Chasing the Big Waves
By: Lynn Barker
Picture this. We are on the beach near Malibu, California on a clear day to find out more about the upcoming big surf film Chasing Mavericks, the true story of Jay Moriarity, a 15-year-old guy who tackled some of the biggest waves on the planet while falling in love and learning his craft from an expert surfer played by 300’s Gerard Butler.
We’re under the shade of beach umbrellas on this fun press day. Reporters could learn to surf but I’d learned on a previous film’s press junket to Hawaii. L.A. water is just too cold and you have to wear a wetsuit (think the tightest pair of Spanks ever!) so I was happy to sit on the sand.
Jonny and Leven at our interview
The film’s young female star Leven Rambin (Glimmer in The Hunger Games and on “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “One Tree Hill”) brought her cute dog named “Sookie” after Sookie Stackhouse in “True Blood” who perched in her lap while we chatted. Hunky Newcomer Jonny Weston tried to keep the stylists and “groomers” from taming his surfer hair. The duo play a young couple in the film; soulmates who later marry. Sadly, the real Jay Moriarity died at age 22 in an underwater accident.
Pull up a beach chair for our interview. First we pet Sookie and settle in with Leven.
Leven with her dog Sookie
Courtesy of Lynn Barker
Kidzworld: Favorite surfing movie?
- Leven: Riding Giants (a 2004 documentary film directed and narrated by Stacy Peralta, a famous skater/surfer who helped define modern skateboarding. The movie traces the origins of surfing and specifically focuses on the art of big wave riding).
Kidzworld: Good choice. You play surfer Jay Moriarity’s wife Kim. Jay died about ten years ago. I hear you did meet Kim. What is she like?
- Leven: I was really impressed with her. She has a really gracious strength. She’s a tough chick. She’s not that feminine at all and she’ll tell you that right away but she has such a loving passionate nature. People flock to her energy, almost maternal and very caring about people and the earth.
Kidzworld: What did she tell you to help you play her in the film?
- Leven: Her whole presence was so helpful to me to realize the character and to make her more than just the girlfriend of some kid (Jay was 15 when they met). Their story is so unique and so was their really insane love and spiritual connection at such a young age. They were both wise beyond their years and that’s something that Jonny (who plays Jay) and I incorporated into the relationship.
Leven in the film
Kidzworld: So you are teens in the movie. Does the movie go through into their marriage later?
- Leven: No but they are definitely soul mates and it goes beyond being attracted to each other on a physical level. They are very much meant for each other but they did end up getting married at ages 19 and 21.
Kidzworld: How was working with Jonny who plays Jay?
- Leven: (smiles) Jonny and I met and I pretty much knew my life was going to change dramatically. We became really, really close and we would surf every single day together. He’s fearless as an actor and as a surfer and a human being. I learned a lot from him. We definitely hit it off.
Kidzworld: Had you ever surfed before this film or did you have to learn?
- Leven: Never surfed before. I had to learn. This girl Ashley Lloyd taught us and I went out surfing a lot with Frosty (Hesson, surfing mentor played by Gerard Butler in the movie) as well.
Gerard with Leven's character Kim
Kidzworld: So are you now hooked on surfing? (we can hear the waves crashing in the background).
- Leven: I go every month that I can. I did a movie since in Vancouver and I was landlocked and miserable and sad the whole time because I wanted to be in the water surfing. I’ve had some amazing experiences surfing and I’m so passionate about it. I don’t get to do it as much because I don’t live at the beach and I’m busy but it is something, like bike riding, that will always be in my life. I’m an avid fan of professional surfing as well.
Jonny before our interview
Courtesy of Lynn Barker
Kidzworld: What do you hope young movie-goers take away from seeing Chasing Mavericks?
- Leven: I hope young people can be inspired to achieve a legacy like Jay left, “Live like Jay” is the slogan for his (charitable) foundation and obviously, he’s left a really strong impression on people’s hearts as a young man, 22 when he died and 10 years later, people are still repeating his mantra.
He touched a lot of people and spread his positivity, his “stoke” in the worId. I think everyone can strive to leave a legacy like that. If you died tomorrow what would people remember about you? What would your legacy be? Would people care about your legacy 10 years from now? That’s the kind of impact I’d like to have.
