Jonny Weston knew that playing legendary surfer Jay Moriarty in the new biopic “Chasing Mavericks” wasn’t going to be easy. He had to somehow embody the late surfing icon who changed the game for many a young surfer.
But, lucky for the up-and-coming actor, he had not only the support of the California surfer’s real-life friends and family to show him the ropes, but also his co-star Gerard Butler.
“I put that pressure on myself,” he told MTV News about being cast in the film, which opens Friday. “Like all of Jay’s family and everybody were supportive.”
“[His wife] Kim spent a lot of time one on one with me, and [Jay’s friend and surfboard shaper] Bob Pearson showed me kind of Jay’s surfing side and took me out to where he would surf,” he shared about the work he put in before filming began. “It was really helpful … and at a certain point it started becoming a form of pressure and responsibility for me, but they were all completely supportive and kind of told me everything that they possibly could about what people said about Jay and what people wouldn’t say about Jay.”
The film follows the story of Moriarty, a surfing legend who rose to fame after he was featured on the cover of Surfer magazine. From there, he spent his career chasing some of the biggest waves he could, alongside his pal, Frosty Hesson (played by Gerard Butler). At the age of 22, Jay died in a diving accident in the Indian Ocean in 2001.
The film not only pays homage to the late surfer’s life, but also his kinship with Frosty. And, Weston says he learned a lot working so closely with Butler. “We spent a lot of time together. As soon as I met him in the audition, we already had a good connection,” he shared. “I think in order to do a film, you have to share the same kind of insanity about the script as everyone else involved, and me and Gerard are similarly insane.
“I guess we’re both kind of full of life and we’re both kind of aggressive and we’re both trying to find out how to be in the moment as much as possible,” he said. “It just works, it’s hard to explain. Sometimes it just works.”
And, they had to certainly embrace some of those insane tendencies as they jumped from wave to wave while filming. And, things got intense at times, so much so that Butler was badly injured in the midst of shooting the film. It’s watching that sort of passion and dedication to the craft that taught Wesson quite a lot.
“I think the majority of what I learned from him was from watching him and working with him on set,” he recalled. “But I certainly had some questions for him regarding [my] career … and I think you need a mentor in something like this, for sure. And he’s willing to do that. To this day he’s one of my best friends and a great mentor. He’s a very unselfish actor.”
With the film hitting theaters this week, Wesson notes that having spent some time as Jay certainly has affected the way he views life these days. He added, “I’ll always have a piece of Jay now.”