Jonah Hill

What was it like working with the kids in The Sitter?
It was great. I loved them. I was a fan of Max Records from Where The Wild Things Are. We talked to Spike Jonze about Max and he said really great things about him and sure enough he’s great. They were all great. I like kids, especially as acting partners because they are so spontaneous and I like to be spontaneous, especially with the broader comedic stuff like this spontaneity is everything. Kids, their minds, are so disconnected and so spontaneous that it is a great challenge as an actor to have to play off their energy.

Are you generally good with kids?
They’re great. I have got nephews. The spontaneity and the energy. My favorite thing is that kids are not jaded. They are not over it. Everyone in my generation is over everything. Everything. “I’m over this”. That’s what my generation is like: “Whatever. I’m over it.” Kids aren’t like that. Things are exciting to them. That’s infectious to be around.

Your movies aren’t really for kids but have you ever had a kid recognize you and say something funny?
I did How To Train Your Dragon and Megamind which are Dreamworks animated movies and I did Night At The Museum II. Kids recognize me from Night At The Museum. My characters name was Brundon and I did a scene with Ben Stiller and the kids like that. They love Megamind and How To Train Your Dragon. When parents tell them that I am the voice of the characters Snotlout and Titan, they love that stuff. They go nuts. My nephews love it.

Is it more difficult to be a bad son like in Cyrus or to be a babysitter?
Cyrus was a more difficult role to play for sure. It is a whole different movie. It is such a different tone of movie. What I value about my career and I feel really lucky, is that I can have a movie like Moneyball come out and then a month later have a movie like The Sitter come out. I don’t know many actors who have that kind of diversity on their careers like in two months have two movies that are unrecognizable from each other. Doing a movie like Cyrus and then having Get Him To The Greek come out and then doing Moneyball and having The Sitter come out kinds displays what I am trying to do with my career in a nice way.

Is that difficult because everyone gets so pigeonholed in Hollywood?
It was difficult. What was funnier was [people asking] “Is it harder for you to do drama?” No, I am just as much a dramatic actor as I am a comedic actor. The difficult part is people embracing that or people looking past what you are known for. I came up through comedy which I am proud of – I am not dissing comedy – it’s just I knew I had it me it is just that often when comedic actors make that transition they often don’t choose the right films. I just make sure to really choose dramatic films that express that transition in a way that really has integrity to it.

Is it true that Dustin Hoffman’s kids were the ones that gave you inroads?
Dustin is the one who encouraged me to be an actor… I knew him though his kids. They went to college with me and high school.

Is there any on-going dialog with Dustin: “You’re doing well”?
Yeah. He was really proud when I was doing Moneyball. He was proud of me for taking that step. We spoke after he read that I was doing Moneyball and he was… “I’m proud of you… Taking that step in your career is important.”

In the beginning, you wanted to be a dramatic actor?
Both. I love comedy. I love all kinds of film. I love drama. I love it all. For me, the movies I made, what I became known for, the movies like Superbad… I think Judd, myself, and Seth Rogen, and those guys and Paul Rudd… what we were all doing were the coolest movies being made. They were the most counter-culture against the mainstream that became mainstream. For me it wasn’t, “I want to be this or that” it was “What’s the coolest movie being made right now?” And I thought with Judd we were accomplishing something really cool. Now that’s been copied a million times and now what’s new? What’s cool? How can that evolve? For me, it included doing things like Moneyball and Cyrus and also, I was a kid. I was 21, 22, when Superbad came out. Not that I am some old man but I am maturing and evolving as an actor.

Do you have any plan to do theatre at this point?
I think if the right thing, the right director, came along and asked me to be a part of it of course I would.

Seth Rogen said that he smokes weed to get his creative juices flowing. What do you do to get creative?
Honestly, now that I have been healthier, exercise has been helping me get creative. It clears my head. If I run or something or just workout I get a clarity. I get a lot of energy. You know when you work out you think, yeah I feel really good I feel inspired. Interesting thoughts coming. It wipes clean al the words of the day and I have a blank canvas.

Who turned you on to the exercise thing? Was it your own decision?
Yeah. I just wanted to be healthier. I feel a lot better.

I know this sounds like a horrible stereotype but is it possible it might help you land more serious roles because the chubby guy is the funny guy?
I think there are a lot of talented dramatic actors who are all different shapes and sizes. I think as I mature in many different ways – physically, emotionally, literally grow older – I think different roles are afforded to me and I think as my resume matures… I was big in Moneyball and that’s the most praise I got for a performance. I don’t think like that. I think it is about the work you are doing. Getting in better shape is a sign of maturity. I think you are taken seriously. I think Bennett Miller said that about me: “That I could tell he wanted to shed his skin and get out of whatever box he is in”. I didn’t think about that at the time but when he said that I was like… Oh! A very insightful guy.

