Why Jonah Hill Made a Movie About Skateboarding

With Jonah Hill’s mid90s set to hit theaters this October, prepare to see a lot of press surrounding the film. It’s a big deal. Hill is one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, and this is his directorial debut. It could very well mark the beginning of the next phase of his career. And, for some reason, it involves skateboarding. Many from within our culture have been questioning why Hill would undertake a movie about our world. At surface level, Hill’s connection to skateboarding doesn’t seem to go further than a couple of Palace commercials. But it’s deeper than that. And Hill breaks down what drew him to make the film in New York Magazine’s new cover-story profile.

Hill started out writing a different movie, about a grown man (with constant flashbacks to his 12-year-old self skateboarding), but when he described that film to the director Spike Jonze, his friend, Jonze told him, “You look uninterested when you’re talking about the main story, and you light up when you’re talking about when they’re skating. That should be what you write about.” (Hill was reticent to share more details on the jettisoned grown-man plotline, since he may yet use that in another script.) Hill wanted to make a film about skateboarding because it meant a lot to him when he was an adolescent, around the same age he was devouring The Simpsons. Skateboarding had an outsider ethic — “a sort of punk, ‘anti’ ethic,” he says, that appealed to him and drew him in. He wasn’t great at skateboarding, himself. “I would say dedication-wise I was 100 percent, but skill-wise 14 percent.” He could do a couple of tricks, but mostly he enjoyed the feeling of community. Hill’s not the first comedian or actor I’ve encountered who has mentioned having a formative relationship with skateboarding. It’s a pursuit that to an outsider can seem like a way for kids to waste endless summer afternoons, sort of like loitering on wheels. But skateboarding mimics the rhythms of creativity. You learn a new trick. You practice until you master it. You show it off. You start again. You move on to the next, harder trick.

For more on Hill and mid90s, head over to Vulture to read the entire piece.

Image Via Vulture