In Chasing Mavericks, newcomer Jonny Westin, who plays Jay Moriarity, is tasked with embodying one of the surfing worlds’ most beloved sons. The Foghorn caught up with Westin at the film’s premiere to find out how he brought Jay’s amazing journey to the big screen.
FOGHORN: What was it about the role that first caught your interest?
JW: I read the script and immediately afterward I just felt this instant connection to it and to Jay personally, and when I realized it was a true story I put everything I had into getting the part. I felt a responsibility to it, because I knew I could do it justice.
FOGHORN: This is a very physically demanding role with all the surfing, had you ever surfed before?
JW: Yeah I’ve surfed for years, but nothing like this. They put the real training on me for the film. I actually had to do all that paddling that you see in the film, every morning for miles and miles. I saw it as when you play a sport as a kid, so you aren’t totally new to it, but now you’re really taking it seriously.
FOGHORN: Your co-star Gerard Butler, who portrays Jay’s Mentor Frosty Hesson, had a bit of an accident while filming some of the surfing scenes. Did you have any close calls?
JW: (Laughs) Yeah, Gerard got pulled down pretty hard one day. I had a few instances where the waves held me down, but I never felt like I was going to die (Laughs).
FOGHORN: Let’s talk about working with Gerard. How was it to work alongside such an established actor?
JW: You know, Gerard is incredibly talented, famous and competent, but he was so understating and selfless with me. He taught me so much, and I think in the way he taught me I was also able to teach him.
FOGHORN: Were you two able to feed off of each other?
JW: Definitely, because you know he saw me as excited as a child to be in this role, and I think that infused him too.
FOGHORN: What about Jay’s message spoke to you?
JW: Just that he found something that gave him meaning. It wasn’t hard for me to understand that he had found that, because it’s like when I found acting, and you know, then I’m moving 2,000 miles away to do it and I was at the point where I couldn’t buy food, so I understand what it’s like to find something that you just can’t get out of your mind and you could never live without it. I think it’s beautiful that he found that.
FOGHORN: This film and this story mean a lot to the Northern California surfing scene, and everyone wanted to make sure Jay’s story was portrayed in an honest way. Was it hard to deal with that pressure?
JW: It was, because you know Jay meant so much to the community. But I was determined to do it, and I ended up meeting everyone in the world who knew him. 95% of them were supportive, but a few said I was in over my head. I didn’t pay attention to that though, you gotta push through the criticism. But, you know, Frosty, Kim Moriarity (Jay’s wife), Jay’s friend Shiloh, they were all so supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them.
FOGHORN: Did they give you a solid base in adapting him?
JW: Absolutely, because you know sometimes, the Hollywood types and directors aren’t always the people to ask with certain things so having them there really gave me the best understating of who Jay was.
FOGHORN: Jay was such an inspiring guy. In keeping with his message, what do you want this film to say?
JW: I want it to say one thing to people: find your goal, follow it relentlessly, but don’t forget that the journey there is every bit as important as the beautiful result.