Kidzworld: What is your favorite beach or beach area in the world?
- Leven: Oh, I just got back from the Riviera Maya (Cancun, Mexico and south). I love it. No waves but it was beautiful.
Here comes cute Jonny who plays Jay in the movie. People keep fussing with his hair for his later TV interviews.
- Jonny: (re: his hair) You don’t have to do anything crazy with it. I like it to look a little messy.
Jonny in the film
Kidzworld: How did the audition process go for this film? Did they ask if you could surf?
- Jonny: My agent sent me this great surfing script. I thought “Hey, I could surf”. In the final audition I’m sitting there with Gerard Butler. I’m so excited and I told the director, “Hey, man I’ve got some footage of me surfing on my phone. I had some chick film me for a minute. Do you want to see it?”. He goes “No”. He had no interest in seeing it or in whether I could surf or not and I walked out of there thinking “Oh God, dude, there is no way I’m getting this movie”. Three torturous days later they called me and told me the part was mine. I already knew how to surf. They just didn’t hire me for that.
Kidzworld: Did you go talk to the people who knew Jay where he lived in Santa Cruz, California as research?
- Jonny: Oh yeah, his former wife Kimmy, his best friends, his board-shaper, his mentor Frosty Hesson who Gerard Butler plays. They were all there; Peter Mel, Greg Long and Grant Washburn, all these surfers that were his safety and friends. They all were right there for me.
Jonny rejects hair fluffer
Courtesy of Lynn Barker
Kidzworld: Did you shoot the film around the Santa Cruz, big Maverick waves area?
- Jonny: Yeah, we shot at Mavericks. I surfed it.
Kidzworld: How much is you and how much the pro surfer doubles? Also, how awesome were those waves?
- Jonny: I have to proudly say that a portion of it is me and Mavericks is the heaviest thing I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. I’d never seen a mountain as wide as you looked in both directions, rolling at you and gradually getting bigger and darker and you’re dropping like an elevator. It’s one of the most beautiful, terrifying things I’ve ever seen. You just can’t describe it.
Kidzworld: Talk about working with Leven. She said great things about you.
- Jonny: Oh, Leven’s fantastic! Great girl. I’d never met her before. Essentially, I met her at the hotel once we got the parts. We started hanging out once we were on location. The first time we shot together was the most important scene in the entire movie on the first day. But it was kind of cool. We got thrown into the big center of the relationship right away. She’s so good. It wasn’t that difficult. She’s a total pro and totally cute!
Kidzworld: What did you take away from this spiritually? How were you affected by it?
- Jonny: Surfing just cleans you out and gets you in the moment but more than what I took from surfing, I took from Jay, the character I played. I know from what his friends and wife told me is that he was the most pure, loving person they had ever met. In a world of surfing, that is rare. You would think surfers are laid back but there aren’t that many people who just live for other people and he was one of them, so I took that away. I think my relationships are stronger. The more love you have you can just be happier.
Kidzworld: Cool! Fun question. What is your pet dating peeve? If they do this, they won’t get a second date.
- Jonny: Wow. I’m pretty forgiving. I think that quirky, weird things are my favorite but if she’s not quirky and doesn’t goof around, it’s no fun. Not a stiff and perfect girl for me.
Kidzworld: What is your favorite music lately?
- Jonny: I love DubStep (a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London, England). It’s kind of like heavy reggae electronic music. I’m into the origins of it. It came from London to New York and I’m obsessed with that kind of European music. Aside from that, Rage Against the Machine and Modest Mouse is my favorite band in the world.
Kidzworld: How was working with Gerard Butler? Were you intimidated when you met this big guy from 300?
- Jonny: I walked into the chemistry read, which is when I’m first auditioning with Gerard, and we just shook hands and I said “Yeah”. He goes “Yeah!”. I say “Yeah!”. That was our first conversation, just that. Right from the start, we were both in the trenches together. Of course he’s awesome and a huge star but it didn’t take me too long to get over it.
Jonny Weston with Gerard Butler