Besides teaching the youth of America outside of New York how to roll a perfect blunt (Hamilton Harris had it down), Kids was also a tale about HIV, skating as a release, and the random harshness of young life. The film launched a few careers from writer Harmony Korine to actors Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny.
Director Clark and writer Korine were inspired by skate culture and particularly the kids from places like Sunset Park, 125th Street, Elmhurst Avenue, the Lower East Side, South Bronx, and Washington Square Park. These were real kids doing what real kids did. The film made audiences squirm. It upset kids in the neighborhoods where the film was set who didn’t like the way their friends or their turf was portrayed. Although it pissed a lot of people off, most agree that it did what it set out to do – tell the true, unfiltered story of the NYC skating subculture.
There’s a sadness to any Kids “cast where are they now?” conversations because some of the cast members are no longer with us. Justin Pierce, Harold Hunter, and Sajan Bhagat all died way too young. But the film will forever capture their youth in a pre-Giuliani and sanitized Manhattan. Let’s look at the Kids movie cast today and find out where they landed after all this time.
Contrary to popular belief, Kids had a script. A brilliant script if you consider the fact that many thought the film was a documentary. Korine wrote it at age 19, in about a week, while he was holed up in his grandma’s basement. He was in NYU’s writing program at the time and spent most of his days hanging out on the streets and skateboarding.
Larry Clark had a loose idea of what he was looking for, but everything Korine wrote flowed out of him based on what he saw and experienced every day.
Harmony Korine, the Writer: Now
Kids was only the beginning for Korine. He wrote and directed Spring Breakers, Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy, Mister Lonely, and Trash Humpers. He also directed Rihanna’s video for “Needed Me” in 2016.
Leo Fitzpatrick, Telly: Then
In Kids, Telly’s favorite thing was deflowering virgins and inadvertently spreading the HIV virus around NYC. Fitzpatrick, who was from New Jersey, has said that the New York skater crew didn’t take to him at first. They were a close knit pack. “I was kind of more like a narc. Where they’re like, ‘How the f*ck did this guy get in?’”
After the film’s release, Fitzpatrick had to deal with a sh*tstorm of judgment about his actions in the film. Many people thought Fitzpatrick wasn’t acting, Kids was a documentary, and that he was a terrible person.
Fitzpatrick hated the attention he received after the film’s release and moved to London to escape it. He then moved to Los Angeles, bounced around and did odd jobs, slowly coming back to acting in the early 2000s. “I had to grow up and find a level of comfort within myself to say that acting isn’t so lame,” he said.
You may be surprised to learn that Fitzpatrick has appeared in a lot of your favorite things. He was on HBO’sCarnivàle, The Wire, Sons of Anarchy, and Gotham. He also played Patricia Clarkson’s hilarious bratty full-grown son Timothy on Broad City in 2015.
Chloë Sevigny was a “superskinny, dorky blond girl from Connecticut” (her words) working at a rave store in New York in the summer of ’93. Korine met her in Washington Square Park two years earlier and they were in an on-again, off-again relationship at the time. Kids was Sevigny’s first film.
Her innocent and tragic Jennie served as a cautionary tale about the spread of HIV and not trusting fast-talking jerks (and not falling asleep around Casper.) Her performance won her an Independent Spirit Award that year.
Since Kids, Sevigny has maintained her status as a darling of the indie world. She’s made her own choices over the years in film, television, and fashion, playing a wide variety of roles in Boys Don’t Cry(she was nominated for a Golden Globe and Oscar), American Psycho, Party Monster, Dogville, Zodiac, HBO’s Big Love, Bloodline, Portlandia, and American Horror Story.
She caused a stir in 2003 when she performed real fellatio on camera in The Brown Bunny with the film’s director and boyfriend Vincent Gallo. Sevigny brushed off the controversy and continued to play interesting characters at her own pace.
Justin Pierce, Casper: Then
Just Pierce played Telly’s good-natured sidekick to a T. You nearly feel sorry for him at the end of Kidsbecause of his haplessness. Pierce was born in London and came to the U.S. at 15 when his parents moved to the Marble Hill section of the Bronx. Pierce was an insider to the New York skate scene at the time.
There were times throughout the filming where Justin would get “really f*cked up, drunk, and get arrested.” After one incident with a bouncer, director Larry Clark stepped in, got him into the camera truck and told him, “You’re not going to f*ck up my movie.”
Pierce’s portrayl of Casper earned him an Independent Spirit Award. He moved to Los Angeles in 1997 and continued to act, appearing in A Brother’s Kiss, First Time Felon, Malcolm in the Middle, and as Roach in Next Friday. Harold Hunter stayed close with Pierce and came to visit him often in Los Angeles.
Pierce was found hanging in his hotel room in Vegas in 2000 when he traveled there for the premiere of Next Friday. It was ruled to be a suicide. He was only 25. His friends held a memorial at the Public Theater and played “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” The film Looking for Leonard was released posthumously in 2002.
Rosario Dawn, Ruby: Then
Rosario Dawson had just graduated eighth grade and was hanging out on her stoop, exchanging a laugh with a homeless man, when the Kids crew came by. Harmony got really excited and told her, “Oh my god I wrote this for you, I don’t even know you but I wrote this for you!” She had made previously a brief appearance on Sesame Street as a child, but other than that, Kids was her first project.
