Jonah Hill Prepares for His Roles by Prank Calling Best Buy in Character

Vulture – On Saturday night of the New Yorker Festival, David Remnick sat down with a sweaty Jonah Hill, who made a point of assuring the audience that he was ill, not recovering from a drug binge. Across the 90-minute conversation, Hill charted his rise in Hollywood, and explained the secret methodology behind much of his character work: making prank calls to Best Buy.

In college, Hill was in the habit of making and recording prank calls, sometimes for an audience. He recounted the time he impersonated Tobey Maguire’s assistant during awards season, making a request for a hotel to house the star in along with several dog-sized aquatic animals. He continues to make slightly more mundane prank phone calls today in the effort to develop roles.

“What’s interesting is that I still do it now all the time,” Hill said. “I do it to get into character. I’m now recognizable in some ways, so I can’t really try out a character in real life, [and] the closest version of trying out a character in real life is playing a version of it over the phone.”

“Customer service is the best because they talk to you with real patience,” he continued. “I’ll just ask about different products, and complain about different products in the way that I think the character would complain about those products.”

“I usually buy something at the end,” he noted, before changing topics. “I feel bad.”

From there, the interview moved to Hill’s career arc. He’s long since transitioned from his breakout in Superbad to distinguished dramatic roles, but people still think he’s that goofy nerd (and also offer him pot all the time, even though he doesn’t smoke anymore).

“It wasn’t, like, this big drastic thing for me, it was more drastic for other people,” Hill said of the switch. “People have a hard time with change especially in their consumption of things, right? So, if I’m a product, I’m this one thing, and then I started to try other things, I think [that’s why] people had a challenge or issue with it.”

Of course, the most prominent of his dramatic films is Wolf of Wall Street. It was Hill’s childhood dream to meet Martin Scorsese, and yet working with the director still managed to exceed his expectations.

“A lot of times when [directors] are incredibly technical, their movies lose a lot of humanity,” Hill said of Scorsese. “He’s the most technically gifted, and his movies have a complete sense of freedom at the same time. It’s like a controlled chaos.”

For his role as Donnie Azoff, Hill wore a set of prosthetic teeth, which changed the way he spoke and added a noticeable lisp.

“I had to learn how to re-talk with them, and then it helped it just sound like this very specific way of speaking, which I really liked, and which we ended up using,” Hill explained. “I don’t have many props, but I still have those teeth.”

“You can use them to call Best Buy,” Remnick joked.

“I did!” Hill exclaimed, excited and totally serious. “That’s how I got used to talking with them on.”

Interviews Projects


Interview for New York Times

Join the award–winning stars and director of “War Dogs.” Acclaimed actors Jonah Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Moneyball”) and Miles Teller (“Whiplash,” “Fantastic Four”) and producer–director–writer Todd Phillips (“The Hangover” movies) collaborated for the first time on the much anticipated comedic drama, opening on August 19. Based on a true story, “War Dogs” follows two friends in their early 20’s living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little–known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts. The pair gets in over their heads when they land a $300 million deal to arm the Afghan military — a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people and entities, including the U.S. government. Interviewed by New York Times culture reporter David Itzkoff.

Interviews Movies Videos War Dogs


The New Yorker Festival 2016

On October 8, Jonah Hill and David Remnick speak at The New Yorker Festival 2016 at Acura at SIR Stage37 in New York City. The gallery has been updated with 10 high-quality photos from the event. Make sure you check them !

Events Videos


What Do You Care About? #VoteYourFuture

Entertainment Weekly – The Oscar-winning actor, Spider-Man: Homecoming star, Mr. Robot leading man, and Instagram it girl are among the slew of celebrities and social-media personalities taking part in #VoteYourFuture, a campaign urging millennials to go to the polls.

Launching Tuesday by Anonymous Content, #VoteYourFuture features nearly 100 videos directed by acclaimed filmmakers like Alejandro G. Iñarritu, David O. Russell, Tom McCarthy, Joss Whedon, and Armando Bo.

Additional stars answering the call include Julia Roberts, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Longoria, Ken Jeong, Emma Stone, Moby, and Josh Peck. In a teaser video exclusive to EW, PEOPLE, and TIME, the participants consider a simple but important question: “What do you care about?”

The issues are as diverse as the talent — equality, climate change, immigration, veterans, gun control — but the ultimate answer is clear. As Stone says, “If you care, vote.”

Watch the #VoteYourFuture teaser above. For more information, go to voteyourfuture.us.

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