LOS ANGELES — It was the golden hour here when Sunny Suljic tumbled out of a black S.U.V. and onto Sawtelle Boulevard, a commercial strip just west of Route 405 lined with Japanese noodle joints and third-wave coffee shops. His mother was in tow, carrying his skateboard.
With his shaggy mop of hair stuffed under a beanie, the 13-year-old walked with a half-swagger, half-shuffle toward a storefront covered up with newspapers. As the city’s skate-wear fanatics are well aware, it is the future home of the Courthouse, a well-known skate shop in West Los Angeles.
He was getting a sneak peek of the store. Being a local skater — not to mention the star of “Mid90s,” the coming-of-age skate movie directed by Jonah Hill — has its perks.
“This is such a good area,” said Mr. Suljic, who lives a few blocks away. Like many teenage boys his age, he spoke with a giddy up-speak, punctuated with laughter. “It’s highly populated, Sawtelle. Even later at night, there’ll be so many people here.”
At the entrance, he did a bro handshake (high five to fist bump) with Jesse Tien-Jacobs, a rangy redhead who owns the shop. Around them were a group of young men carrying skateboards and wearing Dickie pants and hooded sweatshirts. It’s the West Coast equivalent to cats and their bodegas: No skate shop is complete without its in-house crew.
Mr. Suljic, who was wearing black Dolce & Gabbana track pants, a black graphic T-shirt and Yeezy 500 Desert Rat sneakers, made his way inside the store, leaving his posse to hang back on the street. His mother stayed behind, too.
Skating is a defining part of his world, which aligned perfectly with “Mid90s.” He was discovered two years ago by Mikey Alfred, one of the film’s producers, at the Stoner Skate Park nearby (yes, that’s its real name).
“He knew that was my local park,” Mr. Suljic said. Mr. Alfred then ambushed him by bringing Mr. Hill and Lucas Hedges, who also stars in the film, to see the young skater on his turf.
“I was like, ‘Wait, is that Jonah Hill?’ I mean, I’m a big fan,” he said. “My friends were like, ‘Were you just talking to Jonah Hill?’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s no big deal.’”
He was cast as Stevie, a prepubescent boy who falls in with a group of teenage skateboarders and learns more than just ollies and heel flips. Set in the mid-1990s, the film is part time capsule, part bildungsroman and part hagiography of skating’s predigital glory days.
“This was a dream job,” he said. “Like, 100 percent a dream job.”
Despite some echoes, this is not another “Kids,” the 1995 film starring two real-life skaters, Leo Fitzpatrick and Justin Pierce, who were discovered by the director Larry Clark in Washington Square Park in New York.
For one thing, Mr. Suljic is a trained actor. He moved to Los Angeles after he came here for a talent showcase and an agent at Monster Talent Management urged him to relocate from Atlanta. It quickly paid off.
Last year, he had a supporting role in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” a psychological horror-thriller, alongside Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. And earlier this year he was in “The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” a family film starring Cate Blanchett and Jack Black. “Mid90s” is his first starring role, and likely not his last.
When he is not auditioning or being home-schooled, he’s out skating. He picked up the board when he was 3 and hasn’t stopped since. “That’s what I like about skating and acting — you don’t have to be a certain age to do it professionally.”
“One thing that I really related to about Stevie is that we’re both really dedicated to skating,” he said.
He did a lap around the modestly sized store, which was a little more than a week away from opening. Unfortunately, there was not much to look at yet, which left him slightly deflated.
Stacks of unopened cardboard boxes lined the perimeter. A checkout display case was empty. Still, there were signs of life: Hoodies and snapback hats were hung along one wall, and a few skateboard decks were stacked in a corner.
“They’re still fixing it up,” he said, looking around. “It’s going to be dope, though.”
Truth be told, he probably knew the store’s inventory better than its employees. “I’m usually at the shop more than at my actual house,” he said. “It feels like a family. That’s why I wanted to come here.”
“I hate saying this, because it sounds corny, but skating is a lifestyle,” he said. “People usually ask me, ‘What is skating culture? What does it mean to you?’ The movie explains it. And it’s so authentic and specific to that era. And perfectly filmed. So I’ll just let the film do all the work instead of me trying to explain it.”
The movie placed Mr. Suljic, who was 11 during filming, in some very adult situations, including a scene depicting Stevie’s first sexual encounter. There were also drugs and alcohol.
Was he ever uncomfortable?
“Jonah didn’t put too much pressure on me,” he said. “He’d be like, ‘Look, we’re going to just go and do this scene right now.’ And it made me feel so comfortable.”
The hardest part of the movie, Mr. Suljic said, was to unlearn skating and play a novice. “You have to invest so much time into being bad,” he said. “It sounds funny, but I’m happy when people ask if I skate, because that means they’re not sure if I do or not.”
Source: Read Full Article