Film to Stage: Interview with Point Break Live’s Thomas Blake
With the remake of the 1991 adrenaline-charged classic “Point Break” set to release on Christmas Day, nostalgia has been amped up tenfold by the cult-following that often pay homage to the original film by reciting famous lines once uttered by Keanu Reeves.
The remake will inevitably introduce new fans to the Patrick Swayze led film but they’re not the source of that buzz that has kept the movie in the forefronts of pop culture. There is a group that has been leading the way for over a decade and their brilliance has led them to being LA’s longest running comedy show.
That show is ‘Point Break Live!’
Point Break Live! is exactly what it sounds like, dudes. It’s a live theatrical version of the out of control action flick with a lot of over the top humor.
What truly takes it to the next level is the show’s design of allowing the audience to handpick someone among the crowd to play Johnny Utah. That person then reads the lines off cue cards to capture the beauty of Keanu Reeves acting. The show’s tagline is “Can you Keanu?” for good reason.
The Ex-Presidents are there robbing you to finance their endless summers and if you’re in the audience you will be treated to cap guns, skydiving, surfing and so much fake blood-spattering that you have to wear a poncho to keep your digs clean.
But there is one man who has been there from the very beginning when Point Break Live! was just an idea, long before he became the Ex-President named Roach who would have the audiences howling with laughter…
And his name is Thomas Blake.
Blake, a North Carolina native and avid surfer, has been the driving force for Point Break Live’s success on the West Coast while serving as the show’s producer, director and starring in the live theater production.
I had the privilege of working alongside Blake in Point Break Live! back in 2008, so with the release of the new film and the longstanding success of the live show, I knew there was no one better to chat with than him. Fortunately for us, Blake was happy to oblige.
CraveOnline: How did Point Break Live! come to fruition?
Thomas Blake: It started in Seattle in 2003. The concept came from Jaime Keeling, who is actually in New York now doing shows, so she does the East coast stuff and I do all of the West coast stuff. It was just friends having drinks and saying ‘Oh we should remake Point Break on stage’ and this concept of pulling Keanu out of the audience kind of happened on accident and the rest is history. It was there and then in New York for a little while before we brought it out here to L.A. in 2007.
CraveOnline: What was appealing about the movie that made you want to turn it into a parody?
Thomas Blake: Whenever you’re trying to parody something, we did it with Terminator as well but it has to have a certain element for it to work. A lot of people will say ‘Why don’t you do like Goonies or something’, which are obviously great movies but for it to really be a parody and work it has to be a serious script. You can’t really parody a comedy so it’s got to be something not meant to be funny so I think that’s a big aspect of it. Also, it’s got to have these big lines that everyone can remember and shout out for it to work for what we do. You got to have those one-liners when everyone can scream out when it’s time and as far as picking someone from the audience, you got to have an actor that has a long successful career so people can see it and be like ‘Wait a minute. I can do that.’
You’re not making fun of them because who the hell are we to make fun of Keanu Reeves [laughs]? It’s like ‘Oh you’re going to make fun of me while you’re still doing that show and I’m a millionaire?’ I think it’s more out of respect. The biggest form of flattery is when people spoof you because you made something worth spoofing.
CraveOnline: I know you’ve had no shortage of celebrity guests. Who are some of the celebs you’ve had attend the show?
Thomas Blake: Gary Busey was obviously amazing. He’s a big fan of it. Lori Petty who played Tyler in the original film, played Johnny Utah in the show so that was awesome. We’ve also had Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst, Kate Beckinsale and Justin Long. James Franco came like two weeks ago. The director of the original film Kathryn Bigelow came. Catherine O’Hara came and she was probably one of my favorites. She was really cool. So we’ve had a lot of people over the years but then again we’ve been doing it nearly 10 years in Hollywood so naturally over time, odds are someone famous will show up.
CraveOnline: Any of the other main cast comes to the show like the original Ex-Presidents John Philbin and BoJesse Christopher?
Thomas Blake: Oh yeah. I think the only one who hasn’t come is Keanu [Reeves]. He knows about it. For years I’ve been trying to get him to do a charity show where he plays Johnny Utah and I spoke with his agent a year and a half ago. He said ‘He’d love to do it. That would be great’ so I said let’s do it next month. He was like ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! He’s booked for a year.’ I was like ‘Alright, call me in a year.’ Hopefully before it’s all said and done that will be the icing on the cake.
CraveOnline: Who has been the craziest Johnny Utah that the audience has picked so far?
