Dennis Quaid knows what it's like to almost lose a child to a tragic accident. Two of them, in fact. In November 2007, his two-week-old twins, Thomas and Zoe, almost died in a Los Angeles hospital when they were accidentally given a massive overdose of a blood thinner.
The babies almost bled to death, but slowly stabilized as doctors and nurses administered an antidote. After 12 days, they were well enough to come home, and they're happy, healthy toddlers today. Quaid, one of Hollywood's most popular actors, and wife Kimberly later settled with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for $750,000.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think [about it]," Quaid told CBS several months after the incident. "I don't take anything for granted any more, 'cause if they hadn't made it, there never would've been another happy day."
Quaid has been rethinking those difficult days recently in his latest movie role, that of a man who almost lost his teenage daughter in a shark attack. The film is Soul Surfer, which just finished filming in Hawaii and should release in 2011. It's the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who in 2003 lost her left arm to a shark attack at the age of 13. She almost bled to death that morning, but made a courageous and remarkable recovery and was surfing again three weeks later.
Today, Hamilton, 20, is one of the world's top professional surfers, despite the balance challenges that come with having just one arm. An outspoken Christian, Hamilton credits God with her recovery, perseverance, and desire to tell her story around the world—a story that will now be told on the big screen, with Quaid playing her father, Helen Hunt her mother, and 16-year-old AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany. Country singer Carrie Underwood makes her film debut as Sarah Hill, Bethany's youth pastor and mentor. The movie is being produced by Affirm Films, the faith-based arm of Sony Pictures, and Mandalay Vision.
CT recently visited the Soul Surfer set in Oahu to learn more about the movie.
Quaid says he jumped at the chance of playing Tom Hamilton after seeing Bethany on NBC's Today in December, as part of the show's "Buzziest Stories of the Decade" series.
"I had a dim memory of her story, but had mostly forgotten it," says Quaid, who watched the Today segment with his twins at his side. "To see Bethany's story, and what an inspiration she was, I wound up with tears streaming down my face. I just got choked up, it was so inspiring. And it just so happened that two days later, they called and asked if I wanted to play her father in her movie. It was a no-brainer. I said I'd love to do this."
Quaid says his own nearly tragic ordeal with his twins gave him something extra to bring to this role. "They came very close to not being with us," he says. "I believe it was the prayers of a lot of people around the world that saved [our twins]. I think that experience brings me to this experience, and what the Hamiltons went through as parents. Our little kids wound up making lemons into lemonade, and that's what Bethany has done.
"Bethany's story makes you stop and think about how precious our lives are. It makes you think about how we handle adversity; that really defines who we are, and Bethany has done a stand-up job of doing that. And she did it by walking with the Lord in her life.
"I don't know how I would have reacted if I were in Bethany's position—how she overcame the shark attack and went on with her life and inspired others. But the way she came through it is what makes this such an incredible story."