NEW YORK — At 6 p.m. on a hot spring day, Larry Clark is sitting in an outdoor cafe in TriBeCa, getting mad. He’s discussing his biggest enemy, the Motion Picture Association of America, which has recommended NC-17 ratings for all but two of his movies over the last decade. And he thinks the reason they are out to get him is because he makes independent films.
“It’s the most f–king corrupt thing in the world,” he says, making use of his verb, noun and adjective of choice. “You have movies like ‘Basic Instinct,’ where Sharon Stone is f–king a guy and stabbing him at the same time. But it’s a big studio film, so it gets an R. When they give movies NC-17s, they pick on little independent movies. To me, ‘Kids’ was way less disturbing than ‘Basic Instinct,’ which disturbed me because it was a complete piece of s–t.”
Is it worth noting that Sharon Stone is the executive producer of “Wassup Rockers,” the film he’s here promoting that opens next week?
“No,” Clark, 63, says curtly. “She had no involvement. Henry Winterstern [his producer] brought her around because he thought she could help.”
And did she? “No,” Clark says.
And Stone is not the only one he speaks bluntly about. There’s fashion photographer Terry Richardson, whose work is said to be influenced by Clark’s sexually charged, heroin-chic photography. “It’s not so interesting to me,” Clark says. “I don’t really like pornography because it’s overlit, and Terry’s whole thing is that overlit porno look.”
There’s Harvey Weinstein, who snapped up the rights to “Kids,” but who, Clark says, never handed him a sizable check when it went on to financial success: “It was Miramax,” Clark says. “It was Harvey and Bob. I didn’t get anything.”
And don’t think that just because “Wassup Rockers” has received an R rating that Clark is giving up on his war with the MPAA. “The only reason it got an R and not a PG-13 was because the actors say ‘f–k,'” he says. “Well, kids say f–k now in front of their parents. It’s part of the conversation. It’s just another word.”
In other words, to omit it from his film would have been unrealistic, almost unethical. “Wassup Rockers” is a movie about a group of Hispanic skateboarders from South Central Los Angeles whose innocent idea of going skating in Beverly Hills opens a Pandora’s box when the white men they encounter assume they’re criminals and the white women they meet want to get jiggy with them.
It’s Clark’s third movie in a decade about slacker skateboarders, but he, at least, sees it as a major departure from his earlier work. For openers, it’s sort of a farce. “Let’s make fun of white people,” is how he describes the film’s mantra. Also, the protagonists are not the morally repugnant teenagers from “Kids,” his 1995 debut film about a clique who spends its days in Washington Square Park imbibing Colt 40s and trading sexual partners as if they were baseball cards. (In that movie, several of the kids wind up HIV positive.)
“They’re good kids,” says Clark of his “Wassup Rockers” stars. “Really good kids.” He’s dressed in black jeans and a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of the film. He’s almost bald and has a scraggly beard, but the paunch that protrudes from above his belt and the extra weight in his face makes him look avuncular and sort of ageless. Clark found his two young leads (Jonathan Velasquez and Francisco “Kiko” Pedrasa) on a skateboarding ramp in Los Angeles, while doing a promotional photo shoot for his most recent film, “Ken Park,” in 2002, and he quickly became like an uncle to them.
“I would go see them and take them skateboarding,” Clark says. “They would go to a birthday party and they weren’t smoking pot and they still had more fun than anybody there. They had this exuberance for life that was just about kids being kids, and that’s so difficult to do in the ghetto. And I thought it should be seen.”
And after being labeled a misogynist by some critics for making several films with very graphic sex scenes in which teenage boys take advantage of teenage girls, Clark thought it was time to turn the tables. It’s a reflection, he said, of shifting libidinal appetites over the last decade.
“When I started writing it,” Clark says, “Paris and Nicky Hilton were in the news all the time just for going to clubs and doing nothing. And this was before the sex tape. So one day, we were at Hollywood High, skating, and I thought, ‘What would happen if Paris and Nicky drove by and saw Kiko and Jonathan, thought they were hot and picked them up?'”
Might he have taken it a little too far?
“Look,” he says.”Paris Hilton just wants to get high and f–k hot boys. I’ve met her. And then I read the newspapers and see all this s–t about hot teachers f–king 14-year-old boys. I mean, if that was happening when I was a kid, I didn’t hear about it.”
If Clark sounds a little disappointed at having missed out on some pedagogical pederasty, he’s made up for it as an adult. On “Ken Park,” he became involved with his 19-year-old star, Tiffany Limos. She looked about 14 and his critics pounced, seeing the affair as proof that the director was not only fascinated by teenagers, but wanted to be one, down to his choice of sexual partners. “You know,” he says with a shrug, “that was a unique situation. We fell in love. I’m going to make a movie about it. Tiffany is writing the screenplay. It’s called ‘Printed Matter.'”
At any rate, they’re no longer together and he’s dating someone else.
How old might she be?
“I don’t know,” he says, laughing; “35, 40.”