INT: Emile Hirsh
OF DOGTOWN, it’s Emile Hirsch who is charged with the
film’s most challenging role – that of the brilliant yet
troubled skater Jay Adams. Among the Z-Boys, the visionary
who first achieved acclaim opposite Vincent D’Onofrio in THE
DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS, stopped by the Culver Studios in
Jay Adams is considered the least accessible of the Z-Boys. How did you prepare for the role?
I had the pictures. I had the interviews. I had some tapes. I went, for my 19th birthday, I went to Hawaii and I hung out with him for a week. Quickly I discovered that he didn't like interviews and so I couldn't just ask him questions. I kind of took a different approach and I didn't really say anything. I just observed and was just hanging out with him and then he started talking on his own. And he told me some really gnarly stories that he probably wouldn't want me to repeat and probably wouldn't repeat to very many people. He also really stressed that ego was poison. That was a big thing for him. Ego was poison. He was also really concerned about the relationship with his mother. He wanted it to come across on film. He said, “Me and my mom were best friends. He said, You've got to get that right.”
What’s you athletic background? Have you skateboarded before?
Well, I grew up skateboarding in Venice. So it was like ground zero for me.
Are you good?
I'm good at New School tricks and stuff like that, but I had never skated Old School and I hadn't really done vertical work either.
What’s “New School?”
Well, New School is like flip tricks and stuff like that on new types of boards. Old School is like these tiny little boards in pools and stuff. So growing up I was doing flip tricks and I was grinding on sidewalks and fences and that kind of stuff. It's very technical tricks with the board. But Old School is vert and I'd never really done vert. I mean, I'd done a little bit of vert – I'd skated every summer at the Santa Fe Skate Park everyday. That's what I did for years during summer. I skated down to the skate park, plop down, skate and just chill.
What was the training like?
We did three months of skating and surfing. It was surfing in the morning and skating in the afternoon. Tony Alva was our coach. He's not the easiest coach to work with. He's not like a coach. He tells you how to do it, and is like, “Just do it. Just fucking do it, dude!”
Did you get hurt at all?
Yeah. I had the misfortune of getting what skateboarders call “Hippers.” It's when you fall on your hip again and again and again, just the same spot. It turns into like a blue purple bruise and it's just torture because I had to keep on doing the same move, going around in the pool again. I'd just keep falling on this thing, and I'd be tearing up and getting angry and throwing the board in anger a lot of times.
Can you talk about working with Rebecca De Mornay, who plays Jay Adams’ mother?
Oh, I love Rebecca De Mornay. I saw And God Created Woman two nights ago and I was just glued to the screen. I don't know. Is it weird that I'm attracted to my mom? I guess it's just natural.
What was your first job?
It was on this vampire show called Kindred: The Embraced which was like an Aaron Spelling version of The Godfather and like Buffy. Needless to say it was cancelled. Needless to say that everyone was fired immediately after the first airing.
What can you say about Alpha Dog?
Alpha Dog is inspired by Jesse James' Hollywood, which is kind of like a national story about some kind of troubled kind of kids in the valley who kind of have too much time on their hands and there are some bad influences.
Do you play Jesse James?
I play Johnny Truelove who's loosely inspired by so that we don't get sued.
Didn’t they catch him in Brazil?
Yeah, Brazil. It's a really wild story. Now there's the trial and hopefully will still be interested in. I mean, it's something that I think that people should see and especially kids. It's like a definite wake up call. It's like, “Don't be passive. Don't be a follower because if you follow the alpha dog and you don't go in a good direction look at what can happen.” So people should be their own kind of bosses.
What was your worst audition experience?
My worst audition experience? I had a really awful audition with Robert De Niro and Leonardo Di Caprio for the new movie or whatever. It's like he's supposed to play my dad, but he's only like 30 and I'm 20. So it was weird for him to play my dad and then my character is supposed to breakdown crying or something and I was like, “Alright.” I couldn't do it and I was like, “Alright. Just give me a minute.” And De Niro was like, “Alright. Whatever.” So I turn around and I just remember turning around for two minutes and I'm thinking, “They're thinking I'm trying to work myself up to crying right now. I'm not.
I'm just sitting here thinking about what they're thinking about.” I was just like, I had just wrapped Dogtown the day before. I was just unwinding from that and it was awful. I was so bummed out about it because I hadn't really worked on the part at all or anything like that or done anything. I hadn't done anything. Here I was like an idiot somehow with two great actors looking like a buffoon. I was so bummed that I couldn't hardly look Bob De Niro in the eye. He was like, “Hey. Hey.” I was looking down and he goes, “Hey.” Trying to make me look at me in the eye. He was like, “It's okay. You just wrapped this movie. You can come back in a couple of weeks.” He was like that. I was so depressed. And he was like, “Hey, hey, hey, we've been there.” And all of this stuff...
Was Leo supposed to be your dad?
Yeah. Well, in the audition he's supposed to be my dad. I was like, “Dad, you were never there for me.” It was really weird. If you haven't really been around someone that's that famous and you meet them it's hard to like see them as your dad right away. It's like, “Romeo. No. Dad? Gilbert Grape. Dad?”
What’s next for you?
The next film that I'm going to do is called Goat. It's all about college hazing. It’s really brutal and moving. David Gordon Green is going to direct it. He did a film called George Washington. And All The Real Girls.
Do you play a hazer or a victim?
I play a victim. I didn't know that much about it. Reading the script – I couldn't put it down. I was like, “Oh my God, they do that? Whoa.” It's pretty brutal and like funny at the same in certain parts.
What was up with Jay Adams’ skinhead look? Did you ever go out with that tattoo on?
You know, it was really weird. People would be so intimidated especially when I left the tattoo on and went out to a party. You'd get weird looks from everyone. Big, big macho dudes would be like, “Oh, excuse me. Excuse me.” I was like, “Yeah!” I mean, it was very strange for me to have people react to me like that. It's unheard of for me and to have girls going, “You're crazy.” And looking at you from across the party like, “You're a crazy one.” And weird German dudes would come up to me and offer me drinks and introduce me to all their supermodel girlfriends. “Do you want vodka? Come over here. Have a drink.” Then I looked at myself in the mirror and I had a gangster shirt on and a tattoo and a bald head and I'd be like, “Why do people try and become rich and famous? They should just shave their head and get a tattoo on it.”
Oh, no. He has the Menace to Society. He's got Dogtown right here that he got when he was drunk. He's got a little crucifix right there. He's got L.A. He's got menace to society. He's got a whole Adam's apple down his neck and he's got sevens on his ear lobe because he has a son named Seven. He's got “100% Skateboarder For Life” on the back of his neck. He's got Charles Manson on his wrists. He's covered in tattoos.
Has he seen the film? Do you think he’ll be at the premiere?
He has not seen the film yet. But he is going to come to the premiere. You know what, he hasn't seen the film, but I'm expecting some anthrax in the mail. I'm just kidding. Hopefully I'll have accomplished what he wanted and if not I will be visiting the hospital.
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