How Mid90s’ Star Was Able To Take Such Brutal Hits, According To Jonah Hill

Sunny Suljic Na-kel Smith talking up against a wall Mid90s

Stevie, the protagonist in writer/director Jonah Hill's Mid90s, has a lot of notable characteristics -- from his intense desire to fit in, to his rebel spirit -- but the big standout is his ability to take a hit. Whether he's falling off his skateboard on to concrete, or taking a pummeling from his older brother, he's always able to bounce back. Even with knowledge of movie magic it's both brutal and impressive to watch, and Hill gives all the credit to his star, Sunny Suljic, for going all-out and just giving the film everything he's got. Said the first-time director of the young actor,

Let me tell you something: Daniel Day Lewis has nothing on this guy. Anytime you see him getting beat up, falling down, you know, it's this guy... I'm 34 and I've never had to carry a movie like Sunny has to carry this film, and I've been acting for a long time. Anything that was asked of him, he went above and beyond. Same with Na-kel [Smith], same with everybody. But he took a lot of hits, and, you know, he's a strong man. The reason why I cast him is I wanted someone small for their age and was 10 feet tall inside, and you knew he could take it. And this dude went all the way. And he's alive in one piece!

Sunny Suljic's Stevie is taking brutal hits from the very first frame of Mid90s, shown being thrown into a wall by his aforementioned abusive sibling (played by Lucas Hedges), and through the course of the story he not only falls off his skateboard 100-something times and but even plummets from a roof. It's not all practical, of course, but speaking with Suljic, Jonah Hill, and Na-Kel Smith this week at the movie's Los Angeles press day only added to the film's credibility and the lead's legitimate resilience.

Based on an original screenplay by Jonah Hill, Mid90s is a period coming of age film that transports audiences to the titular time setting in Los Angeles, following the adventures of thirteen-year-old Stevie as he starts reaching maturity. What motivates the story is his discovery of a local skate shop and the teens who hang out within: the ace skateboarder Ray (Na-kel Smith); the party-loving Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt); the dummy Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin); and the wannabe Ruben (Gia Galicia). Their friendship sees Stevie start to change his personality, but also make big choices that he can't reverse.

You can watch Jonah Hill discuss the performance of his young star in Mid90s by clicking play on the video below.

Mid90s, which also features Katherine Waterston and Jerrod Carmichael in addition to the actors mentioned above, arrives in theaters this Friday -- and be on the lookout for more from my interview with director and stars here on CinemaBlend.

Eric Eisenberg
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.