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You may recognize Jonny Weston as one of the zombies in "John Dies at the End" or as the ex-boyfriend of an up-and-coming porn star in "About Cherry," but the 24-year-old is making big waves this weekend with his first leading role.
In the biopic "Chasing Mavericks," Weston plays surf legend Jay Moriarty. At the young age of 16, Moriarty became infamous for riding the Mavericks in Santa Cruz, Calif., one of the world's most dangerous surfing destinations. Weston has more than just the blonde, blue-eyed good looks and acting chops to portray Moriarty — he also happens to be an avid surfer with all the right skills for the part.
We had the chance to chat with Weston about his breakout role in "Chasing Mavericks" as well as his board-riding skills and audition experiences while paving the way to Hollywood.
In "Chasing Mavericks," there was a lot of surfing done on your part. How much experience did you have before making the movie?
Oh, 10 years off and on. I stopped for two years and then started up again, but I started out as a skateboarder.
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How did you prepare for your role as Jay Moriarty?
Well, I got the role and so much preparation went into me even getting [it] in terms of emotionally and spiritually connecting with Jay. After I got the role, it was purely physical. I went to meet Bob Pearson, who shapes all these boards, and he shaped me almost every different [type] of board, and he took me out to these really heavy waves. I was paddling 8-10 miles every morning just trying to get physically like Jay so I could have the right mindset as Jay.
Because I understood him so well from reading the script and seeing the clips, it really only took five seconds of footage for me not so much to absorb his personality traits, his quirks and movements, but more spiritually, what his spirit is like inside deep beyond his personality.
Were there stunt surfers, or did you handle riding the waves yourself?
I did most of the surfing. I got trained really hard, they put me through the ringer. I guess once you're the strongest paddler, you can pretty much surf anything. [It] made me extremely strong.
Also Check Out: Hang Ten With Hot Movie Surfers
How did your acting career get started?
I had a commercial agent, and I was doing a commercial for Burlington Coat Factory. It was, like, a two-second thing. And then my agent decided to send me in for films and I got really close on some things. Actually, I had a screen test with Tilda Swinton for a movie. I adore her and as soon as I worked with her, I didn't get the part, but it gave me such a massive amount of confidence. From that point on, I was just working every day and studying as hard as I could, harder than anyone I know … I just wanted to be the best, which I guess you can't really judge the best but I wanted to be good.
What was that like, auditioning with someone you admire?
I was terrified. I saw her walking in the hallway just outside the audition room and she kind of waved at me and I was just paralyzed. I was so nervous; she's such a powerful individual.
Whose career in Hollywood do you look up to?
Joaquin Phoenix is changing the game for everyone. That's who I'm into right now.
Also Check Out: 5 'Chasing Mavericks' Clips
What was your first acting gig?
Well, my first real acting gig was this movie called "John Dies at the End," and Don Coscarelli directed it … he did "Phantasm" and all those. It was like a horror/ thriller/ comedy deal and I played this kind of ghetto kid who gets killed — shot in the head — and then comes back to life as a zombie.
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What did you do with your first Hollywood paycheck?
Bought a motorcycle and wrecked it.
Whoa. Were you okay?
[Laughs] I'm fine, I'm fine.
What would you be doing if you weren't an actor?
[Long pause] I think I would be a writer of psychology novels … kind of like a Freudian breakdown, psychological/ intellectual writer.
What is your favorite movie?
"The Master" with Joaquin Phoenix puts up a good fight, but my favorite movie of all time is "The Wizard of Oz." I just love it. I watched it over and over again as a child and I think it has all the elements of wonder and it's a beautiful story.
Favorite type of music?
Who would you pick to be your on-screen love interest?
Alice Greczyn. I think she's beautiful and has a cool, natural thing about her.
What is your dream role?
My dream role is to play in a story of how the Joker became the Joker, and I would play the young Heath Ledger.
Do you have a nickname?
Jonny. On set, I got Johnny Utah [from "Point Break"], all kinds.
Do people recognize you on the street?
No, not yet. I keep changing my hair and looking weird to see if I can avoid that whole thing.
What's next for you?
This movie "87 Fleer." It's a story about this kid in a really dangerous ghetto high school in Northern California who kind of goes from being a nobody and [has] a rise to power — "Scarface" type of deal — he's into drug sales and all that stuff. It's kind of like the descent of a person into hell. We haven't started filming yet.
Mac or PC?
Rock or Rap?
New York or L.A.?
Twitter or Facebook?
Madonna or Lady Gaga?