When you’re making your directorial debut, it helps to have famous friends who happen to be Oscar-winning filmmakers. Jonah Hill is behind the camera for the first time on a feature with “Mid90s,” which premiered to solid buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, and it turns out the entire project got shaped with help from Spike Jonze. The actor-turned-director recently told Collider how the “Her” and “Being John Malkovich” Oscar winner was instrumental to the creation of “Mid90s.”
“Originally the movie was about something completely different but it kept flashing back to the main character when he was with his friends when he was 12,” Hill said. “And Spike said to me, you look less enthused when you’re talking about the ‘A’ story, and you light up like a Christmas tree when you’re talking about the other stuff.”
Hill originally viewed his directorial debut as the story of a grown man looking back on how his childhood shaped him, but Jonze felt the actor would have better results sticking entirely with the character’s younger years and coming-of-age experience. Hill decided to scrap his original idea based on Jonze’s advice, which is ultimately how “Mid90s” got its real start.
The new director previously told Vulture that he also consulted with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Ethan Coen before kicking off production on the movie. Hill had a four-hour meeting with Scorsese, while Coen told him not to get stressed about by the pressures of making a movie and to just enjoy the experience.
“You need mentors,” Hill told Collider, “you need friends, you need other writers to go, ‘Ah you’re shying away of what is actually painful to write about,’ and that’s really your job as a filmmaker to other filmmakers is to go, ‘Oh you’re being scared right now and avoiding the thing that’s hard for you to write about and that’s the best part of your story,’ and its just being called out, and that’s the beauty of collaboration.”
“Mid90s” stars “Killing of a Sacred Deer” actor Sunny Suljic as a 13-year-old who befriends a group of skateboarders in Los Angeles while dealing with the pressures of home. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called the film a “sweet burst of nostalgia” in his B+ review out of TIFF.
A24 releases “Mid90s” in theaters October 19.