Mr. Robot V Mr. Skate

Broken bones and Barack Obama: Christian Slater interviews Tony Hawk
Film+TV | 29 July 2016
Introduction Alex James Taylor

Photography by The Collaborationist

If you haven’t been glued to your TV watching Sam Esmail’s psycho-thriller series, Mr Robot, what’re you doing with your life? Having first exploded onto our screens last year, season one left us biting our fingernails with a tantalising cliffhanger. This month marks the long-awaited release of the epic second season… three episodes deep and Esmail has already upped the ante.

To celebrate Mr Robot‘s return, we’re revisiting our HERO 10 head to head between the show’s leading man Christian Slater (aka. Mr. Robot) and skateboarding icon Tony Hawk. The pair, who you might remember sharing the screen way back when in 90s skater flick Gleaming The Cube, here chat broken bones, break-ins and carving up the White House.

Interview taken from HERO 10: California Future


Christian Slater: Hey man.
Tony Hawk: Hey, what’s up?

CS: How are ya?
TH: The last time we saw each other was like two years ago, a year and a half?

CS: Something like that, a year and a half ago you came and did that show Breaking In, there was that episode where we kept throwing that thing at your head [laughs]. I can’t remember exactly what the premise was but you played yourself, came skating in and what we knocked you out with that remote control helicopter…
TH: Yeah that’s it. [laughs]

CS: Did you have to get stitches?  
TH: No no no no, but the whole thing ended up on the cutting room floor, bummer.

CS: And they kept doing it take after take after take, and this guy tried to control it with his iPad, really beating you in the head with this thing… it was just over and over and over again. I just felt terrible, it was hilarious but sad at the same time, it was kind of a nightmare.
TH: Yeah and then they just scrapped the whole episode.

“I fell from the top and I mean I got knocked out; I broke my thumb, I fractured my skull but the pelvis, I mean when you break your pelvis you can’t move, you can’t cough, you can’t go to the bathroom, it’s so debilitating” – Tony Hawk

CS: I mean so is there no sign of that episode anywhere? It was pretty good, I can’t believe they would just scrap the whole thing.
TH: Yeah, that’s what I heard.

CS: It’s just crazy. OK, so the interview should begin… Now!

CS: Hi Tony, how’s it going?
TH: Ah I’m good thanks, I’m home for the weekend which is rare these days, which I’m sure you are familiar with.

CS: So you’ve been doing a lot of travelling around?
TH: Yeah. This summer, well there were four X Games, I’ve been doing a bunch of exhibitions so it’s been pretty crazy.

CS: Are you competing in all these X Games and practising new tricks and flying through the air? You’re doing all that stuff?
TH: At the X Games I’m actually doing the commentary for the skate events, so I’m the voice you hear if you’re watching the skating, I’m still skating a lot, I actually do sort of a welcome exhibition to the X Games every time, so that’s my way of being in the scene without having to be under the scrutiny of the competition.

CS: Right. How many times did you practice the 900 before you got it?
TH: Ah years [laughs], probably about four years off and on, I would come back to it and try it for a while and either get hurt or getting my feelings hurt and just quit, and it was so elusive that at some point I just thought it wasn’t possible.

CS: Wow, and did you break bones in the process of this?
TH: I broke a rib, yeah.

CS: A rib?
TH: Yeah that was when I finally committed to it, I ended up falling – I thought I broke my collar bone but I ended up breaking a rib.

CS: Oh God yeah, that would have been horrendous. So what would you say would probably be the worst injury or break that you’ve had to recover from?
TH: A broken pelvis, that was the worst thing.

CS: Aw, yeah that’s hideous! What was the trick you were doing or was that just you taking a shot and slipping?
TH: No I was doing one of those full loop ramps, you know like those Hot Wheel tracks?

CS: Yes.
TH: And I just misjudged it, I fell from the top and I mean I got knocked out; I broke my thumb, I fractured my skull but the pelvis, I mean when you break your pelvis you can’t move, you can’t cough [laughs], you can’t go to the bathroom, it’s so debilitating.

CS: You can’t go to the bathroom, oh ha ha man…
TH: Well I mean you can, but it’s the most intense brief pain you can think of.

CS: Oh my God! Now I’ve never really been to your house or anything but I hear you have a skate ramp in the backyard?
TH: I have a cement park, it’s relatively small but it’s good enough for the kids and it’s fun to practice stuff on and then I have a big ramp at my office. That’s where I practice my main skating.

