OFF-CENTERPIECE : MOVIES : After 26 Endless Years, Surf's Up Again

It's no secret Hollywood loves sequels. But a sequel to a 26-year-old surfing movie? Yes, "The Endless Summer 2," based on filmmaker Bruce Brown's 1966 classic surfing film, is currently in production, again directed by Brown, who co-wrote the script with his son, Dana.

The original "Endless Summer," which was shot on a budget of $50,000 and went on to gross an estimated $30 million worldwide, captured the exploits of surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson as they traveled the globe, searching Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti for the elusive perfect wave. Although the sequel will feature cameos by August and, possibly, Hynson, the globe-hopping surfers will be played by two current professionals, Robert (Wingnut) Weaver and Pat O'Connell.

So what took so long? According to Brown, he just wasn't interested, although he says there were plenty of offers. "People have been bugging me for years to do this," says the filmmaker from his ranch in Gaviota, just north of Santa Barbara. "I'm a little suspicious of Hollywood and I just didn't feel I wanted to get involved with another film."

Brown's last film was the 1971 motorcycling documentary, "On Any Sunday," which featured Steve McQueen, and for which he received an Oscar nomination.

According to Ron Moler, who's producing the film with Roger Riddell, it took some doing to get Brown out of his filmmaking hibernation. "It was a very long process to get him involved," says Moler. "Bruce is very anti-Hollywood. He didn't want to get into a Hollywood situation. He wanted to make it his way. A lot of my job was to convince him that he could have the freedom. He wanted to make a true sequel to the original."

And apparently, Brown will have the freedom he wanted: "My deal with New Line is to have complete creative control," says Brown. "I wouldn't have done it any other way. I also want to keep anybody from potentially ruining the image the first one created."

But those weren't the only reasons that brought Brown back to the beach. "I'd like to sit down in a theater and watch something like this," says the 54-year-old Brown, "and it didn't look like anybody else was going to do it."

Still, don't look for the sequel anytime soon. Although "The Endless Summer 2" began production several weeks ago in Costa Rica, it will not film continually; according to Moler, it'll take about two years to complete. "To do this film right, you can't just go quickly from location to location and shoot it like a normal movie," he says. "We're victims of great surf. We've got to have great surf and perfect weather. Surf is very seasonal. We really have to kind of follow the waves in a sense. To do that, takes this long time period." The film will be released by New Line Cinema in 1994.

Moler, who's been trying to get the project off the ground for several years, said it took some doing to get a distributor behind the project. "I kept talking to studios and the interest was growing," he says, "but there was always this wall that I would hit, which was the fact that it was a documentary. A lot of people were scared off by that."

The first film was shot on one wind-up 16-millimeter camera by Brown, who worked alone. The latest version will be shot on two state-of-the-art 35mm cameras, in addition to underwater cameras and a crew of 12. "In a way, this is a lot harder now," says Brown. "We've got over 2,000 pounds of camera equipment. It takes a long time to move the troops. Before we could hitchhike around. Now we can't really do that." Even so, Brown hopes he can capture some of the magic of the first film. "Hopefully, it will try and be the same kind of film, as far as its spirit and won't lose the simplicity of the original one."

Except for the occasional run-ins with exotic sea life and crocodiles, Moler says the filming has been running smoothly, although in one mishap, a stunt seaplane hit a sandbar and ended up on the beach with a smashed wing. According to Moler, the pilot walked away from the plane, uninjured.

In addition to Costa Rica, Brown says the itinerary for the rest of the film includes Fiji, Bali, Australia, Hawaii and Southern California and, of course, South Africa's legendary Cape St. Francis, where August and Hynson ended up finding perfect surf and unspoiled beaches, and which has since been renamed "Bruce's Beauties."

"I haven't been back since," says Brown, who still surfs. "It'll be interesting to go back."

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