After growing up in “the sticks” of rural South Carolina, Jonny Weston split for Los Angeles at the age of 18 to attend the University of Southern California. It was there that he caught the acting bug when, looking to get out of chemistry class, he signed up for a theater course. “I thought acting was the best thing that had ever happened,” the 23-year-old Weston recalls. “I immediately quit school.” From there, Weston headed to New York City to look for jobs—but also, he says, “I wanted to be a tough kid, so I thought, I’m going to move to New York, and I’m going to be a thug when I come out of there.” He got his wish, but not in the way he’d hoped: After finding little work, Weston ran out of money and spent a couple of months squatting in vacant apartments on the fringes of Brooklyn. Then he snagged an audition for a movie, and although he didn’t get the part, his audition tape made its way to a manager who immediately flew east to convince Weston to move back to California. Wisely, he took her advice and scraped together some money for a ticket. Back in L.A., he quickly landed roles in several provocative indies, including the upcoming drama About Cherry, in which he plays the boyfriend of a naive porn-starlet-to-be who, according to Weston, he “turns down a dirty little path.” (The character played by James Franco gets his hands on her later.) But Weston’s career-making turn comes in director Curtis Hanson’s upcoming Of Men and Mavericks, a biopic of surfing legend Jay Moriarity, who became famous for riding Northern California’s massive Mavericks. Moriarity died in a diving accident in 2001, the day before his 23rd birthday. Coincidentally, Weston, who was home-schooled and surfed Folly Beach on the South Carolina coast near Charleston as a teenager, read the script the day before his own 23rd birthday. “It scared the shit out of me,” Weston says. “I was like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t even read this thing. It’s a little too eerie.’ ” But he got over that fear and landed the part, which required grueling physical and technical training. To Weston, though, surfing and acting aren’t all that different: “Whatever you can do to be so far inside your body that you can feel time stop,” he says, “is kind of awesome.”
PHOTO: JONNY WESTON IN LOS ANGELES, MAY 2012. JACKET: SALVATORE FERRAGAMO. SHIRT: BARNEYS CO-OP. JEANS: J BRAND. GROOMING PRODUCTS: SERGE NORMANT. STYLING: DAVID THOMAS/OPUS BEAUTY. GROOMING: TONY CHAVEZ FOR SERGE NORMANT/JED ROOT, INC.