In 1993, a 19-year-old Harmony Korine wrote the screenplay for KIDS, a stark portrayal of drug- and sex-obsessed teenagers in New York City during the height of the AIDS epidemic. When casting the film, director Larry Clark sent out a call for “Real NYC kids. All backgrounds and colors. Guys and girls 13-19 years old for feature film shooting in New York City.” Those “real NYC kids,” mostly rounded up off the streets, ended up including Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny, who will speak along with Korine, Clark, and other cast members at a 20th anniversary screening of the controversial film at BAM on June 25th.
When the film was released in 1995, the New York Times called it a “wake-up call to the modern world.” Its gritty, too-real aesthetic was partly thanks to Clark’s insistence on using young, non-professional actors–he lamented that most teenage films “never used kids the right age, always actors playing younger. They always make it a happy ending. There’s always something that doesn’t ring true.” Filmmaker magazine describes the casting process that rejected that norm:
While much of the talent had been culled from Korine’s skateboarding posse, the intervening year of fundraising had either aged actors beyond repair or had lost them to other lives. The casting director, Alyssa Wishingrad, worked with others in combing the streets of New York for the right replacements. Vachon remembers how “posters were handed out in city parks and pasted up on the street. If you saw someone who looked right, then ‘Great, let’s get this kid too.’” While many actors, like Pierce, had already been cast, others, like Fitzpatrick, were recruited from the street. Only Jennie, as Vachon explains, created a problem: “Mia Kirshner (Exotica) was originally cast as the one professional actor but there was something that separated her from the rest of the kids.” In the end, Clark went with a completely non-professional cast. And only a few days before production begin, Chloe Sevigny, another one of the “kids” from New York’s downtown scene, was cast as Jennie.
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