Jonah Hill discusses his writing, casting processes for ‘Mid90s’

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of A24

Premiering at Fantastic Fest, “Mid90s” is a warm and emotional story about the pains of growing up. A coming-of-age story set in the ‘90s, Jonah Hill’s directorial debut stars Sunny Suljic as 13-year-old Stevie, struggling with life at home, finds comfort in skating and his new friends. The Daily Texan spoke with Jonah Hill at Fantastic Fest to discuss his directorial debut, “Mid90s.”

The Daily Texan: When you were writing “Mid90s,” what were some influences that helped you create the story?

Jonah Hill: It was mostly music. Music, I would say, is the main influence that I write to, and all of the songs in the film. I was the music supervisor, so all the songs were chosen for those scenes and the scenes are written to those songs. We didn’t have a big budget, so whether it was Nirvana or Morrissey, A Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief or The Mamas and Papas … there’s all this music. The Misfits. You know, music really influenced me and was the backbone of my growing up experience along with skateboarding and film, so to me, it was really important. A big part of directing for me was the ability to show hip-hop in the way that it meant to me growing up. A Tribe Called Quest were my Beatles. Hip-hop is often used in films to be like flossy or like hood stuff, but to me, it was the emotional backbone of me growing up, and I wanted to frame hip-hop in that way.

DT: You recently had the world premiere of “Mid90s” at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and now here’s the U.S. premiere, but what has the reaction been like? And how was it seeing your hard work on a big screen, with an audience?

JH: It was really moving. I waited until the Toronto Film Festival because that’s where I saw “Moneyball” premiere, and it was a really emotional night, so I didn’t show the kids the film until TIFF because I wanted them to have that kind of experience I had. It was just a really moving night. They were so moved and excited and crying. It was a really special night.

DT: You’ve talked about how a lot of the cast didn’t have acting experience, and it was also your first time directing, so everyone is almost like a first timer on the set of “Mid90s.” So did that play into a really cool chemistry on set?

JH: It was! It was a lot of hard work, and these kids worked so hard to become really great actors. I’ve worked with a lot of great actors, and by the end, they were as good as any of them. That’s all their hard work and dedication. I’m really proud of them.

DT: With the main character Stevie, did you always plan on getting Sunny (Suljic), or if not, how did you choose him?

JH: No, I was at a skate park with one of our producers, and I saw Sunny and I was like, “That’s the guy!” He had happened to recently be in a Yorgos Lanthimos film. He skated, and I knew he was the only kid I wanted to play him.

After its premiere at Fantastic Fest, “Mid90s” will be released in theaters on Oct. 19, 2018.