“Lords of Dogtown” Interview: Victor Rasuk

Put 21-year-old Victor Rasuk and the young Tony Alva side-by-side and the resemblance is uncanny. Dark tan, toothy grin and that trademark sun-kissed curly hair, Rasuk ultimately landed the role every boy dreams of–to be the fastest rising star, a skater with magnetic presence that Jay Adams once called “the first pool ruler and one of the most stylish skaters of all time.” But it wasn’t just Rasuk‘s resemblance and aggressive charm that caught the eyes of Lords of Dogtown producers. It was also this rising talent’s onscreen presence, especially in the Sundance darling Raising Victor Vargas.

Rasuk sat down to chat about Dogtown, sans the curly ‘do and seventies attire, to talk about the challenge this New York-raised actor had on losing his East Coast vibe for sunny So Cal’s waves and beach babes.

How do you think you got the role playing Tony Alva?
Rasuk: “You know, Tony and [Director] Catherine Hardwicke saw me in this film called Raising Victor Vargas and Tony, when he saw it, just knew that the energy I had in that film, I could bring to Lords of Dogtown. So if it wasn’t really for Tony like campaigning for me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this role.”

What was it like portraying the skateboarding legend?
Rasuk: “It was weird at first and kind of nerve wracking because Tony Alva is so well known for telling people what’s on his mind. So at first I thought he was going to completely dog me, like this New York kid from the lower east side Manhattan coming to L.A. and portraying somebody as influential as him. But he’s had such a positive attitude since day one and I’ve been like so thankful. Like right when I got off the plane from New York to L.A. he embraced me with open arms. From the word go, I was hanging out with him and he taught me everything. He knew I couldn’t skate so he was so patient with me.”

Would you say the skating was the toughest part about the movie?
Rasuk: “Physically, I would say yeah. The skating was the hardest because not only did I have to learn how to skate, but eventually catch a style that was pretty much a 30-year-old style and make it look original.”

Were there any major wipeouts?
Rasuk: “Oh, there were total wipeouts! I mean, skateboarding accidents are inevitable. Like literally the two weeks when I first got off the plane from New York when I was learning how to skate I was doing tricks that I shouldn’t have done because I was getting so cocky being that I was being taught by Tony Alva. One of my major accidents came as I was going down a five foot ramp, which I shouldn’t have been doing, and I kind of slipped off of my board and fractured an orbital bone. Which is ironic because that happens in the film, too. But you know as painful as it sounds, I ended up earning so much respect from getting injured. It just tightened my relationship with Tony even more because he saw that if I wasn’t afraid to do a trick that was so advanced.

How many of your own stunts did you actually do in the movie?
Rasuk: “Well, the funny thing is that the more I learned how to skate, again the more I wanted to do my own stunts. You know the thing is that if one of us got injured we couldn’t be in the film. So I would say for sure, anything that was high on the pools, you know especially if anyone caught some airs in the pool, it wasn’t us at all; it was definitely the skate doubles who I give so much credit to. My skate double, Adam Alfaro, did a great job.”

I heard that Tony Alva actually doubled for you a couple of times.
Rasuk: “Oh yeah! At the Del Mar routine in the beginning of the film neither Adam Alfaro, the skate double, or I could do a certain trick that Tony did back then. Catherine was like no one could do it better than Tony. So he threw on a wig, they shaved him, and he did the stunt.”

Much like in the movie, were there also some wild parties during filming?
Rasuk: [Laughing] “Wild parties, oh yeah. That was pretty much inevitable. You know what’s funny is that for us three, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson and I, we kind of used that as an excuse to get into character because obviously the ’70s were really wild, but you know we tried not to have too many parties. Catherine had to check on us and make sure we were on time for rehearsal. We had rugged, intensive training for like three months before we shot the movie. Especially for me.”

What was it like to work alongside other young up and coming actors like Emile Hirsch and John Robinson?
Rasuk: “It was a great experience because I would say career wise, we’re all in the same place. It wasn’t like we had to put up with anyone else’s ego. We all didn’t really know anything about skateboarding so we all started off from scratch. It was definitely a positive and productive kind of environment for all three of us. And if any of us took a spill, it wasn’t like we were laughing at each other. It was like, ‘Man are you OK? Let’s just do it better.’ You know we were very constructive toward each other so in that way it was a great experience.”

Do you still skateboard?
Rasuk: “I do still, but I mostly surf now [more] than I skate because being in the water you kind of work out more of your upper body. But when you skate a lot it like pays a toll on your knees. So I don’t skate as much as I surf.”

If you had to live in 1970 or 2005, what would you choose?
Rasuk: “I don’t want to sell out on my generation. I love my generation.”