"Lords of Dogtown": behind-the-scenes facts about the movie

March 9, 2021 | Skateboarding
Lords of Dogtown: a 2005 cult skateboard movie directed by Catherine Hardwicke

"Lords of Dogtown" is one of the most popular skateboarding movies of all time. Explore its best-kept secrets and interesting facts.

The 2005 feature film was written by Stacy Peralta and directed by Catherine Hardwicke. The shooting involved actors, professional skateboarders, and real hardcore tricks and stunts.

"Lords of Dogtown" was the first - and so far only - co-production by Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures.

Dogtown represents an area south of Santa Monica, Ocean Park, and Venice on the California coastline.

"It refers to a king of doggy dog attitude everybody had in the neighborhood," underlines Tony Alva. "It was not the kind of beach people came to spend their vacations," adds Peralta.

It was surf gang territory - a place dominated by people and youngsters with no future. They just had surfboards, skateboards, waves, and concrete.

With the 1970s California drought and the urethane wheel revolution, skateboarders invaded empty private swimming pools.

It was an outlaw thing - a new sport made by rebellious urban teenagers that eventually brought fame, money, and stardom to some of them.

Pacific Ocean Park Pier became an abandoned playground for outlaws. You couldn't get near the place without a rock being thrown at you.

"Lords of Dogtown" tried to balance Hollywood's commercial vision with the sport's independent-style, adrenaline-fueled video imagery.

It was criticized by some and praised by others, but it portrays an important period in skateboarding history. Take a look at some of the coolest and most surprising facts about the skateboard movie:

1. The idea for the film came as a result of an article that was published in Spin Magazine about Dogtown skaters;

2. There was a lot of reluctance to shoot the movie, so the producers started by releasing a documentary titled "Dogtown and Z-Boys";

3. "Dogtown and Z-Boys" won multiple national and international film awards, so the stakes for the movie were high;

4. Stacy Peralta says the screenwriting process for "Lords of Dogtown" was extremely difficult because he was in it and writing about himself. Peralta even had to change his character's name because he couldn't look at it in the script;

5. "Dogtown and Z-Boys" served as a visual example of what "Lords of Dogtown" was going to look like;

6. The producers wanted to prevent "Lords of Dogtown" from becoming another dumb teen comedy. Instead, they created a film based on characters;

7. The movie focus on three skateboarding legends: Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, and Tony Alva. They were close friends, but also three distinct personalities that would clash once in a while;

8. The budget for "Lords of Dogtown" was $25 million;

9. Actors and real-life skaters praised Catherine Hardwicke's work, attitude, energy;

10. The director even injured herself in the head while rehearsing a scene in a pool;

Lords of Dogtown: the movie tells the story of skateboarding legends Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, and Tony Alva

11. Hardwicke added deeper insights to the original script, including more girl parts;

12. Heath Ledger plays Skip Engblom, the co-founder of Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions. From the beginning, Skip wanted Ledger to play him. The actor had the teeth and hair made and adopted a specific accent;

13. Ledger wore some of Engblom's old clothes to help him get into the character. Skip's wife kept the clothes for decades;

14. In "Lords of Dogtown," Emile Hirsch plays Jay Adams, and John Robinson is Stacy Peralta;

15. Jay Adams makes a cameo appearance during the party scene at his mother's house. The skating legend gives Emile Hirsch money for beer.

16. Victor Rasuk, who played Tony Alva, had never skated before;

17. Emile and John had some skateboarding experience but not that much, so they all had to start from zero with skateboard trainer Steve Badillo, surf instructor Mark Kubr, and stunt coordinator Tommy Harper;

18. Michael Angarano plays Sid, one of the members of the Z-Boys, and Nikki Reed is Kathy Alva, Stacy's sister;

19. Pablo Schreiber plays Craig Stecyk, the visionary and artistic director of the Dogtown movement;

20. The training routine included surfing in the morning, five days a week, and then five or six hours of skateboarding in the afternoon;

Lords of Dogtown: the Pacific Ocean Park (POP) Pier was recreated for the movie

21. The skateboard practice sessions included working on routines and scenes for two and a half months before the team started shooting;

22. The skateboards involved in the production were similar to the 1970s decks - primitive and hard to ride;

23. The actors watched their performances on DVD and then tried to improve and perfect the tricks and maneuvers before the decisive filming;

24. They started working on street skating before graduating up to banks and, from there, they took it to the pools;

25. All three leading actors became good skaters, and the production was able to avoid using stunts in the majority of the scenes;

26. The film's production had to recreate Dogtown and 1970s Venice, a special moment in time visually - cars, costumes, and old-school boards had to be built or rented;

27. The making of "Lords of Dogtown" used between 200 and 250 skateboards;

28. Craig Stecyk, Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, and Skip Engblom were involved in the whole shooting process;

29. The Pacific Ocean Park (POP) Pier had to be recreated in model form with computer-aided design (CAD);

30. The production team scouted all the piers up and down the coast of California and settled on Imperial Beach for several reasons;

Lords of Dogtown: the production team recreated the iconic Dogbowl

31. The whole set was mounted on a steel grid platform. The Ferris wheel was bought on eBay from someone who had one in Indianapolis;

32. The pier had a broken sidewalk, The Flying Dutchman, fire-damaged walls, rusty structures, and trash. The rest was filled with computer-generated imagery (CGI);

33. The production also dug out the old Dog Bowl, put steel on it, concrete, and then plastered it, incorporating new technology used in skateparks;

34. Tony Alva shed a few tears when he rode the new pool for the first time. He got emotional after seeing the scenario recreated in the place where he did the first frontside air;

35. The Zephyr Skate Shop was also recreated as it was the home base for the story and film;

36. The film's team also set up a replica of the Del-Mar Nationals, one of the first slalom and freestyle competitions held throughout the world;

37. For the 1976 World Professional Skateboard Championship, the production crew built freeform skate ramps and trophies;

38. Philippe Dussol, a French camera operator specialized in shooting skateboarding, was hired to operate the camera at high speeds, chase skateboarders, and shoot real movements so that spectators felt what it would be like to skate;

39. Skateboard camera operator and former Powell Peralta rider Lance Mountain also shot several scenes involving skaters in pools and ramps;

Lords of Dogtown: the skateboard movie recreated the inaugural Del-Mar skateboard competition

40. One day, the team had so many things on the schedule that they had to film in the director's bathroom;

41. When the scenes involved difficult and dangerous skateboarding, stunts - or professional skateboarders - were called;

42. Adam Alfaro plays Tony Alva's stunt double and had to do an acid drop out of a lighthouse;

43. John Ponts was Jay Adams' stunt double and jumped from a high platform into the sea;

44. The French promotional poster for "Lords of Dogtown" - or "Les Seigneurs de Dogtown" - features the legendary Dogtown cross by surfer, skater, and artist Wes Humpston;

45. The cult skateboard film is 107 minutes long;

46. The "Lords of Dogtown" soundtrack album features 16 songs plus 24 additional tunes that are only featured in the movie;