By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“The movie’s about that, also,” says Clark. “The movie’s about that there’s a certain age that we all go through, that happens to all of us, where we can try on different guises, we can be who we wanna be. You know, you can be a gangster one day, a punk rocker the next, Polo’d-out, preppied-out the next. But these kids live in an environment where you can’t really do that without having to fight all ?the time.”
“There has to be a moment in your life,” he says, “when someone has to help you understand that you’re not worthless. When I was a kid, I had very low self-esteem, and it was very difficult for me to find myself and to think I had any worth at all, and only when I started making photographs and making work did I realize that I had something.”
Sadly, a few of the kids with whom Clark has previously worked have found their lives playing out much like characters from his previous, darker movies. Brad Renfro, who played Marty in Bully, recently got caught buying dope on Skid Row in a random police sting. The Los Angeles Times published the photo of his arrest.
“What scumbags to do that to a kid,” says Clark, who is still in close contact with Renfro. “He’s young and he’s in trouble, and they put his name on the cover. Must have been a slow news day.”
Skater-hipster Harold Hunter, who starred in Kids, OD’ed on heroin in February (his death was widely attributed to a heart attack in the press) after years spent straddling fame and destitution in New York. And Justin Pierce, who played Casper in Kids, hanged himself in Las Vegas in 2000. Six years later, it is still something Clark has difficulty talking about.
“I’m emotionally involved with many of the people who work in my films,” he says, “but that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with.”
Clark is especially protective of his Wassup Rockers, who, thanks to their ZIP code, are some of the most vulnerable of his stars. The pressure for Jonathan and Kico to follow their friends who fell back into the life is enormous — but they have other plans. Both are already slated to appear in Clark’s next movie.
While some of these kids definitely had issues, says Clark — Porky, for example, is downright suicidal, though it’s played for pathetically comedic effect (he tries to drown himself by dunking his head in the bathroom sink, but he comes up for air when he runs out of breath) — now, anybody in the film who didn’t feel any self-worth is feeling much better.
“The thing was, I met these kids, and I said, you know, you never see kids like this in movies, and they should be seen. Because they have so much fun — they were having so much more fun than anybody. They weren’t smoking pot, they weren’t drinking, they were at that age where they just wanted to have fun, and it was just a pure moment in time.”
Wassup Rockers is essentially focused on what it means to have guts: The skater kids do what they want to do, and don’t let people mess with them about it, and constantly have to stand up for themselves. Jonathan and Kico, too, show admirable composure in several love scenes in the film.
“It was fun,” says Jonathan.
“It’s fun. No problem,” agrees Kico.
The boys also had to do their own stunts, such as when they fight the boyfriends of the girls who pick them up, and Kico gets thrown out the window into the swimming pool. Did anybody get hurt?
“We all did fall off the stairs,” says Kico.
“I banged my head,” says Jonathan.
Which is nothing compared to the series of grisly wipeouts the kids suffer in their attempts at skating the steps at Beverly Hills High. Kico messed up his left finger in one particularly bad landing.
“It was difficult,” says Clark. “But these guys were amazing, and we were there, you know, and we had to get it, and if we didn’t get it, we didn’t have it, and I really relied on Kico and he came through. This kid got beat up so bad through the movie . . .”
“I had the worst things,” says Kico.
“But Jonathan, when he crashed and burned so bad, man — when he did that split? One leg gets caught and he keeps going? That’s so painful to watch, man. Seriously, guys, when I see you doing that in the film, I feel bad,” Clark laughs. “But I’m happy it happened!”
“When this guy made me jump off into the pool, three times in a row, back to back, bowbowbow!, my back was all red and I got sick the next day,” says Kico.
Clark also attempted to jump off the roof of Jonathan’s house on a skateboard — after all, they’d done it, so why couldn’t he?
“He broke his rib!” laughs Kico.
“And fucked up my knee,” adds Clark. “I feel like a very old man. But I’m young in my head.”
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