Six years after winning the fourth season of American Idol, Carrie Underwood made her big screen debut in the movie Soul Surfer.
Soul Surfer is a biographical movie that tells the story of Bethany Hamilton, the award-winning surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. Hamilton was surfing along Tunnels Beach in Kauai, Hawaii, with her best friend, her friends father and brother. Bethany was laying on her surfboard when a 14-foot tiger shark bit off her left arm, just below her shoulder.
Her friends helped her make it to shore and made a tourniquet to minimize blood loss as Hamilton was transported to a local hospital. But, by the time Bethany made it to the hospital she had lost 60% of her blood. In what can only be considered a providential occurrence, her father was already at the hospital awaiting a scheduled knee surgery. Bethany took her dad’s place in the operating room where doctors saved her life.
Hamilton not only survived the 2003 attack, but she returned to surfing just one month later. Bethany, who was only 13 when the accident occurred, wrote a book about her experience in 2004 called Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.
Hamilton’s book was adapted into the movie Soul Surfer, and detailed the shark attack as well as the surfer’s dependence on her faith for her recovery.
Carrie Underwood was cast to play youth pastor Sarah Hill. Hill is credited for helping Bethany through her recovery.
“My brother Noah called Sarah, and she left work and rushed to the hospital to be with my family. Sarah shared a scripture with us that day that really carried us all through and helped us see the bigger picture,” Bethany wrote of Sarah. “Fast forward to being home and adjusting to life with one arm. Sarah was the one my mom would call when she noticed I was feeling down. Sarah would come over and talk, read the Bible with me, or take me on an adventure.”
Carrie Underwood’s portrayal of Hill in Soul Surfer was a small but important role. It was also a role that Underwood felt was important to the telling of Bethany Hamilton’s story.
“I’m happy with myself for the role and for the movie,” Underwood said prior to the movie’s premiere. “Am I going to win an Oscar? No. It was so much fun and the important thing is getting the story out there.”
Fresh off of her American Idol win, Carrie Underwood had movie roles pitched to her. But, she declined all of them until the opportunity to be a part of Soul Surfer came along.
“I’m very busy with music and that’s what I love, that’s what I know. But you know this was special. It didn’t fit into my schedule at all, but we made time for it,” Carrie said. “It was so special.”
Soul Surfer also starred Dennis Quaid as Bethany’s dad Tom, Helen Hunt as her mom Cheri, Anna Sophia Robb as Bethany, and Kevin Sorbo, Craig T. Nelson and others in supporting roles.
Watch a clip of Carrie Underwood in her big screen debut below.