Kids put Dawson on a lot of casting director’s radars. She landed roles in He Got Game, Men in Black II, 25th Hour, The Rundown, Alexander, Sin City, Clerks II, Death Proof, Eagle Eye, Rent, Seven Pounds, Grindhouse, and The Devil’s Rejects. She joined the late great Prince for the re-release of his ’80s mega-hit “1999” in 1999. Dawson also appeared in the Netflix Marvel Series Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Harold Hunter, Hunter: Then
Harmony Korine based much of the screenplay for Kids on his friendship and experiences with Harold Hunter. Hunter was a standout in the film as the charmer, the rascal, and the guy at the party just trying to get some. Leo Fitzpatrick said of Hunter, “He really never judged anybody. He didn’t give a sh*t where you were from, what you looked like. He was like an ambassador for New York skateboarding.”
Without Hunter, the film wouldn’t have come together the way it did. It was his openness to everyone and everything that gives Kids that special quality.
Harold and the crew of skaters hung out with Zoo York, the prominent New York skate crew and brand that was formed in 1993. This was before skating in NYC was mainstream. After the film’s release, he was launched to international status and skated professionally for Zoo York. Hunter appeared in New Jersey Drive, New York Undercover, Hand on the Pump, Frezno Smooth, Man Under Wire, and On the Road with Judas.
His outgoing personality was infectious among friends, family, fans, and skaters alike. Tragically, the unofficial mayor of the East Village and other outlying parts died in 2006. The funeral was attended by hundreds of friends, fellow skaters, family, and many of his Kids castmates. “I’ve never been to a funeral like the one I saw of his. Three days of people coming from all around the world… I hope that he felt all that love we all showed in his passing,” Rosario Dawson said of the funeral.
Larry Clark, 52 at the time, was a successful skate photographer when he decided to make “the great American Teenage Movie, like the Great American Novel.” He had never directed a film before.
According to a Rolling Stone oral history of the film, Clark was taking pictures of skaters in Washington Square Park when he met a 19-year-old kid who said he wanted to make movies one day. That kid was Harmony Korine. After watching a VHS Korine made in high school and reading a sample script he just happened to write for school, Clark asked him to write the screenplay for the film he dreamed of making.
Larry Clark: Now
Critics called Kids “offensive” and “child pornography.” Clark responded to criticism of his work by saying, “I don’t try to be controversial, I just try to be honest and tell the truth about life.”
The iconic photographer and director made several films just as controversial following Kids, including Wassup Rockers, Bully, Ken Park, Marfa Girl, and The Smell of Us. Clark influenced many filmmakers with his photography book of junkie life in Oklahoma in 1971’s Tulsa. He shares his work on his website, and continues to pursue aspects of raw and real youth culture.
Hamilton Harris, Hamilton: Then
Hamilton showed the world how to roll a blunt like a champ. He was part of the central core of the cast and seemed to take the whole process in stride – but did admit that he felt resentment toward the film afterward. He felt like the film exploited him and the skaters, and later he told Larry Clark a lot of his feelings about the film’s aftermath. Kids was his only film.
Hamilton Harris, Hamilton: Now
Harris lives in the Netherlands and has concentrated on music over the years, but returned to NYC to direct a documentary about the film called The Kids in 2014. He and pro skater legend Peter Bici, who also appeared in the film, teamed up to make the doc along with Ronald Hunter, Mike Hernandez, and Jeff Pang. Their film captures the real lives of the skate kids and New York in the mid ‘90s as well as the fallout and impact of the film on the community where it was shot.
Harris said, “There was a lot of dysfunction both prior to and after the film’s release – people going from being in this little subculture, dealing with these complex situations in a sleepless city, to being a part of this new pop culture, with all that dysfunction and trauma squared. It’s still a very sensitive topic – there’s a lot of resentment. So this documentary is quite a responsibility on me, you know what I mean? I had to do a lot of reflecting on myself first to get to the point of even doing this interview, 20 years later.”
Jon Abrahams, Steven: Then
Abrahams’s first film was Kids, but he wasn’t the first choice for the part. Steven Cales was originally going to be in the film but he was arrested for armed robbery. Abrahams was a non-skater and a club kid from TriBeca. “Most of the kids in the movie were the skater kids. Everybody knows each other, because it’s a pretty small community of kids back then in downtown Manhattan. I wasn’t like best friends with these guys at all. I think that they were a little pissed off that, like, ‘Who’s this f*cking club kid that got our friend’s part now that he went to jail’? I definitely had to work for their affection, a little bit.”
He credits Harold Hunter with smoothing things over and getting him in with the crew.
Jon Abrahams, Steven: Now
His Kids role set him on the path for a career of steady work with roles in Dead Man Walking, Scary Movie, Boston Public, Non-Stop, House of Wax, and Meet the Parents. He was also a DJ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Jefferson Pang, Jeff: Then
Pang was part of the main crew that skated at Washington Square Park. He and kids from all ethnic backgrounds and circumstances skated in all kinds of weather, using the urban landscape of garbage and cracked concrete as their skate parks. He explains how the film came together. “The way Kidshappened. It was all just kind of organic because Harmony was hanging out with us for years and he was just like some quirky kid from Nashville, Tennessee.”
Jefferson Pang, Jeff: Now
Pang was one of the first skaters from New York to go pro. After skating professionally for the original Zoo York team in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Jefferson now has an office job as the sales director for skateboarding at DC Shoes. He has a wife and two kids. He doesn’t skate much anymore.
Pang is one of the producers of the documentary about kids The Kids. He looks back at Kids and kind of freaks out, “As a father now, to think about what we were doing during that film, and my kids doing that at that age – I would lose my mind.”