Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva and Skip Engblom talk about Lords of Dogtown
Q: What do you hope modern skaters get out of this movie?
SE: A good time. What more do you want?
SP: It would be nice if they walk away with a better understanding of where skateboarding came from. Like Spike Jonze, when he first saw the documentary, he said, "I had no idea that you guys had to figure out to ride a pool. I just took it for granted that you just did it." Maybe if people look at it and go, "Jeeze, it had humble beginnings."
TA: And it shows how it evolved from surfing, especially in L.A. It came from surfing to the streets, to the back yards, people's private property, pools.
Q: What is it like when you go back to the pier now?
SP: Rodeo Drive at the beach.
TA: The streets and sidewalks are the same as when we were kids. We have better gear now.
SE: There's not one street in Santa Monica that's exactly like what it was in 1970, not one. They researched it because they were trying to film at one point something in Santa Monica, and they were 100 per cent unable to do that.
Q: What about Oceanfront Walk in Venice?
SE: Hugely different. Back in the Fifties where that parking lot was, it was houses that went all the way to where the world's largest beach parking lot is.
Q: What do you miss the most and what do you miss least about that era?
TA: I miss the pier a lot. Especially because it was big and there were a lot of secret places. Just the parking lot there where they had the ballroom where all the rock bands used to play, underneath the pier was like a gay brothel. I could map out the pier with my hand right now and show you. Skip knows what I'm talking about, and Stacy . . .
SE: I had a job on the pier in high school where I used to run the roller coaster in kiddyland, and they fired me and this other guy because we would close down kiddyland and practice surfing on the miniature rollercoaster, so I was fired for that.
SP: I just miss the freedom of that time. You could say things and do things that were not suddenly deemed political one way or the other. It was during the sexual revolution and the economy in the toilet. It was just that freedom there.
Q: Is there anything you're glad has changed?
SP: I think what I'm happy about is that we all are still part of this lifestyle.
Q: Did you ever think you'd be starting something that would become a cult crazy, and a movie?
SP: Never. We were looked at as vandals too much to ever think that what we were doing was going to turn into something.
Q: Did you consider yourselves vandals?
SP: No, because we weren't out to hurt anybody.
A: We were there to skate the pool. We got in and we got out.
SP: We weren't there to deliberately damage. We were there to do our art.
TA: We used to get really pissed off and like blacklist guys, anybody who came in and really did stuff like that. Except that we spray graffiti. Not on the pools, more on the walls and fences around that area, because that was kind of a cliquey style where you warn other guys this is your territory. That's a different deal. But inside the pools, the property, we never robbed the house or broke the glass in the windows, we just skated the pool.
Q: Do any of you have kids now?
SP: Have a 14-year-old.
TA: A daughter and a son.
Q: What would you do if your kids took up similar behavior?
SP: Funny thing you should say that. Last year my kid came into the house and he goes, "I gotta talk to you about something. We snuck into a backyard a couple of blocks down, there's a pool in the back and we skated it." He looked at me and said, "You're not going to be mad at me. You did the same thing." And I looked at him and all I could say was, "Did you have a helmet on?" I can't say don't do it.
Q: How did the tone of the film change when David Fincher left and Catherine Hardwicke came on?
SP: I'll just repeat something Skip just said, because he spent a lot of time with Fincher as well, that David was very concerned about the hardware and when Catherine came in she was very concerned about the social dynamic between the people in the script, the characters. And I think it's just two different approaches.
TA: She took the same approach with the actors. She gets really personal with everybody. Her vision combined with her work ethic and just her experience in the film industry, it all clicks. She's not like this tyrant type of director. She's part of like a massive creative process.
SE: I was looking at these kids and they felt so much like the original team. I know it's not the original team, but…
Q: How did you feel about teaching actors to skate instead of skaters to act?
SP: It was the right thing to do. You can teach a kid to skate but I don't know if you can teach him to act.
TA: You can't. it just makes the movie suck like all the other ones they've made about skateboarding because they try to take guys who were surfers and skaters and get them to act. It's stupid. The main thing you do right off the bat is to get good actors.
SP: Put it this way. These guys didn't have to learn to do aerials. They had to learn to just look comfortable on a board.
TA: Go to point A to point B and then the stunt guys would come in.
Q: What are the biggest problems with other skateboard movies?
TA: That's the main fault, where we just said, is that they try to take like non-professional actors.
SP: Yeah, but if you go back to the beginning, go back to Gidget. And if you look at Gidget and look at James Darren or one of the guys, they're smoking cigars on a surfboard, and they're talking to one another as they're riding this wave, all relaxed. This is the history that we have to rebel against. We didn't want to fall into that quicksand trap of all that nonsense.
Q: How do you feel about how you're all portrayed in the film?
SP: That's the one thing Tony and I talked about. Jay wasn't as angry as he was in the film. Tony wasn't as strident as he was in the film. I wasn't as straight as I was in the film. But this being a film, we kind of had to delineate who these characters were.
Q: What are your worst injuries?
TA: The worst ones basically with me have been high-speed crashes, like downhill stuff. Basically scraped all the skin off. I was like a mummy for a week.
SP: Broke my arm twice but that was like at the very end of my career when I was skating in the comfort of a skateboard park with skating equipment. Never did I break a single bone skating in the hundreds of pools in backyards.
Q: Talk about going from a documentary to a feature film script?
SP: The hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I've been a professional athlete, I've directed films, I've run a company with 150 employees, and nothing compares to writing a screenplay. Just the second I think I know what I'm doing, the rug gets pulled out and I have no idea what I'm doing. Because there are so many problems to solve, and especially in a thing like this where there is an ensemble. Every character has to balance off each other, and every time you solve one problem, you knock that squirrel head down, and six more pop up. The documentary is a retelling of what happened back then, but the film is showing a lot of scenes of what really happened.
Q: So you guys have reunited after the big split portrayed in the film?
SP: The thing is we were alpha males and we each wanted to be the best, and there only so many opportunities, so when we all broke up, we were still competing against each other and we saw each other at contests. We put on our game face against each other. I wanted to beat Tony and Tony wanted to beat me and it was a predatory situation.
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