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Interview - Jonah Hill (Moneyball)

17 Nov 2011
The comic talent from Superbad takes a dramatic turn in his latest drama
Best known for his comic parts in movies like Superbad and Funny People, 27 year old Jonah Hill has gone all serious for his latest role alongside Brad Pitt in the Bennett Miller (Capote) directed film Moneyball. Check back soon for our full review of the film which hits cinemas on the 25th of November.

Q. Your character in Moneyball, Peter, is kind of an invisible man to begin with; that’s something of a departure for you…
A. Yes. We really designed him to be invisible. That’s the way Bennett Miller and I talked about the character. If Bennett was sitting in a room he would say to me often, ‘Jonah when you are in a room you are not invisible. Everyone is looking at you. You are just that kind of personality, but I want this guy to be invisible. If he was sitting in a room you couldn’t be able to pick him out of a thousand people.’ So we designed him to be bland. We wanted everything he said to be hard for him to say.

Q. There’s a strong sense that your character has been somewhat undervalued in life, much like the players that join the baseball team, right?
A. Absolutely. There were times in the movie when it was heartbreaking and Billy, Brad’s character, gives hima voice, shines a light on him and says, ‘This is what I want. I want your opinions and I believe in you,’ and this is the first time he has heard this. I never felt this way about a movie or a performance that I have been in before. He is a really special character.

Q. And that’s a position that everyone can to relate to on some level…
A. I think every human being has had feelings of being undervalued at some point. Honestly, for me, getting to be in this movie is something that actually echoes my story line in the film a little bit — where people see you so much as one thing. And yet these guys came along and gave me a whole different chance to show that I can do other stuff as well. For me that was a really beautiful, special gesture on their part, that they believed that I could be the second lead in this big drama with Brad Pitt and Phil Hoffmann, and with Aaron Sorkin and Bennett Miller all believing in me is a moment of real satisfaction.

Q. Did you forge a close relationship with Brad on set?
A. To me it is inspiring to see Brad. He is continually inspiring about his choices in the characters he plays. You could never guess what his next movie is going to be. He makes things that you would not expect him to make and I think that is cool. You have got to respect anyone who does that. And yeah, we had fun on the set.

Q. Did you mess around when you weren’t working?
A. Well there was a little bit of a war going on with our golf carts! We had little golf carts that we were driving around on the set and we got a bit competitive with the racing. Brad started it. I came back. He came back harder and it just escalated from there. We were doing some definitely pretty crazy races. That was awesome. It was less practical jokes, more tomfoolery!

Q. Moneyball is not a baseball movie, that’s just the backdrop, but what is your own relationship with the sport — you must have played it as a kid?
A. I grew up playing baseball but I am not a fan. I have lost touch with it. I don’t watch baseball and you’re right, I don’t view the movie as a baseball movie or even as a sports movie. I view the movie as a story about underdogs, David and Goliath, a movie about people who are undervalued getting a chance to prove their worth to people who don’t think they have it. That is what I find wonderful and inspiring about it.

Q. It must have been a far more restrained performance than you’re used to?
A. Yes. It is really small performance. I always get a lot of stick for Superbad and for yelling out curse words at people so it is important for me to play different kinds of characters. In Superbad, that was truly the character that they wanted me to play. It is not me. I can’t complain about a thing in the world though — I am the luckiest guy ever — and I got to play in a film that a bunch of people saw and really liked. But when you do that people have a difficult time in separating you from that character. When you play a certain character people sometimes do think of you as that character and I have been really, really cautious not to repeat that over and over again. I could have made the same movie where I was the weed 20 times over by now but I turned down some great films.

Q. You’d already showed your dramatic skills in Cyrus, though, right?
A. Yeah, I did a film called Cyrus, which was the last movie I had come out. It was a lot more dramatic than anything I have ever done. It is a movie I am really proud of and to me it was a good transitional movie, just so it wouldn’t be too much of a shock if people were to see me in a drama, because I am known comedically. But I am an actor. I love making comedies. Whether it is a comedy or drama I just want it to be meaningful, something that is great. Cyrus and this movie are great. Cyrus was a gateway to this movie and I hope to do a lot more films like these in the future.

Q. You’ve been heavily involved in getting a film adaptation of 21 Jump Street brought to the screen…
A. Yes. The movie comes out March 2012. By the day it comes out I will have spent five years of my life on it. The goal was to make a John Hughes-type of movie, meets Bad Boys, to make a really funny High School movie, about the insecurities you had in High School. We wanted it to be a really cool, funny action movie as well.

Q. Were you a big fan of the TV show?
A. I liked it as a kid and I would never disrespect the show yet this was something different. To me I connected with idea of going back to High School. I connected with the idea of getting to relive a really difficult time of your life, an important time of your life, and what would you do then if you knew what you know now? You think it is going to be easy but it is just not. It is just as hard. You revert to all of your insecurities. And the great part is that the character that Channing [Tatum] plays was really cool the first time at High School and my guy was an outcast. Then we go back and I am really popular at High School and he becomes an outcast. I get lost in my moment in the sun and start bullying him. I fall in with the really cool kids and not him.

Q. Will there be a cameo for Johnny Depp?
A. I can’t tell you, man. You’ve got to see it. It is going to be fun, though, and if he did do a cameo, or if he is in the movie, let’s just say he’d be an amazing part of the movie.

Q. What else are you working on — I hear you’ve written a TV show?
A. I am writing an animated TV show called Allen Gregory, which is going to air between The Simpsons and Family Guy. My original dream was being a Simpsons writer and I now have a show after The Simpsons and before Family Guy on Fox. It is different from The Simpsons and Family Guy, though. We wrote it as though it wasn’t a cartoon. We wanted it to be like the rules of real life. I find all sorts of animation shows amazing and funny but I wanted this to be tonally real, but still be a cartoon. I really wanted to voice this seven-year-old kid, and it would have been a problem for me to play a seven-year-old kid on TV! He’s a funny character and has two gay dads that are billionaire dudes, and he has to go to public school with normal kids for the first time. He is kind of this Capote-esque, pretentious seven-year-old boy. I can’t wait to show you.

Moneyball is in cinemas from the 25th of November 2011.