The Star – Two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill’s latest comedy, War Dogs, is in theatres. He’ll direct his first movie, about teen street skateboarders, next year.
Drake needs to add another name to his housewarming party guest list when he moves into his Bridle Path mansion: Jonah Hill.
In Toronto to promote bro-comedy War Dogs, two-time Oscar nominee Hill, 32, said he often uses Drake as an icebreaker when he meets someone from Toronto.
“I’m a really big fan and it must be really cool to be from here and have him be having the career he’s having,” said Hill, who was impressed with the rapper’s plans for his massive 21,000-square-foot digs.
“Wow, I have to be invited.”
Or he could just email Drake and ask. He’s got Drizzy in his contacts list. On a recent appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Hill sheepishly confessed to mistakenly emailing his weight-loss food diary to Drake instead of his doctor.
If critics have been mostly underwhelmed with War Dogs, they have had plenty of praise for Hill’s portrayal of scheming sociopath Efraim Diveroli, who teams with childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller) to sell arms to the U.S. military in the fact-based comedy from The Hangover’s Todd Phillips.
He plays Diveroli as a slick opportunist with a grating laugh, a quirk Hill worked in just before shooting began. It’s a calculated, phoney giggle engineered to make someone feel enough at ease to let their guard down.
Hill said he knew how Diveroli had to look — which included gaining weight he has since lost — “but I still felt there was something missing.”
Although Hill never talked to Diveroli, he recalled Packouz saying after meeting his friend, you could never forget him. Hill said one thing he found made people memorable was “a really distinct laugh.”
Like Donnie, the Oscar-nominated role he played in The Wolf of Wall Street, there’s not much likable about Diveroli and Hill isn’t one to leave his character’s sins at work. When we spoke about The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, Hill said he found himself feeling “really guilty” after a long day on the set playing the drug-addicted, despicable broker who did such awful things. It was hard to shake it off.
Was it the same with playing Diveroli?
“I would say this one was worse in that regard as far as feeling guilt about the way I had to behave,” said Hill, adding he felt Diveroli was a manipulator and a sociopath.
Hill began to talk about how he works out a character by trying to experience their feelings but cut himself off, fearing he sounded pretentious. “Not that I think I’m a good actor or anything,” he said quietly.
Also Oscar nominated for playing number-crunching genius Peter Brand in Moneyball, Hill has been making audiences laugh since Superbad. He’s quick to share credit for the work he does. So praise for hit R-rated animated comedy Sausage Party is deflected to co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
“That’s all Seth and Evan, and I don’t want to take credit for their hard work,” said Hill. “I helped them come up with the idea and did a day or two of voice work but that’s all their brilliance. They really are special guys and lovely people.”
Hill is happy to talk work and is less comfortable talking about himself. “Let’s move on,” he said, not unkindly, with a followup question on his weight loss.
He’ll reteam with 21 Jump Street series co-star and pal Channing Tatum on the upcoming MIB3 and is excited about being in pre-production on his first directing job (he also wrote the script). Mid-90s is a coming of age drama about the street skateboard culture in the mid 1990s.
“It’s a really personal movie,” said Hill, who turned his one-act play into a movie script at the urging of Spike Jonze (Her), writing the first draft at Jonze’s house. “He’s kind of the godfather of that (skateboard) culture,” said Hill.
Two people he worked with on Moneyball, executive producer Scott Rudin and director Bennett Miller, are producing. Filming starts in February with a cast made up of “skate kids” aged 13 to 17.
“I chose probably the craziest group of people to have to control (over) for a movie but hopefully if they’re into film and I can give them some advice … that’s a really nice thing to get to do,” said Hill.
“I’m so lucky and all of this I’ve done, I feel like I’m getting to eat the fruit in the sense that I’m getting to make a film that’s very personal to me and then even getting to do movies like (War Dogs),” he added. “To have some freedom of choice is really the best thing to come from whatever success that I’ve had.”
Hill said the reception Toronto gave Moneyball in 2011 at its TIFF premiere remains a great memory.
“The festival here is amazing. I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to a Toronto publication but it’s just the city seems to embrace and love film and that’s from a very pure place,” he said.
TIFF opens in less than three weeks. Perhaps Mid-90s will get its red carpet moment next September?
“And wouldn’t I be lucky?” said Hill. “I would be so happy to bring it here.”
Actor Jonah Hill talks about Toronto, Drake and his new film War Dogs