“Over the Edge” began with a story literally ripped from the headlines. As co-writer Charles Haas recalled in Vice’s 2009 film oral history, he and co-writer Tim Hunter were drawn to an article in the San Francisco Examiner titled “Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree “. Haas recalled that “it was kind of a sensational play, and it was about young kids vandalizing property in Foster City, which was a planned community not far from the San Francisco airport.” With Foster City having “the highest percentage of youth crime of any comparable city in the country,” as Hunter explained, the two screenwriters saw the potential for a movie and completed a screenplay titled “Mousepacks” that ‘they then brought in producer George Litto. .
After Litto brought the script to director Jonathan Kaplan, the filmmaker insisted on having real teenagers play the lead and sent talent scouts to various schools around New York State. As one of those scouts, Jane Bernstein, recalled, she was instructed to “look for the new James Dean” and spotted a child at a Westchester school who surprisingly matched the brief, someone “sweet and young but who had a tenacity towards him.”
“He was skipping class, just wandering the halls. He had this chipped tooth and he came across as a badass on the wrong side of the slopes. Which was ridiculous… It was clear from the start that Matt was doing his best to play the role of a badass.”
Despite his complete lack of experience and training, Dillon’s affected punk attitude and natural instincts landed him the role of Richie White, the tough and troubled best friend of the film’s lead, Carl Willat (played by Michael Kramer ).