AIDS, sex, drugs, New York City, the 1990s, teenagers: Six words that defined that most provocative movie of the decade. Directed by city staple Larry Clark and written by noob Harmony Korine, Kids was a fictionalized glimpse into what 24 hours as a New York City teen looked like, starring real (then-unknown) New York City teens Leo Fitzpatrick, Chloë Sevigny, and Rosario Dawson. Twenty-five years later, the movie still holds up as every parent’s worst nightmare and remains a classic portrait of American youth culture. Reminisce about the film that opened up your life with these bits you might not know about Kids.
1. Larry Clark doesn't understand why Kids is rated NC-17.
In an interview with Art Commotion, Larry Clark shared his frustrations about the MPAA. “I always said I was going to make an R movie, and I made an R movie and the MPAA wouldn’t give me an R,” said Clark. “In Kids there’s sex but you don’t really see anything, it’s just that I make it look real. Maybe it’s because Kids is not some fantasy bullsh*t … We don’t want to see how these kids really are.”
He even brought up Clueless as a comparison: “Everything which is in that movie, which is not NC-17, is in my film. It’s about a teenage girl who’s looking to lose her virginity. There’s pot-smoking and drinking and a scene where she walks out of a party and she’s stepping over bodies everywhere and people are throwing up in the swimming pool. It’s a lot of the same stuff that’s in Kids, but it’s done in the stupidest way ... Nobody puts that movie up to the standards that they’re putting me up to. People say they find Kids depressing. I find something as fake as Clueless depressing.”
2. Harmony Korine got the job writing Kids thanks to a story about a dad taking his teenage son to see a prostitute.
Harmony Korine met Larry Clark in Washington Square Park, where they struck up a conversation about Clark’s camera. At the time, Korine carried around copies of films he had made in high school wherever he went, and decided to hand one to Clark. “I had put my number on the videotape, and got a phone call that he liked [my stuff]; he wanted to see if I could write,” Korine told Rolling Stone. “By this strange coincidence I had just written a script for a school assignment, about a kid whose dad takes him to a prostitute on his 13th birthday ... Larry seemed excited by it. He said he had this idea to make a movie about a kid, Telly, who takes girls’ virginities … I started to realize that it was all real when I met Gus Van Sant at Larry’s apartment in Tribeca, because he wanted to produce it.”
3. Martin Scorsese was set to produce Kids.
At one point in the pre-production process, Martin Scorsese was attached to the film as an executive producer. However, Scorsese’s commitment to Casino, and producer disagreements with his then-wife, forced him to bail. “Marty’s independent film person was his ex-wife,” producer Cary Woods explained to Rolling Stone. “She didn’t want to give the money guys executive producer credits. She wanted to bump me to executive producer and make herself the producer. And I’m like ... no way. ‘Well, then Marty’s leaving,’ she says … So I call Larry and I go, ‘Listen, if we make this deal, Marty is going to be gone. Do you care?’ And he goes, ‘Are we going to be able to start this summer? Yes? Then f*ck him.'"
4. Mia Kirshner was originally cast in Chloë Sevigny's role in Kids.
Most famous for playing Jenny (ironically) on The L Word, Mia Kirshner landed the part of Jennie for a while, thanks to producer Cary Woods. However, being a trained Canadian actress, she didn’t gel with the amateur New York City kids who populated the film’s cast. “She’d never been to New York, so they asked me to take her around, show her the ropes,” Chloë Sevigny, who eventually filled the role, told Rolling Stone. “I was like, you’ve got to be f*cking kidding me. I get this bit part and now I’ve got to show this girl around? I was so pissed. But I was a good sport.”
Rosario Dawson recalled working with Kirshner, too. “Harmony, Larry, myself, the rest of the cast—we were all first-timers,” said Dawson. “But this girl was really big on doing acting exercises, which also created a different dynamic. She had to play at being meek, but she wasn’t a very meek person. She was very full on."
5. Rosario Dawson got Harmony Korine's attention by laughing at a guy who looked like Jesus.
Rosario Dawson fatefully got into acting, right after graduating eighth grade, simply by being in the right place at the right time. “I was hanging out on my stoop on Avenue C,” she recalled to Rolling Stone. “I lived in what had been an abandoned building, a squat basically. There was a homeless guy who was asking if there were any apartments available, and I started cracking up because he looked just like the classic cliché Jesus ... He started cracking up. I didn’t know what he was laughing about but I started giggling with him just to be polite. But then I realized I was humoring Jesus, and I thought that was hilarious. So I like, guffawed. And literally in that moment, [Korine and his crew] all turned to look at me.” That day, Clark and company had been shooting sound for Kids on her block. Added Korine, “I was like, who’s this beautiful girl?” At that moment, he asked her to come in and audition.
6. Leo Fitzpatrick, Kids's so-called "virgin surgeon," was basically a virgin before the movie.
“I’d only had sex maybe once and that’s a strong maybe,” Fitzpatrick confessed at BAM’s 20th anniversary screening. “But I’m sure I must have spun a yarn when I was in casting. I must have claimed I had some sort of sexual life."
7. There was a safe sex boom in New York City while Kids was being made.
Hence the reason for the tons of condoms and safe sex ads you see in the film. “They were going to start giving condoms out in school that school year of 1994 and the Catholic Church was up in arms about it,” said Clark at BAM. “So Planned Parenthood was giving condoms away to everybody and in the parks all the kids had strings of condoms around their necks. It was in the news: HIV, condoms, everything was in the news. That’s kind of where the idea for the plot point came from."
8. Harmony Korine got banned from Letterman while promoting Kids.
On a press tour for Kids, Korine stopped by The Late Show with David Letterman. After his awkward interview, Letterman caught the director sifting through fellow guest Meryl Streep’s purse, for which the host banned him for life. According to The Guardian, Letterman recalled, “I went upstairs to greet Meryl Streep and welcome her to the show, and I knock on the door … I looked around, and she was not in there, and I found Harmony going through her purse. True story. And so I said: ‘That’s it, put her things back in her bag and then get out.’”
9. Only one scene in Kids was improvised.
In an interview with Supreme honoring Kids’ 20th anniversary, Clark recalled the making-of process. While he shot the movie documentary-style, only one scene was actually improvised. “The four boys on the couch towards the end of the movie at the party? Those guys just showed up from San Francisco—three of them did and came over because they liked skaters and I just saw them and said, ‘I have to do something,'” Clark explained. “So I stuffed them on this little couch ... and I said talk about this, talk about this, talk about this. It was just magic. It was probably the best scene in the film. It was incredible."
10. Harmony Korine and Chloë Sevigny fell in love after making Kids.
While they were already good friends before the film—they had apparently met in Washington Square Park—Korine and Sevigny got closer during filming. While dating, Korine cast Sevigny in his directorial debut, Gummo. In an interview with The Guardian, Sevigny discussed being a muse. “I love that title,” she said. “Muse. Mu-se ... It’s a great thing, for someone to feel that they can draw inspiration from you. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a man ‘taking’ from a woman. It can go both ways, both can stimulate, excite.”