Real-life reads

Kiwi stunt­man’s war on plas­tics; Am­putee hero’s Christ­mas cam­paign; Bride and groom’s pop-up wed­ding

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Woman’s Day This Week -

Af­ter 25 years liv­ing and work­ing in Los An­ge­les, Kiwi ac­tor and stunt­man Phil Somerville has re­turned home with his young fam­ily – but he didn’t make the 10,500-kilo­me­tre trip the con­ven­tional way!

Rather than hop on a 13-hour flight, the ex­pe­ri­enced sailor and keen en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist skip­pered his 54-foot yacht

Today from Cal­i­for­nia to Auckland, test­ing the ocean for plas­tic pol­lu­tion along the way.

Join­ing Phil on board was a marine bi­ol­o­gist, a cam­era­man, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from char­ity Love the Sea and marine re­search cen­tre Al­galita South Pa­cific. He also had the sup­port of other sailors, in­clud­ing his good

friend and fel­low Kiwi ac­tor Martin Hen­der­son.

In the six months since they set off from Ma­rina del Rey in May, Phil and his crew have vis­ited nine is­land na­tions, teach­ing the lo­cals about pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and help­ing with beach clean-ups.

“I’ve al­ways been an ocean ad­vo­cate,” the 48-yearold tells. “I grew up on the ocean, sail­ing with my dad in New Zealand. It re­ally means a lot to me.”

Us­ing a mantra trawl – a so­phis­ti­cated, cone-shaped net towed be­hind a boat – the team dis­cov­ered plas­tic de­bris in more than 80% of sam­ples they took from the sea.

“I hon­estly did not ex­pect the Pa­cific to be that full of plas­tic,” says the shocked

sea­farer. “It doesn’t hit home un­til you re­ally see it for your­self, con­stantly find­ing plas­tic par­ti­cles and mi­croplas­tics.

“The fact we can’t see most of it with the naked eye just adds to the prob­lem be­cause it’s out of sight, out of mind. This isn’t what I want for my boys and the next gen­er­a­tion of Ki­wis.”

Real-life hero

Af­ter ap­pear­ing in block­buster

movies Mission: Im­pos­si­ble –Fall­out, IronMan3, Zero

Dark Thirty and The Is­land, the fa­ther-of-two has left Hol­ly­wood be­hind for now. He wants to focus on sav­ing the planet in­stead.

His pas­sion has ig­nited the en­thu­si­asm of other fa­mous friends, in­clud­ing Rhys Darby, Zoë Bell, Do­minic Bow­den and sailor Chris Dick­son.

“I had a good act­ing run while I was in the States, scor­ing parts in ev­ery­thing from com­mer­cials to block­buster movies – one of which I haven’t seen yet!” Phil tel­lls, re­fer­ring to the lat­est

Mission: Im­pos­si­ble se­quel, in which he plays a vil­lain­ous helicopter pi­lot lead­ing a breath­tak­ing chop­per chase near Queen­stown.

“It was a per­fect back­drop and a stun­ning lo­ca­tion for what is cer­tainly the big­gest ac­tion scene in the film. The movie was re­leased in June, but I was on my boat sail­ing home, so I am yet to see it

–but I hear it’s very good!”

Putting his money where his mouth is, Phil sold his LA home to found his Eat Less Plas­tic project. He es­ti­mates the voy­age to Auckland cost at least $120,000 of his own money and he’s grate­ful to all those who do­nated to­ward the fur­ther $40,000 needed.

“Without this in­cred­i­ble sup­port, mak­ing the trip hap­pen would have been very dif­fi­cult,” ex­plains the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, who in­tends to con­tinue his world­wide cru­sade from Aotearoa.

Phil’s US-born wife Jill, 42, has a mas­ter’s de­gree in phys­i­cal ther­apy and is right be­hind her hus­band’s en­vi­ron­men­tal causes. Though the cou­ple de­cided against bring­ing their boys – Stry­der, eight, and Reef, six – back home on the boat, she sup­ported the trip by be­ing his land-based or­gan­iser and lo­gis­tics man­ager.

Fu­ture liv­ing

While Phil con­tin­ues his con­ser­va­tion cam­paign, Jill in­tends to open her own os­teo­pathic phys­i­cal ther­apy busi­ness on the North Shore.

The cou­ple dream of liv­ing in a more eco-friendly way, with Phil in­vest­ing in an­other en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious en­ter­prise, Wildernests, which builds off-the-grid houses.

“People can cre­ate their own wa­ter out of the at­mos­phere – they don’t need sep­tic tanks,” Phil says. “You can ba­si­cally put a house on a hill any­where, and you will sur­vive and live com­fort­ably in that house. I’ve al­ways wanted to live off the grid – my long-term dream is to buy a lit­tle sec­tion on Wai­heke or in Waikino, without power or wa­ter hooked up to it.”

But in the short term, clean­ing up our oceans is Phil’s num­ber-one pri­or­ity.

De­scrib­ing plas­tic as the most deadly threat to marine life, he says, “Eat Less Plas­tic is a long-term cam­paign. It’s about be­ing lead­ers in green ini­tia­tives, such as re­cy­cling, and ed­u­cat­ing kids about keep­ing our planet clean.

“Mak­ing people aware is one thing, but hav­ing a plan to do some­thing about it is an­other. We have to make it fun for kids es­pe­cially or they won’t lis­ten.

“What can they do at home? How can they help? Why is it im­por­tant every­one pitches in? Those are the sorts of ques­tions we need to get young people ask­ing.”

Phil says his fam­ily (from left: Stry­der, Jill and Reef) are all on board with his pas­sion­ate mission.

Phil is tak­ing a break from Hol­ly­wood to focus on spread­ing aware­ness about the dan­gers of plas­tic.

Above: Phil on lo­ca­tion in New Zealand with Mission:Im­pos­si­ble –Fall­out co-star Henry Cav­ill.

Left: With Zero DarkThirty director Kathryn Bigelow.

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