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Jonah Hill showed this one movie to his ‘Mid90s’ cast

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Mid90s_stills_06Tobin Yelland A24 final
“Mid90s.”
Tobin
Yelland/A24


  • Jonah Hill had his “Mid90s” cast of kid actors and
    non-professionals watch the 2006 indie movie, “This Is England,”
    before they started production.
  • Hill wanted to show them that even kids can give gripping
    performances.
  • “This Is England” looks at a teen finding acceptance from a
    group of skinheads.
  • Hill was also inspired by another English movie, “Fish Tank.”

 

One of the main highlights from Jonah Hill’s directorial debut,
“Mid90s” (in select theaters Friday), is the authentic
performances he gets out of his cast. Hill uses a mix of kid
actors and non-professionals to depict a group of teen
skateboarders who befriend a 13-year-old and introduce him into
their world of sick skate moves and even sicker jokes they throw
at one another.

And though Hill will admit the cast watched mostly skate videos
to get in tune with the decade the story is set in, there was one
movie he required all of them to watch.

No, it wasn’t Larry Clark’s gritty X-rated classic, “Kids,” which
many have compared “Mid90s” to. It’s a movie you probably have
never seen, but should seek out: “This Is England.”

Released in 2006 (and not finding much attention outside of the
UK), director Shane Meadows’ look at a young boy who becomes
friends with a group of skinheads is highlighted by the
incredible performance by its lead, Thomas Turgoose.

Turgoose plays Shaun, a 12-year-old outcast who finds acceptance
from the group who noticed that he gets constantly picked on at
school (but throws a pretty mean punch). We then follow Shaun as
he falls deeper in the group, including shaving his head and
gaining a close connection with an older skinhead who has just
got out of prison, Combo (Stephen Graham).

Though “Mid90s” is a very different story than “This Is England,”
Hill was taken by how real all the characters felt.

“Shane Meadows made such a beautiful film and also showing how
young kids can give such raw performances,” Hill told
Business Insider
. “I wanted the kids to see that acting can
be like this. That’s the acting I like. That’s the naturalism
that I like. So I didn’t show them a lot of movies. The whole
thing was to make a reverse skate video. In skate videos growing
up it would be all skateboarding and three seconds of these kids
causing chaos and really connecting and just hanging out. When I
was a kid that’s what I wanted. So this is the reverse. Kids
connecting and three seconds of skateboarding. To invert that was
really my goal.”

Hill said he was also personally inspired by the 2009 movie,
“Fish Tank.”

But the process for Hill to get the performances he wanted didn’t
end with them watching ‘This Is England.” Hill said he helped the
kids get in their characters through hours of talks with them.

“You have to develop a true trust and connection with kids if you
are going to work with them,” Hill said. “Because you’re asking
them to be vulnerable and you’re asking them to do things that
people don’t want to do, let alone someone who is going through
an awkward time in their life. So for me, I was like, ‘I will not
let you down.’ I would just have long conversations with each kid
about what’s happening underneath and what they’re carrying with
them no matter what they are saying. That’s hours and hours and
hours of conversations about feelings, about life experiences,
about goals. Just talking about who these people are eventually
absorbs into you. That’s how I act. That is just hours and hours
and hours of thinking and talking.”

The result has led to “Mid90s” finding high acclaim from critics,
as the movie is sporting an 88% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. And Hill’s cast now has a new
life ambition.

“Now they are obsessed with film,” he said. “They want to act.”

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