Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

BRIEF ENCOUNTER

The Z-Boy zeitgeist

Emile Hirsch takes on the rebel skateboarder life in 'Lords of Dogtown.'

June 12, 2005|Alex Chun

Loose cannon, reckless renegade, skateboarding savant. These are all apt descriptions for Jay Adams, one of the prominent members of the Zephyr skateboarding team (the Z-Boys) featured in the coming-of-age flick "Lords of Dogtown." Charged with channeling the eccentric and self-destructive Adams is Emile Hirsch, who starred in last year's romantic comedy "The Girl Next Door" and who played a rebel of another sort in "The Emperor's Club" with Kevin Kline.

To prepare for the role, Hirsch, 20, flew to Hawaii and hung out with the recently married Adams who, after spending time in jail for assault and drug-related charges, is putting his life back together and continues to surf and skateboard. Hirsch also drew on his experience as a Southern California street skater but admits that the transition to skateboarding the vertical walls of a pool was challenging and painful.

You lived in Venice as a child and grew up in Hollywood. The Z-Boys are Southern California legends, but they're almost a quarter-century before your time. Were you familiar with Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva and Jay Adams before you landed the role?

I had seen the documentary about a year earlier, and because of that I was familiar with them. The documentary left a strong impression on me, but before that I had no idea who they were. Even though I grew up skateboarding, I was always into the current skaters of the time. That's one of the reasons the movie is kind of cool -- it gives the kids a chance to learn about the past great skaters, and how those skaters changed skating so that future generations had to do it in a different way.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 17, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Emile Hirsch -- The Brief Encounter column in Sunday's Calendar section about stunts in the skateboarding movie "Lords of Dogtown" referred to Bicknell Hill as being in Venice. Bicknell Hill is in Santa Monica.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 26, 2005 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Emile Hirsch -- The Brief Encounter column June 12 about the stunts in the skateboarding movie "Lords of Dogtown" referred to Bicknell Hill as being in Venice. It is in Santa Monica.

*

For the skateboarding scenes, who was your double, and what's the most demanding trick you pulled off on your own?

My double was this guy named Griffin Collins, who really kicked major butt, but then he broke his ankle near the end and two other guys had to come in and finish up.

I think the hardest trick that I did was bombing Bicknell Hill [in Venice]. It's not hard in itself, but it was kind of scary because there was a camera car right in front of me. It's kind of a mental barrier -- if the car brakes, I'm going to slam into it. At the same time, it was a lot of fun. I also did it shirtless, so if I had fallen, I would've scraped off my nipples.

*

Were you able to leave the pool unscathed?

By unscathed, do you mean did I break anything? No. Did I fall really hard and hit my knee, bang my wrist and fall on my elbows? Yeah. We all fell. I don't think anybody made it out of the pool unscathed. That was the crazy thing. At the end of the day, I knew I would leave with some sort of gnarly bruise. It was just a question of when in the day I was going to get it.

*

What went through your mind as you watched guys like Alva and the other skateboard doubles?

I would cringe. You see dudes grinding, coping at the top of the deep end of the pool, and it goes fine. Occasionally, however, somebody's trucks will get stuck at the top, and they'll fly headfirst into the bottom of the pool and get slammed. I can handle a lot of stuff usually, but I had to look away at times because it was just too hard-core.

*

Adams is arguably the most naturally talented and complex of the Z-Boys. Did meeting him help you define the role?

When I went to hang out with him in Hawaii I realized right away, "OK, don't ask any questions, just let him talk because he isn't going to tell you anything if he doesn't want to. He's no joke." At the same time, once I met him, I became so involved in who he was. I had a lot of ideas about the character, but they all seemed not so great once I met him.

After I met him, everything about it [his inability to capitalize on his skill and popularity] made perfect sense. Before that, I was like, "If he was so talented, why didn't he just make money? How come he couldn't function? Why couldn't he just do it?" And then you meet the real guy, and it's like, "OK, I got it." He's kind of uncontrollable in a lot of ways.

*

In the movie, Adams transforms from a surfer into a hard-core punker. For you, that meant shearing your shoulder-length surfer-boy locks and sporting a zipper tattoo down the middle of your skull.

I kind of didn't want to lose the hair. I had grown to love the hair. I was proud of the hair. The hair did me well with the ladies. I had a gnarly panic attack a couple days before I had to shave it, and I was like, "Oh, my God, I'm not going to get any attention from the ladies this summer."

-- Alex Chun

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|