CS: Alright – and when you bought the house did you have it all built in?
TH: Yeah when I bought it I didn’t really think that was something I could do. Then once I was in the area I started thinking about it, and started designing stuff. I ended up working with a skate park company that submitted the plans to the city and they said it was a koi pond [laughs]. But at some point during the approval process, someone in the city realised what it was and they were like, “No, I know what this is – this is a skate park, you can’t do this,” so we reconfigured it and we said, “No, no it’s for all kinds of sports – it’s for handball and it’s for badminton” and all these kinds of things. They bought it.

CS: Ah nice job, nice job. And so now do you go out there and practice new moves?
TH: Trying to yeah, as much as I can, being an older skater.

CS: Right, right, so you’re still doing the flips and the ollies. Now did building the thing in your backyard lead to the foundation? Because now you build skate parks all over the place right?
TH: Right, yeah that’s what we do with my foundation – we try and support public parks in low income areas, so you know places like in Compton and even as far as Native American reservations that need some outlet for the kids.

CS: How long you been going?
TH: We’ve been going ten years now, and we’ve helped deliver 500 parks.

CS: 500 parks! How did it begin?
TH: Basically I saw the rise of skateboarding and the interest in skating about ten years ago, and I saw that some cities were building parks but they were mostly in affluent areas and, to be honest, the parks were really shitty and so I thought, “I want to change that tide. I want to direct the funds to the places where it’s needed most and also to get the skaters involved in the design process so the city doesn’t deliver something worse than the local mall parking lot.”

CS: Right, so really make it first class and safe and fun.
TH: Yeah make it fun, but the people that were building skate parks at the time were just sidewalk contractors that had no experience and had no reference to do it right.

CS: So you came in there and did the specs and the scopes and said this is how it should be?
TH: Yeah, and also got the local kids involved in the design process.

CS: That’s great. Now when you were a kid how old were you when you got your first skateboard?
TH: Erm, about nine.

CS: And so you just got on there and started going?
TH: Not really, I just did it because my older brother was into it, and when I first went to the skate park about a year later and I literally saw these guys flying in and out of empty swimming pools I was like, “Wow these guys are literally flying, I want to do that, I want to figure out how to do that whatever it takes,” and that’s when I got hooked on it.

“When we were doing ‘Gleaming the Cube’ it was all about finding abandoned swimming pools and things like that” – Christian Slater

CS: I know when we were doing Gleaming the Cube it was all about finding abandoned swimming pools and things like that [laughs]. Did you ever break into anybody’s backyards that had an empty swimming pool?
TH: I did, yes, but I grew up in a time when skate parks were finally established, so for the most part I was at the skate park where the pools were made for skating. Though I definitely did my share of recon missions – you know, going to backyard pools and skating. In fact just last week I got kicked out of a pool in Vegas and luckily the cops recognised me.

CS: Oh my God, so you’re still doing that? Is there a group or entourage of skaters that you will hook up with and go and do that or were you by yourself?
TH: I was with the Birdhouse team. We were actually on a road trip, trying to get some footage. We ended up going to this one empty pool that was in this apartment complex and we were there for about half an hour – and then this woman got irate and called the Cops. The Cops came, and just sort of escorted us out. But she was so mad she called the Cops again.

Photography by The Collaborationist

CS: Oh my God.
TH: She didn’t think the Cops were doing enough, she literally called the Cops on the Cops!

CS: I see. So would you say the general public, the basic feeling towards skaters… are they still just rebels and punks or is there a new level of understanding and appreciation for the art form?
TH: I think the tide is shifting a bit, especially with parents, but there is still an old school mentality that it’s mostly kids that are out to be rebellious, cause trouble and cause distraction.

CS: Where would you say is the most unbelievable place you have actually skated? Is there one that stands out for you?
TH: Yeah, I recently went to Ethiopia.

CS: Ethiopia!
TH: I went there on a charity mission for a clean water supply to the villages, but of course I brought my skateboard and I took kids for rides on it. They tripped, they didn’t know what to make of it, they thought it was like a magic carpet.

CS: That had to be amazing.
TH: It was a blast.

