Published on January 30th, 2015 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Jonny Weston
Jonny Weston is the star of the new found-footage time travel adventure, Project Almanac, which is produced by Michael Bay and released by Paramount Pictures. It is now playing in theatres.
We spoke to Jonny Weston about his preparation for the film, the ongoing popularity of time travel movies, and his advice for young actors wanting to enter the industry.
Tell us a little bit about Project Almanac and how you became involved in it.
It was just an audition process…. It was a four or five month process because it was a risky move for Michael Bay to give the project over to the director Dean Israelite and then to give it over to an actor that’s not necessarily famous like myself. So it was this long process of convincing them that I was right for it and eventually, [it] came through.
What do you like to do to get into character? Did you find yourself doing anything for this role specifically?
It’s completely different every single time. I’d like to say that I have some formula or something, but it’s completely different. It depends.
I studied a lot of time travel literature as well as technology literature. I found that beyond Einstein, Stephen Hawking, there’s professors that teach in colleges about this stuff. It’s a legitimate thing. That’s what we wanted with this movie with time travel as well is to bring to light how legitimate it is as a real possibility, not just a fantasy thing.
Time travel movies have been around for so long. Why have they become such a long-lasting genre?
The endless curiosity, endless possibility. That’s what’s great about this movie is that they’re sequels, especially. You can go anywhere, anytime. You can end up in part 5 of this movie, re-visiting ourselves in part 1, but it’s a really interesting concept, the idea of being able to do something over.
What was the biggest challenge for you as an actor for this film?
For me, I lost 25 pounds on my own accord. I wanted to really be like David, a little bit thin, underfed, underslept, and really overstudied and obsessive about this goal that he has. So I think the biggest challenge was holding this weight off and living his lifestyle and at the same time, he’s running from the police. There’s all these scenes where like 3 or 4 days at a time, I’d just be sprinting down the street. Just keeping my body in proper shape to be able to do that was extremely difficult.
Are there any books that have been influential to you in your career?
Actually, I re-visit constantly my acting coach’s book. His name is Michael Woolson. He’s this incredible acting coach, very specific to who he’s coaching. It was a blessing. I’ve read that book over and over again.
As far as literature for time travel and technology, I mostly was looking at YouTube videos of seminars and colleges like Harvard, like the theory of relativity and whatnot.
What advice would you offer to new actors who want to pursue a career in acting?
I’d say take a few minutes and think really long and hard about why you’re doing it because there’s a lot of disappointment and if you’re doing it because you want some sort of end result, you’re going to be really disappointed constantly. My advice to young actors always is do you love it? Is it the best part of your day? Then go for it.
For you, was there a moment when you know that this was what you wanted to do?
Yeah, I took a theatre class in college when I was 18 to get out of chemistry because it’s just not my deal. It was an incredible class. It was just the best part of my day and I remember thinking I either stay here and rough it out with whatever subject – I was in engineering – or I just go to New York and give it a real shot and that’s what I did. It’s been a long road.
Besides Project Almanac, what have been some of the other highlights for you that stick out?
Well, I went straight from Project Almanac almost directly into shooting a movie, Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent where I play basically not such a good kid, kind of a villain and someone who’s trying to move up in the ranks as essentially a King. So it was really neat to go from [Project Almanac] to Insurgent.
Do you have a preference as far as playing the hero or the villain or are they both rewarding in their own ways?
Both rewarding… I walked on set of Insurgent – a $100 million set – an already moving vehicle of people that already knew each other that had been shooting and I think that my character – I just try and draw parallels between my life and what the character is going through and certainly walking on that set, I was a little isolated, a little high-stakes, and I used all that.
Were there elements that you could relate to between your character in Project Almanac and your own life?
I was super geeky in high school. I was really serious about mathematics and the kind of black and white finality of the answers as opposed to in high school, all the social life is messy and inconclusive. I really was drawn to math and science and technology in that way.
What are some of your favourite time travel movies?
I like Back to the Future: Part 3. I remember watching that over and over again as a kid – with the Wild West with the Indians chasing them and Bif (Thomas F. Wilson) playing the villain in the third one.
If you could time travel anywhere anytime, where would you pick?
I would go to the Wild West. As I was saying, I would love to see what it was like to live in those times with no technology or no running water.
Besides Project Almanac and Insurgent, are there any other projects that you have going on that you would like to mention?
I have this movie called We Are Your Friends with Zac Efron about the DJ World and EDM (Electronic Dance Music). It’s pretty dope. Basically Zac is like a DJ trying to make his first big track and my character is his best buddy and he outgrows my character a little bit and my character spirals off and it’s a little dark. It’s fun and everything, but it’s similar to the way you come up as an actor in that town and your friends – how they leave you or how they stay and who wants the best for you.
At this stage of your career, what would you want your fans or audiences to feel when they see your name or be able to expect from you every time out or your choice of projects?
Well, that’s the reason I don’t have social media or any of that stuff is I hope that they don’t know what to expect.
Project Almanac is now playing in theatres.