Commenting recently about one of his fellow actors, Tom Hanks said, “Jonah Hill is probably the busiest actor on the planet. He was great in War Dogs. I can never take my eyes off him.”
It should not come as a surprise then that the 33 year-old Los Angeles native just scored his second Golden Globe nomination, this time for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical for his star turn as Efraim Diveroli in the Todd Phillips helmed story. As with Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, Hill is once again stepping into the shoes of a real person, although for War Dogs, he was unable to talk to his actual counterpart.
“I would always prefer to meet the person I am playing,” reveals the actor, noting that he was able to access David Packouz, whom Miles Teller portrays in the film. “It is always better to meet them and then edit in or out elements of their personality that they are showing you. Ultimately, you actually learn more about someone by talking to their friends at the time because you get a more accurate portrayal of who they are.”
Would that same rule apply if someone decided to film his life story? “If someone was playing me in a film,” Hill laughs, “I would show them the best parts of my personality. I would want to see the best possible version of myself on screen.”
Though he made his film debut in I Heart Huckabees, it was the comedy Superbad that truly launched Hill’s career and placed him squarely in the ensemble company of Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, creative partners he would work with in such projects as Funny People, This Is The End and most recently Sausage Party.
Stretching his creative boundaries to include writing (21 Jump Street, Why Him?) and producing (22 Jump Street and the just announced MIB 23), it might seem Hill is living the American Dream, ironically the same aspiration his character in War Dogs desperately pursues. “I do understand the sense of people who are really driven and ambitious,” he explains. “I could be a little like that if it was my personality but I would have some moral questions about what you have to do to become successful.”
Yet it turns out those morally ambiguous men are the characters Hill is most drawn to playing. Recalling how after some screenings audience members come up to him to lament how much they either hate or love his character, Hill feels gratified that he is connecting on some level.
“That helps me see that films are such individual experiences and you get to see where people’s personal morals fall based in their reactions to some of these characters.”