VIA – SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL
Photo: Frosty Hesson, himself an iconic figure in the Pleasure Point/Santa Cruz surfing community, and Jay Moriarity, a world-renowned Santa Cruz surfer together in 1995. (Bob Barbour/Special to the Sentinel)
The Afterglow: Filming of Jay Moriarity movie in Pleasure Point is done, leaving behind an unforgettable experience for his loved ones
By WALLACE BAINE – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 11/12/2011 11:59:04 AM PST
SANTA CRUZ — You might win the lottery. You might get drafted by the 49ers or you might make the Olympic badminton team. But what just happened to Kim Moriarity and Frosty Hesson? That’s never going to happen to you.
Go ahead. You do the math. What are the odds that a Hollywood production company is going to call you up and offer to make a movie on your life, send over a movie star to hang out in your living room and take your measure, visit your neighborhood with an Oscar-nominated director and a film crew to shoot that movie, and, in the end, you come away feeling not exploited and abused, but respected and convinced that they nailed it?
See. The lottery seems downright probable by comparison.
The funny thing, though? Kim and Frosty — they are known throughout their Pleasure Point neighborhood by their first names — are not the kind of people who get too impressed by the magic wand of celebrity. In fact, each of them had been approached before by other people who wanted to make the same movie, and they each passed. Besides, they knew that this whole insane, amazing project wasn’t really about them.
It was about Jay.
LIVE LIKE JAY
The film in question is “Of Men and Mavericks,” and it is due to be released next fall. For most of the month of October, the cast and crew of “Mavericks” — which features “L.A. Confidential” director Curtis Hanson and “300” star Gerard Butler — were on location shooting the film, at Steamer Lane and West Cliff Drive, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and mostly in Pleasure Point, in the neighborhood and along the bluffs on East Cliff, overlooking the surf breaks, 38th and the Hook.
The film is centered on Jay Moriarity, the preternaturally talented young surfer who was a surf celebrity as a teenager and who died in 2001 in a free-diving accident the day before he was to turn 23. The two most important people in his life at the time of his death was his young wife, and the older man he chose as a mentor not only in the art of surfing, but in the art of living. Together, they now safeguard his legacy.
Frosty Hesson carries with him a mantle of fortitude. He’s a magnetic and substantial man. But he also has a laugh that can fill a house, in this case, it’s the house he shares with his wife Zeuf, yet another one-named neighborhood icon in Pleasure Point.
When producers Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper approached him about adapting the story of Jay into a film, Hesson had heard the sales pitch before.
“I asked them, ‘What kind of story do you want to tell?’ And they said, ‘We want to tell the real story.’ And I was, ‘So, what is that?’ And they said, ‘Well, you know what it is. That’s why we’re talking to you.’ And that’s the appropriate response I wanted to hear. OK, I’ll listen to these guys. I don’t have to dismiss them.”
Kim Moriarity had her own reasons to wait for just the right offer. Considering her harrowing emotional journey after Jay’s death, time was her friend.
“After Jay passed away, I went through my own hard times with things. And I wanted to make sure that I was in the right frame of mind to feel comfortable with it, to look out for Jay’s interests and to make sure that it was going to happen,” Moriarity said. “I wasn’t in the position to have a clear head about it for a long time.”
The story of “Of Men and Mavericks” goes back more than 15 years, to the mid-1990s. Jim Meenaghan was living in San Francisco at the time, just learning to surf. He was at O’Neill’s surf shop on 41st Avenue buying a wetsuit for his girlfriend (later to become his wife) Margaret.
While an employee was helping them find the right fit, Meenaghan caught a glimpse of a large poster on the wall. It was Bob Barbour’s famous “Iron Cross” shot of Jay Moriarity wiping out at Maverick’s, at that time, a legendary wave a lot of big-wave surfers were just discovering.
Meenaghan was amazed at the shot and another O’Neill’s employee, noticing him gazing at the image, approached and told him that the kid in the shot was the same guy helping them with their wetsuit purchase.
“We must have talked to him for half an hour afterward,” remembered Meenaghan. “This kid was really something. I’ll never forget the glow in his eyes, the aura around him. There was something about him. I was really taken with him.”
It was more than 10 years later that Meenaghan — who had moved to L.A. to get into the film industry shortly after his encounter with Moriarity — first pursued the idea of making a film on Jay’s quest to surf Maverick’s and his tutelage at the knee of Frosty. By that time, he had taken on a producing partner who turned out to be the film’s principal screenwriter, Brandon Hooper.
As it turned out, Hooper’s wife also bought a wetsuit at O’Neill’s from a nice helpful young person, a girl this time.
That girl’s name was Kim Moriarity.
“I get to call him Gerry now,” said Frosty Hesson with a laugh. “Gerry” is Gerard Butler, the Scottish-born actor who, incidentally, celebrates his 42nd birthday Sunday. Butler first came to public attention as the star of the 2004 film adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera” and has since become a bona fide movie star, capable of making female hearts flutter all over the world.
He’s also playing Frosty in the movie.
“He came to the house with an entourage of people,” said Hesson of Butler’s first visit last summer. “It took about 15 seconds and we just hit it off. I’ve got a bit of an unusual sense of humor, but he was right there with me.”
Kim Moriarity also was afforded the surreal experience of meeting the person to play her in a movie. Her name is Leven Rambin, a 21-year-old Texan known for her work in the soap “All My Children.” The two women had spoken by phone and had texted before ever meeting face to face. When they did finally meet, they happened to be wearing almost the same blue tank top and jeans.
“We were instantly drawn to each other,” said Kim. “I mean, I felt like I knew this girl. We were kindred spirits.”
But the actor getting the most attention has been Jonny Weston, the young man hired to play the part of Jay. Hesson was out of town when Weston first visited Santa Cruz. Photographer Bob Barbour, another longtime friend of Jay’s, had the chance to shoot Weston as he met Bob Pearson, the popular surfboard shaper, who also knew Jay well.
“I got goose bumps,” said Barbour. “A couple of times, I wanted to shake him and say, ‘Jay, are you in there?’ It was that freaky.”
“He’s got this little nuances and mannerisms that are just like Jay,” said Hesson.
“It was a surreal experience, meeting Jonny,” said Kim Moriarity. “I mean, I had to take a step back outside of myself and look at it from a third-person perspective. When I first locked eyes with him, I was just very calm. And it hit me, they nailed this.”
On Oct. 14, the cast, crew and hundreds of Santa Cruzans turned out for the re-enactment of the paddle-out that originally occurred in the days following Jay’s death in the summer of 2001. As they did for the original, the friends and neighbors of Pleasure Point, where Jay grew up and lived his life, turned out in droves to serve as extras.
“This community is unbelievable,” said Kim. “This community nurtured Jay and helped turned him into what he became. It’s a tribe. Everyone looks out for each other.”
It’s clear too that the community helped Kim hold on through the dark days and weeks and months after Jay’s death.
On the morning of the paddle-out re-enactment, Kim and Frosty went to the park over on 38th Avenue, which was being used as a staging area, to thank all the extras, who were not paid, for showing up.
“It’s so funny that you can feel that much emotion in the air,” said Frosty. “It was just all love…”
For the full story and all the great photos go here:
For more articles on Jay Moriarty go here:
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