Share & Connect
‘Chasing Mavericks’ is the inspirational true story of surfing phenom Jay Moriarity (played by newcomer Jonny Weston). When 15 year old Jay discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, is near his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to train him to survive it. As Jay and Frosty embark on their quest to do the impossible, they form a unique friendship that transforms their lives, and their quest to tame Mavericks becomes about more than surfing. ‘Chasing Mavericks’ was made with the help of some of the biggest names in the surfing world, and features some of the most mind-blowing wave footage ever captured on film.
There is a saying that if you hail from the Northern California town of Santa Cruz, you are born with a surfboard in one hand and a skateboard in the other. But that isn’t the only adage the seaside community abides by. The residents are also fiercely true to the motto “Live Like Jay,” a saying – and a lifestyle – dedicated to the memory of a local surfer named Jay Moriarity. Jay was a rising star in the world of big wave surfing when his life ended much too soon. And while he gained international notoriety for his fearless wave riding, it was his personal spirit – driven by kindness, an infectious enthusiasm, and an absolute fervor for life – that was truly unforgettable.
Jay’s neighbor was Frosty Hesson, a surfer who became a friend, mentor, father figure – and so much more – to Jay. Michael Apted (‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’), who shared directing duties with Curtis Hanson (‘8 Mile’), explains: “The initial relationship between Frosty and Jay is mentor and pupil. As the story develops, their bond becomes more complicated, more emotional, and more in the territory of father and son. By the end of the story, the child is father to the man. So the movement of the film is a bit of a role reversal as to who is the mentor.”
Gerard Butler and newcomer Jonny Weston bring Frosty and Jay to life on the big screen. Butler, who following his triumphant success as a peerless warrior in ‘300’, has become one of today’s most versatile and in-demand actors, is, says Apted, “a movie star and the rock on which we built ‘Chasing Mavericks’. He dramatized the internal struggles that Frosty must navigate in the course of the film. A lot of the cast were young and were able to learn from Gerard’s experience.”
Jonny Weston was among those benefiting from Butler’s experience and talent – especially given the fact that ‘Chasing Mavericks’ is the young star’s major motion picture debut. Apted elaborates: “Jonny brings a freshness and curiosity to the role. He could have been intimidated by the challenges, but he had the ability to listen and learn. Once Jonny saw the way through a problem, he doggedly stuck with it.”
“Jonny is Jay,” adds producer Brandon Hooper. “There was just this purity in his eyes and in his spirit.”
Butler notes that one of the film’s key themes is connections. “In many ways, the film is about connecting with nature, to spirituality, and connecting with another person.” The connection that grows between Frosty and Jay is the most compelling aspect of the story. But there are several more relationships that shape both Jay and Frosty, including, notes director Curtis Hanson, “Jay’s relationship with his girlfriend and future wife Kim; Jay’s relationship with his mother; and Frosty’s relationship with his wife and his little child.”
“There are interesting relationships in this story, which help dramatize the emotion of the piece,” says Michael Apted. “I’m drawn in by that emotion and look for unusual relationships to help express it. But I also thought that big wave surfing was a spectacular and unusual world in which to set the story. I felt we were in original territory.”
The connection between Weston and Butler mirrored the one they were depicting. “From the second Jonny screen tested, everybody fell in love with him. We really had a kind of Jay-Frosty / mentor-friend relationship; it was very much life imitating art.”