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Jonny Weston. The name alone oozes all-American appeal (and marquee value).

Charleston, South Carolina native Jonny Weston "grew up surfing." For his first studio film, Weston stars in the biopic of real-life of wave whiz, Jay Moriarty.

Weston initially turned to modeling, "because I thought it would be easier." His first appearance was in a commercial for Burlington Coat Factory. Last year, during a nationwide talent search conducted by children's film production company Walden Media, Weston read a monologue in front of 400 people. The 30 modeling and casting agents in the crowd were impressed and the lead in Chasing Mavericks went to Weston.

I sure wish that I enjoyed the movie as much as I did meeting Jonny Weston when he paid a visit to San Diego's W Hotel last week.

Scott Marks: Hollywood is a town that likes to cast by type. Who do people tell you that you look like?

Jonny Weston: Country rednecks tell me I look a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio. (Laughs.) Around here they tell me Paul Walker.

I'd throw in a little William Katt, too.

I auditioned for his part in the remake of Carrie.

You did most of your own surfing in the film. I looked carefully and didn't spot much in the way of CGI.

CGI? Almost none. Maybe one of the waves.

Most young actors are fortunate enough to have one great director assigned to their first studio feature. You have two: Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted. I read that health issues forced Apted to take over for Hanson.

Curtis Hanson had a heart issue a year before filming started. The weather during the shoot was so hardcore that it eventually caught up with him and he had to pull out with only 15 days left to go on the shoot. Michael Apted replaced Hanson and knew he was walking into a moving object. Initially I felt anger towards my 'stepdad' but it didn't last long.

Tell me about their different approaches to direction.

Hanson is a minimalist. He's not very wordy and chooses what he says wisely. He wants his actors, like his characters, not to know exactly where they are going next. Apted explains everything clearly without sounding condescending. Whereas Hanson is more philosophical, Apted likes a good joke.

You have tremendous chemistry with your co-star, Gerard Butler.

Thanks. I learned so much working with him. I hate watching myself on screen. The only reason I can sit through the movie is because of the rapport I have with him.

The film was produced by the family-friendly folks at Walden Media. One of your friends in the film strays from the straight and narrow and appears to be dealing pot. I say appears, because something tells me a great deal of this subplot was left on the cutting room floor.

I didn't know the film was going to be rated PG. There were guidelines for everything, including the size of the baggie the pot was in. What happened is they wrapped it in tin foil and it looks more like crack than marijuana.

Chasing Mavericks is currently playing at a theatre near you. Click for showtimes.

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