Published February 17, 2011
The upcoming film “Soul Surfer,” slated for release in April, is based on the true story of spirited teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a 2003 shark attack, but courageously returned to her board and become a champion again months later.
However, it appears as though the uplifting story hit a sour note with the film's producers where the family's Christianity was concerned.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the real-life Hamilton family – all devout Christians – were upset to learn that the words “Holy Bible” were digitally removed from the cover of a Bible in a scene featuring Bethany Hamilton's father Tom reading by his ailing daughter’s hospital bedside.
An executive at Mandalay Pictures pushed to soften the Christian element of the film, presumably in an effort to appeal to non-Christian audiences. However, after the upset family complained, they were pleased to discover that the “Holy Bible” had been reinstated in the final cut, THR reported.
“I could see the words bright and clear. I looked at my wife and whispered, ‘Thank you God, they put it back,” Tom Hamilton told THR.
Furthermore, Hamilton said that in one scene Carrie Underwood, who plays a spiritual mentor to the group of young Christian surfers, quotes scripture. Some involved with the production were fine with the verse, but didn’t want it known that those words came from the Bible, THR reported.
Mandalay Pictures would not to comment directly on the Bible-related filmmaking decisions, but did release a statement to FOX411.
“Putting a movie together is a long and arduous process that consists of many decisions, big and small, made by many people from development through the film’s release. As people who collectively have been involved in making movies for many decades, we are not looking to engage in discussions about the process of the intricate decisions that go into the filmmaking process, but rather have the film judged by what appears on the screen,” the studio said. “Mandalay is extremely proud of ‘Soul Surfer,’ and we are excited to share this beautiful and inspiring story with the audience.”
Although Tom Hamilton obviously didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the production team, he is pleased with the portrayal of his family and their beliefs.
“This is the first movie I’ve ever been involved in, and what really counts is what ends up on the screen,” Hamilton told FOX411. “And we are absolutely thrilled with the way the film turned out, and the wonderful way it portrays Bethany’s and our family’s story and faith."
Underwood is also a fan of the film’s faith-based message.
“To me the phrase ‘Soul Surfer’ is about finding your path, your walk with God – or your surf with God – and making the best of the ride,” she said. “In the end, that is the most important.”
“Soul Surfer” is the latest film trying to tread the thin line between appealing and pandering to a faith-based audience.
“Films that have strong faith content do it because they understand there's an audience out there. There are 163 million people who go to church every week, and it's a gigantic audience and Hollywood makes movies for every audience,” explained Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide, and Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission. “The movies that do better at the box office, like the top 10 films from last year, none of them were R-rated, none of them had violence in them, and none of them had sexual content in them.”
Deidre Behar contributed to this report.