Thomas Blake: There’s been a lot. Obviously Lori Petty playing Johnny Utah was pretty wild especially when she was having love scenes with Tyler in the show. We also, had our good friend Ponceman who’s a comedian with Down Syndrome play Johnny Utah. That was really fun. He was hilarious. We’ve had some cast members knock themselves out; get staples in their head so there’s always that danger element that can make it get crazy.
We had a fight break out one time with the cast and an audience member and he ended up being a guy that worked for TMZ, the blonde guy, so that was fun [laughs]. There are all kinds of stuff that will keep you on your toes, that’s for sure. When you throw in the craziness of the show plus the booze plus the interaction and all of that, you got to be ready and go with the flow.
CraveOnline: What are your thoughts on the Point Break remake?
Thomas Blake: I’m stoked that they’re keeping it alive. I know it’s different than the original. From what I’ve seen it’s a lot different than the original. I’m not sure they should have called it “Point Break” with the little amount of surfing in it but it seems like it should be fun.
CraveOnline: Do you think the movie’s release helps out Point Break Live?
Thomas Blake: Yeah, I imagine it could by keeping the name in the forefront. I think it goes both ways. I’m pretty sure we helped business for them too by keeping the original in the pop culture realm as well.
CraveOnline: With your show’s success, why didn’t you try to get a role in the Point Break remake?
Thomas Blake: I did. I actually talked to a couple of the people that was making it early on but if you notice when you see it, there’s not very many Americans in it… I don’t know if it was for tax reasons or union reasons. I’m not sure but they ended up going with a bunch of actors from different countries. I know BoJesse Christopher [the original Grommet] has a small part in it and a couple of the original surfers in it. I would loved to have been in it. I was actually working on “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” in Berlin a couple of years ago and the next thing that was coming in was “Point Break.” They were coming in to shoot some motorcycle stuff. That was pretty cool. I would love to have gone to the Tahiti version of it. That would have been where I wanted to be a part of it [laughs]. We’ll see how it goes though. Who knows? Maybe they will come out with a whole franchise and maybe they can sneak us in that way.
CraveOnline: Point Break Live is a dinner show too, right?
Thomas Blake: Yeah, the show starts at 7 p.m. and the doors are at 5 p.m. From 5-7, every person that buys tickets gets a taco meal so for those two hours it’s tacos, Happy Hour drink specials, surf videos and music and the patio is open, which is kind of like a pre-game for the show. We don’t have the food during the show so you could imagine how messy that could get.
CraveOnline: I know when I was a part of the show back in the day, there was the infamous “chase scene” from the movie you re-created. You guys actually had the Johnny Utah audience member chase Bodhi outside and people in the streets had no idea what was going on. Has anyone ever called the cops?
Thomas Blake: Oh yeah. We’ve had a couple of incidents. About four months ago, when we do the first bank robbery, we go outside and then we come in through the front doors of the venue so we’re waiting outside for a couple of minutes before we go in and we have masks on and holding fake guns. We went in as usual and did our bank robbery and then we came out and went back around the other side of the venue by the backstage area and a few minutes later, about six cops bust in the door with SWAT gear on, shotguns drawn. We’re like ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. We’re doing a play.’ Then we were trying to show them props and toy guns and they’re yelling ‘put it down!’ Then the cops snuck in to the other side and looked out the curtain and could see all the audience sitting out there with their ponchos on and they kind of backed off.
As they were leaving one of the cops kind of laughed and said ‘Man, I’ve heard about this thing. I’ve been really wanting to see it for a long time.’ Then they all backed out slowly to make sure we wouldn’t pull our fake guns on them or something [laughs]. So we’ve had a couple of run-ins like that but we try to go down to the police station and let them know what’s going on during Saturday nights.
CraveOnline: What projects do you have lined up and what does the show have planned for the future?
Thomas Blake: For me personally, I just shot “The Magnificent Seven.” It’s a western with Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and the director of “Training Day” [Antoine Fuqua]. So it’s a really good little part in that. I have a pretty fun scene with Chris Pratt. I just did the third “Divergent” movie that comes out next year and a couple of TV shows. I’ve been staying pretty busy on the acting front. But as far as the show goes, right now we’re doing San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Petaluma, and do a Big Bear show and I’d like to branch out and do some of the winter places like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth and those places. Who knows? I’d like to do Australia sometime soon. That’s my next big dream. We’ll see what the surf gods have in store for us.
Point Break Live! L.A. is located at
6510 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a surfing enthusiast, an unhealthy sports fanatic, and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photos courtesy of Thomas Blake