Sunny Suljic Shines in Mid90s

Sunny Suljic Shines in Mid90s

Despite being born post-Y2K, Suljic is the cherubic new face of 90s coming-of-age.

Despite being born post-Y2K, Suljic is the cherubic new face of 90s coming-of-age.

Styling: SAMUEL ANDERSON

There are two kinds of people: those who can skateboard and those who wish they could. Something about skaters—maybe their bodily sacrifices, transgressions of both municipal codes and laws of gravity, or occasional grace—makes them untouchably cool to outsiders. And, much like monarchs or gangsters, the smaller they are, the more intimidating they somehow seem.

But such is not the case with Sunny Suljic, the 13-year-old skating prodigy and star of Mid90s, Jonah Hill’s new film about a close-knit crew of young skaters growing up in Los Angeles. Suljic's sunny, open disposition is perhaps no surprise given that the role required equal parts skating skills and sensitivity; the semi-autobiographical tale centers on Stevie (Suljic), who uses skating as an escape from his oppressive older brother (Lucas Hedges).

While Suljic has appeared in films like Killing of a Sacred Deer and Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot, it was skating that landed him in his first starring role; after discovering Suljic at an L.A. skatepark, producer Mickey Alfred brought him in to meet Hill. And while, with his skate cred, famous friends, and burgeoning SoundCloud career, Suljic is cooler than me, you, and everyone we know, he’s reacting to his nascent fame as any 13-year-old would: a mix of guileless disbelief and excitement.   

We caught up with the multi-talented teen about working with Hill, learning to skate, and how he defines "cool."

VMAN Hi! What's it like to be done with the film and sharing it with the world?

Sunny Suljic I am in love with this and I don’t want it to be over anytime soon, especially for Mid90sThis is like my third time in New York this month. I’ve just been traveling going everywhere, doing a bunch of like podcasts and interviews that I’ve listened to or seen before. I mean, I just went on GMA and The View earlier today.

V Have you met anyone particularly notable through Jonah?

SS At premieres and stuff, Jonah would be like "Oh, this is my good buddy,” and I would meet them and be starstruck. I’d be like, “What is happening?” Like not only am I with Jonah, I’m also with his friends, who are people that I’m also fans of. I’ve met Edward Norton, James Franco...multiple people.

V Did you look up to actors or skaters more growing up? 

SS I would say both. But I think I know more about skating than acting. I skate every single day and decide when and how I wanna skate. It’s a whole different story with acting; I mean I’ve seen plenty of films, but with acting, you audition and only get to be in the movie maybe nine times out of a hundred. 

V Well you’re doing great so far! Tell us how you met Jonah. Did you expect to land an acting role through skating? 

SS I never thought I would get cast in a major film through skating. It’s usually the complete opposite: I would just go in for [standard] auditions. When I met Jonah, I didn't know he was directing the movie. He was just asking me where I like to skate and all that, and I was just like, cool I’m just having a nice conversation with Jonah!

V Did you have a stunt double on the film? 

SS No, no stunt doubles. If I had to learn how to do a triple backflip, then I would understand [needing] a stunt double. But even then I would still try to learn. And I think it’s more convenient to just actually do it. Quitting is not my mentality.

V What did you learn from Jonah? 

SS I 100% learned a lot from Jonah. Even facial expressions, which were more [important] than dialogue sometimes. He says, "Throw it away." Meaning basically, don't make a meal out of it, don’t overthink it and just kill yourself to make it look natural.

V The story isn't autobiographical per se, but it's loosely based on Jonah's coming-of-age. Did you have any similarities with your character? 

SS Aside from skating, the rest was 100% not relatable to me, personally. I have an older sister. She’s 18. Shout out! I mean, we probably get in arguments, but definitely not as intense as with Lucas in the movie. I’ve definitely had that emotional experience like “Ugh, she's the worst person, she hit me, blah blah blah,” but definitely not as intense.

V What drew you to skating in the first place? Was it the cool factor?  

SS I think it was like, the minute I stood on a board, or the minute I saw someone skating, I fell in love with it. I couldn't invest all that time, or keep falling and practicing that one trick, if I didn't love it.  I think that it was the only fun thing in Atlanta to do. My mom loved it too, and so she would just drive me to the skatepark. It could take two hours to get to there, and I would just be skating till it closed. Like after school until 10 o’clock.

V And she would wait there?

SS Yeah, she would wait there. She wouldn’t drop me off. She would just wait there, and watch me skate. My sister would also come along and she would like do her homework at the skatepark. That’s how you tell you're a skater. Some people wanna do it, and some will and some won't. I think Jonah made [that aspect of skating] really clear. 

V Skaters in the 90s had a pretty specific look. Do you think anyone will dress up as your character this year for Halloween? 

SS Is that actually a thing? If that is the case, then that’s a dream come true, because Halloween is my favorite holiday. I don't wanna call it out before it happens, but if it does happen, that’s cool.

V Are you going to be able to celebrate this year with your busy schedule? 

I might not be able to make it for Halloween this year. But, I mean, I don’t mind, honestly. Because this is definitely more interesting than Halloween.

COURTESY OF A24

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