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Chasing Mavericks is based on the true story of surfing phenomenon Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) who, when he was 15-years-old, discovered that the mythic Maverick surf breaks, one of the biggest waves on Earth, was near his home in Santa Cruz, California.

Enlisting the help of local legendary surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), to train him to survive and ride the waves, their unique friendship became more important than their quest to tame the Mavericks.

I spoke with Gerard Butler about how a Scottish actor ended up in a surfing movie.

Had you surfed before making Chasing Mavericks?

Chasing Mavericks - Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston
Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) and his protégée Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox

I’d surfed maybe three times in my life. I was learning to fly a helicopter at the time [I got this script]. I used to go to Santa Monica Airport and fly up and down Malibu and the coast, and I saw all the guys out on paddleboards and surfboards.

I thought, ‘What am I thinking? I need to get a place in Malibu and spend a bit of time here and take this movie, because I need to learn to surf.’

I touched down and I called [the producers] and said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and the next minute I had a place in Malibu and I was learning to surf.

What is it about surfing that you love so much?

Chasing Mavericks - Jonny Weston and Gerard Butler
Chasing Mavericks – Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) offers some sage advice to Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) about surfing – and life © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox

It’s incredibly meditative and spiritual, and I found the whole experience really transformative as well. When you get up on that wave and you become one with it, there’s nothing that beats it really.

You become one with nature and you’re harnessing that power and it feels very connective. Movies where you get to do that are to me the most enticing and rewarding.

How good a surfer did you have to become to do the Chasing Mavericks?

Looking at the task at hand was quite a daunting experience. I knew I had to get quite good at it, go and spend a lot of time in the water surfing and trying to get on bigger waves.

We were going to be in cold water, there were going to be sharks around, when you think of all those things there is certainly an element of fear of the bigger picture.

You play a real person in this. What did you look for in order to capture the spirit of who Frosty is?

Chasing Mavericks - Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston
Chasing Mavericks – Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) offers some last-second encouragement and support to Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), before the young man tries to conquer the legendary surf break known as Mavericks © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox

A lot of it is just acquainting yourself with the person. It’s an interpretation of what happened, but it’s not a word-for-word interpretation.

I’m not Frosty, I don’t look like him, but I tried to really understand what his essence was, what he was about, what he found exciting, what he found interesting, like the way he talks about waves, the way he enjoys to talk about life, he way he likes to teach.

He was a bit of a tiger in those days, you didn’t want to mess with him.

I do like the relationship between him and Jay, but the mentor didn’t always know what he was doing. He was like, ‘I’m struggling like you,’ which is when Jay suddenly stepped in and became a bit of a mentor to him.

How much of the surfing did you actually do in Chasing Mavericks?

Chasing Mavericks - Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston
Chasing Mavericks – Surfing, is that Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler)? © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox

Most of the surfing was Jonny and me. There was obviously a couple of bigger shot of the huge waves, but both myself and Jonny surfed Mavericks.

In fact, those Mavericks is where I was taken down.

What happened?

I was in the water and a big wave came and it taught me a lesson.

You are completely at the mercy of its power.

To hear the rest of the story, click below.

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