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'Dogtown' Chronicles Birth of Skateboarding

It's not easy coaching someone to play you on the big screen -- especially when you're a legendary wild man.

"At the end of every take, I had to be like, 'Dude, you've gotta be gnarlier. You've gotta be in the camera's face, giving 'em the finger,'" says Californian skateboarding guru Tony Alva (search).

Alva's one of the three hard-core skaters portrayed in the movie "Lords of Dogtown (search)," opening Friday, which chronicles the birth of skateboarding culture in the 1970s.

Alva's cinematic counterpart is Victor Rasuk, a native New Yorker who made his debut in the 2002 indie film "Raising Victor Vargas (search)."

When Alva found out he was going to be played by -- the horror! -- an East Coaster, he jumped into action.

"I immersed him in West Coast culture. We hung out every day, did a full-on workout program, went surfing and skating every day," says Alva, who's now 47.

"We drove fast and crazy on mountain roads. Everything scared him. He had to overcome phobias one by one."

Not everyone got such hands-on attention. Stacy Peralta, another of the three main characters, says he didn't attempt to change the actor who played him, John Robinson (first seen in Gus Van Sant's "Elephant").

"That's not my style," says the soft-spoken Peralta, who wrote the "Lords of Dogtown" screenplay. "I showed him skateboarding techniques, I answered all his questions -- but I wasn't going to impose."

The difference in style is equally visible in their "Lords" characters.

Peralta is the levelheaded, serious one who first establishes a pro career for himself -- while Alva and best friend Jay Adams (played by Emile Hirsch) live life with no holds barred, both on and off their boards.

All three initially ran with a tough, older gang of surfers who used to assign them the task of hurling bottles and rocks at non-locals who showed up on their turf.

Eventually, the trio discovered they could "surf" on concrete, maneuvering their skateboards like they were surfboards.

Their fearless stunts made the Z-Boys -- so named for the shop that sponsored them -- into skateboarding celebrities at their very first competition.

"I was like a rock star," says Alva, who choreographed skating stunts for the movie. "I lived a hard, fast 24/7 lifestyle. We had mad groupies, plenty of drugs -- whatever we needed to keep partying."

Eventually, Alva went on to a glamorous pro career as well, while the more anti-authoritarian Adams rejected sponsorship offers and fell in with a punk-rock crowd.

The film -- a fictionalized adaptation of Peralta's 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys (search)" -- is a PG-13 version of the real deal, Peralta and Alva both say.

"All the sex, the drugs, the rock 'n' roll -- and maybe even the violence -- was much edgier," Alva says, adding that not everyone in their scene agrees with the way Peralta and director Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen") told it.

The skating stunts stay closest to reality, they say, while personal details got massaged into Hollywood-friendly versions.

"Jay Adams steals my girlfriend in the movie -- that didn't happen in real life," says Peralta, who stops short of identifying the real culprit.

"I stole Stacy's girlfriend," Alva admits.

Alva wonders if the movie will do justice to his reputation as a girl magnet.

"Victor's an amazing actor -- I just think there's a difference in our sexuality," he says. "I think I carry myself a little more confidently. But hey, I'm not a girl.

"If chicks think he's sexy, then I'm stoked."