CS: Incredible. And you also got to skate at the White House?
TH: I did. I actually got invited there for a Father’s Day event, to raise awareness for being a good father, and I brought my skateboard because, I mean, I’m at the White House I might as well bring it, right?!

CS: Right, absolutely.
TH: And I ended up skating down the hallway and shooting a photo of it and tweeting it and a bunch of people took it badly and it turned into a whole thing, it was pretty stupid.

“The funny thing is I don’t think [President Obama] realised that I had done that skating in the hall, and when he met me he apologised for not having a ramp for me to skate.”

CS: Are you the first person to ever skateboard in the White House?
TH: I think so.

CS: I mean that’s pretty monumental.
TH: Or to at least document it [laughs].

CS: Dude that’s awesome, so you met the President, had you done anything like that before?
TH: Never, not at all, that was a pretty big deal for me. The funny thing is I don’t think he realised that I had done that skating in the hall, and when he met me he apologised for not having a ramp for me to skate.

CS: Oh that’s nice. He was a good host, that’s great, Jesus that’s so cool. So what tours and championships did you used to look forward to the most?
TH: I was in a team in the later part of my career so the big events before that were the NSA series. The National Skateboarding Association was the biggest thing ever as far as I was concerned. It was relatively small-time compared to what was going on with the whole of skateboarding, but to me it was the biggest deal and it carried the most weight and it carried the most prestige in the skate industry. I remember the biggest prize money in the late 80s was $7500 for first place. That was the biggest thing ever, and now these guys are competing for 100 grand these days.

CS: Wow, alright well it’s some death defying stuff so they gotta raise the price.
TH: They’ve got to be compensated, I agree.

CS: So how old were your kids when you achieved the 900 and what was their reaction?
TH: Well, you know what? My oldest son, he was seven at the time, he was holding this gold thing and he had no idea of the gravity of it. My other son was just born but it’s funny if you look at the footage of that day you’ll see him, he was just an infant then but the other kids they weren’t even born yet.

CS: So how many kids do you have now?
TH: Four.

CS: Four kids?!
TH: Four kids, yeah! Three boys and then my daughter, who’s five. My oldest son is twenty and that is the strangest thing.

CS: That is insane, I mean my son is fourteen and that freaks me out, I can’t believe that I have a fourteen-year-old kid.
TH: The roles start to shift, it’s like having a messy roommate as opposed to having someone you have to look after.

CS: Totally. I had my kids over the summer and we’ve just moved into this house and they really are just, I mean my son is, I don’t know what your kids are like, but mine are just messy.
TH: Yeah that’s what I mean. My older son is just my messy roommate that needs rides everywhere.

CS: Exactly, it’s driving them to sailing camp. Other than that he was playing video games. How many video games are based on your adventures now? I mean what are you up to? Ten?
TH: Yeah well roughly ten, there’s been a lot of different incarnations with all the different systems and different controls, I’d say ten is a good estimate but it’s probably closer to thirteen or fifteen if you count everything with the hand-helds and stuff.

CS: Sure. And to be a video game character, is that pretty surreal? Did you ever think you were going to be a video game character?
TH: Never, not at all. I mean I always loved video games and I used to eat up anything that included or hinted at skateboarding in the game, but at some point I never imagined that I’d be able to actually work on one or be a character in one.

Photography by The Collaborationist

Photography by The Collaborationist

CS: Do you go in when they do the video games, do you put-on the CGI outfit?
TH: Yeah, I’ve done that a few times, it really sucks skating with those things on, well mostly it sucks falling with those things on. It’s effectively sitting on a bed of marbles.

CS: That sucks. Have you played the games much? I mean that would freak me out.
TH: Oh yeah, I play every single one for sure.

CS: You do?
TH: Yeah, I can’t suck at my own game, that’s not acceptable [laughs].

CS: You have to be the master [laughs]. So do you do any other types of sports or is it just skating?
TH: Mainly skating but I grew up in California so surfing and snowboarding. [shouting] Hey Spence we gotta go! Sorry my son has band practice right now.

CS: Oh he does?
TH: Yeah he’s in a band, the Step Forward Lads.

CS: Cool. What kind of music do they do?
TH: Er, it’s pretty rock-heavy, I mean they do covers of The Black Keys and White Stripes and ‘Zeppelin, and they do their own stuff too.

CS: That’s awesome. Anyway I know you gotta go so thanks for chatting.
TH: Yeah, thanks Christian.

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