One September morning while making Drift, Myles Pollard read his call sheet and saw that the location of the day’s shooting had changed from Bunker Bay. “There had been a fatality,” Pollard tells Time Out. “A boy got taken by a shark in the same break that I was surfing in the day before. And then there were four other shark attacks in WA over the next four months. It was unbelievable what was happening."
Pollard, 40, is recounting some of the hairier moments in the making of his film, about the origins of the surfboard and surfwear industries in Australia in the early 1970s. Drift features thrilling scenes shot in the waters of southwestern WA, with waves of up to 20 feet. As the star as well co-producer, Pollard had to man up on numerous occasions. “My surfing ability is intermediate at best and I was being towed into some pretty serious waves. Being a producer, it was like: ‘Well, we need to get this done.’ So it was scary, but also exhilarating.”
The Perth-born actor will be familiar to anyone who has watched Nine’s McLeod’s Daughters: Pollard played Nick Ryan in the show’s first six seasons. Keen to break into films, Pollard joined up with producer Tim Duffy several years ago to help develop Duffy’s script about surfing brothers Jimmy (Xavier Samuel) and Andy (Pollard) Kelly, who launch a surf company while tangling with drug-dealing bikers and the law.
“It’s about two knockabout brothers who are sick of working dead-end jobs and want to do what they enjoy doing,” the actor says. “I’ve been surfing pretty much for my whole life, so the subject matter really appealed to me.” The cast includes Pollard’s old friend Sam Worthington as a hippy surf photographer who inspires the Kellys to pursue their dream. “Sam and I auditioned for NIDA on the same day here in WA. That was the first time we met. We both got in, so it was nice having someone I knew when I arrived in Sydney.
“Sam was doing Avatar when I first spoke to him about Drift and he gave us some advice on the script and when we actually had a product we formally approached him through his agent.”
Pollard and Duffy were determined that the film get both the drama and the surfing right and brought on board two directors, Morgan O’Neill and Ben Nott. “We didn’t want it to be another surfing film set in two-foot waves. We wanted to make it real. Ben has got that experience, while Morgan I’ve worked with many times on short films and is a real problem-solver.”
The result is a dramatically compelling film exploiting a surprisingly under-utilised piece of Australian production value – its surging coastline. “Our goal was to get a tick of approval from our core audience, being surfers, and then hopefully flow on to mainstream audiences.”
Drift opens Thu May 2.