My sister and I watched Mid90s, Jonah Hill’s first, full-length film as a director. I can say we enjoyed it, but we both felt we needed more context to understand and appreciate what the film meant.
Was this autobiographical for Jonah Hill? Were the actors in the film skateboarding stars, and where did those actors come from? Was Hill truly into the mid-90s skateboard culture and if so, how? Why direct?—I thought he was an actor. Jonah Hill’s interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air answered those questions and helped my sister and I understand Jonah Hill’s motivations and interests as an actor and director. Mid90s is worth watching, but you may also want to listen to the Fresh Air interview to appreciate where the story came from and how the film was made.
One interesting revelation during the interview was that Hill wanted to be a director but was having trouble working with actors. So he took acting classes in the hopes he could understand actors better and therefore direct them better. Instead, he discovered he was a good actor and that fact “derailed” him for 16 years from the director track.
Another interesting fact: Except for Sunny Suljic, who played Stevie, the other skateboarders featured in the film were skateboarders who were cast to act in the film and not professional actors before this film. Jonah Hill got some excellent performances from this inexperienced cast, so I’d say his goal to work better with actors (and non-actors) has been achieved.