Which one gets more lady attention? Women always say they want a guy with a sense of humor. Do they really mean they want a funny guy?
I don’t know. You’d have to tell me. I’m not a woman.

Can you tell us why you first got into the creative arts? How you made your way?
I guess it was just what I was good at – entertaining, writing, being funny.

Did you do that early on?
Laughter. You know you’re funny when you can make people laugh. I realized that was a tool early on. It just came way to me. I enjoyed it. If you make someone laugh you are making them happy. You immediately think, that’s good. If I’m making people happy I should keep doing that. I knew that was good but I didn’t necessarily know it was a job. Dustin was the person who was like… “This could be your job if you do it right. I’ll help you out.” That was really kind of him – he had no reason to do it besides just thinking it was true maybe. He didn’t owe anything to me. Now I do the same thing with people. If I see someone who I think is talented and needs a hand… a friend of mine, she is so talented, she is a writer, I gave her script to my agent, and he hired her and she’s doing really well now. You have a responsibility when you see someone who has talent to so that. If Dustin didn’t so that for me or Judd Apatow didn’t do that for me I wouldn’t be sitting here with you guys right now,

Who makes you laugh?
Sacha Baron Cohen makes me laugh a lot. I was one of the writer-producers for Bruno. I worked for Sacha for six months. Sasha really makes me laugh. Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughan make me laugh. I’m working with them right now. Seth Rogen, Michael Cera. Larry David.

Can you pinpoint what you find funny?
To me, all the people I really respond to, like The Larry Sanders Show, The Simpsons… The Larry Sanders Show is one of the greatest pieces of art ever I think. It’s just very real and honest and to me, whether I’m doing something really broad like this movie I still try and keep it honest as an actor so you connect with the feelings even of it is something silly. Oh, Will Ferrell really makes me laugh and John C. Reilly. I thought Stepbrothers was, like, a masterpiece. It is so insane but so good. These are all different people with different styles of humor but the things that really kill me, that make me die, like Borat is probably the funniest thing of the 20th century.

What makes you cry?
What makes me cry? Rushmore is a movie that really gets me. Paul Thomas Anderson really gets me. Adaptation is a movie that really gets me. To me it is all the same thing, whether it is drama or comedy. The thing that connects to me is just real. I have a harder time with science fiction things. What I was going to say about Borat, that was so really real. That was real life. He was dealing with real people. It was about connection and he was trying to connect with people but they just couldn’t get on the same wavelength. It was heartbreaking and so funny. He just wanted to understand them and be understood and he just couldn’t figure it out. It was so sad and funny.

Is it difficult for you to combine the loneliness of a writer…
Well, I don’t write by myself usually. I like writing with people. All of the things I have been credited as a writer have been collaborations. I have a hard time sitting by myself. I like an audience, as you can tell.

Is there an actor or actress that you always go to see?
I think Kristen Wiig is one of the funniest people. She is so funny. I have been a big fan of her for years.

Are you going to direct soon?
I’m thinking about it. It has to be the right thing. When actors become directors they get judged harsher. A lot of pressure.

Kitchen Sink is not definite then?
No Kitchen Sink is something that is stalled right now, at least for me. I keep finding things I want to act in and with acting, it is so uncertain that to take two years off is scary. Dustin Hoffman told me one time that after he and Gene Hackman finished Runaway Jury, this was probably not very long ago, they were already the two most biggest, most famous actors ever, they sat on the curb and went, “Oh, I’m never going to work again.” You really do kind of freak out.

Is there one comic actor you prefer against all the others?
Bill Murray. Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman are my two favorite actors because they can do both comedy and drama seamlessly. And that’s what I want from my career.

If you could have been in any film from the past what would you like to have been in?
That question is so difficult because I wouldn’t want to change that film. My favorite performance ever is Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. That would be my ideal if I could have played any part.

How do you feel seeing yourself on screen, as you are? How weird is that for you?
I think it is always weird seeing yourself on screen no matter what your appearance is. There was one bizarre moment I had recently where I went to see a movie and they had a preview for The Sitter and the next preview was for 21 Jump Street and I looked very different in those two trailers. I try not to think about myself. Part of my job is to sit here and talk about myself but I try to think about other people in my life, not me.

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