s got a starting point but then he’s also got an ending point. I think he ends in a very calm and almost zen kind of place.

Do you think he’s free of guilt?

I don’t think anyone’s ever fully free of guilt. I think he’s learned to live with it to a certain degree, but I don’t think that kind of guilt ever would leave him. He’s a strong-minded guy but he’s a sensitive person like all of us. He’s got strength but he’s got a certain sensitivity that almost balances out the strength that he has. With as much strength as he has, he has as much sensitivity. To himself, to live, to the people around him.

Did you do an FBI or police ride-along as part of the training?

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I wish I’d got a chance to but I didn’t have enough time, to tell you the truth. I would’ve loved to but I did talk to some people that had been to Quantico and FBI and also people in New York. It was interesting to talk to them because they talk about the fact that when you walk through those buildings, the range, the absolute mixed assortment of people in there.

They said that truly you can’t pick out who is an undercover FBI agent. They said there was this guy and that guy and there was this woman and that woman. That was a really interesting thing to know that I was kind of liberated. I didn’t have to have the haircut. The true thing is there’s so many different types of undercover FBI agents that it kind of works for Utah to be this guy.

Was the hair your choice or wardrobe’s?

Ericson and I talked about it, and we wanted the start of the movie, he’s trying to fit in at the start of the movie. He’s looking for structure in his life. He really is after the chaos of what you see at the start. He’s really searching for that structure. That’s the whole movie. It’s Utah fighting between the one half of him that wants structure and the other half that wants chaos. He’s still finding that. He wanted to fit in as much but he also couldn’t let go of that.

There’s a nice bit when he kind of gets out, when he and Pappas are going out the big wave at the start, the wind kind of gets in his hair a bit and he frees up a little bit and he becomes who he is. That was something Ericson and I talked about. Ericson had pretty specific ideas on it and they matched up with mine as well.

What really struck me was as epic as the locations were, it feels really intimate. Did you have a sense of that?

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Yeah, yeah, the whole movie does have that. There’s these moments that occur on such a grand scale, but they’re very tender, for lack of a better term. Yeah, intimate moments that happen between not only Bodhi and Utah, but Bodhi and Samsara and also the whole group in general.

There’s a beautiful moment where they’ve just done the wingsuiting and they go to the cottage in the Italian alps there and have the beautiful dinner with the wolfpack. It’s a lovely, beautiful, tender moment but it happens amid this backdrop of absolute serene beauty and grandeur.

Yeah, these places, as you said, for all the majesty of all these places, they’re characters in the movie, all these places. They definitely are and they add their certain charms to each little scene where they take place I think.

Did you get to try the wingsuit in any capacity?

I got to stand on the edge of the cliff, but I think if I tried the wingsuiting, I don’t know if we’d have the pleasure of sitting down here together right now.

Would you be up for the further adventures of Johnny Utah?

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If everyone else is, absolutely. I feel really privileged that I got to have the experience I did making the movie. That’s what I get out of work for me. What I gain from everything is making the movies, the experience I have doing them. Once I finish them, they’re no longer my movies. They’re the audience’s.

For me, I just hope that people enjoy the film and have a good time. If people want to see Johnny Utah again then I’d be more than happy and I’d feel very privileged to put the tattoos back on.

I hope it doesn’t take 20 years to invent new sports he can go undercover in.

Yeah, right. That’d be funny. There’s definitely going to have to be another younger Utah if it’s going to be 20 years’ time for sure.

Point Break opens on December 25th.