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Get Him To The Greek - Jonah Hill interview

Get Him To The Greek

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JONAH Hill talks about making Get Him To The Greek, working with Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Coombs, drawing on his own brother’s experiences for inspiration and the secret behind a good outrageous comedy.

He also reveals why he’ll be getting more serious next with roles in Moneyball (alongside Brad Pitt) and Cyrus with Marisa Tomei…

Q. When did the idea of reprising Russell Brand’s role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall first come about? And when did you know you wouldn’t be playing your same character from that movie?
Jonah Hill: Well, Nick Stoller, the director, had the idea for the film and he thought Russell should play a rock star, so it became clear he should play the same one. My character in Get Him To The Greek represents a normal person going on this journey with a crazy rock star, so my character from Sarah Marshall, while funny, was too bizarre and stalker-ish to be relatable to an audience, so I played a different character.

Q. Did you consult your own brother [who manages Maroon 5] for some tips about what it’s like to manage rock stars and the music business in general?
Jonah Hill: Yeah, I heard stories from my brother and my dad, who are both in the music business. So, that was very helpful. I could then immediately connect with the idea of the movie because I thought I could bring something unique, having had family members in similar situations…

Q. So how close is it to real life during the more outrageous aspects of the comedy?
Jonah Hill: In the more outrageous aspects I think it might be slightly exaggerated for comedy purposes, but it’s pretty accurate. Having Puff Daddy there was a really great barometer for authenticity about what it would actually be like.

Q. And how was working with P Diddy? Is it at all intimidating going into a first scene with someone of his stature within the industry?
Jonah Hill: No, not at all. He was more intimidated I’d imagine. It’s not like me making a hip hop album for him. He’s coming into a place that I’m comfortable in that he’s not comfortable in, so I think he was just really trying to work hard and give a good performance. It’s one of the great surprises of the movie… you wouldn’t expect him to be funny based on his persona and he just is hilarious.

Q. Another of the surprises is that the movie does have a dark heart to it, especially in scenes when you’re being shouted at by Russell’s character. What was that like? He says that was one of the hardest scenes for him to do…
Jonah Hill: It was easy because it was just being shouted at… you’re quiet and they get out what they need to get out. You understand it’s coming from a sad place and try and react how you’d react in that situation.

Q. But is that the type of scene you’d like to be doing more of as you move forward as an actor, something with more drama? Do you look forward to the challenge of doing those more than some of the comedic aspects perhaps?
Jonah Hill: I wouldn’t say more so than comedy. I have another movie coming out called Cyrus that’s more in the tone of Little Miss Sunshine or Sideways or Juno. I play Cyrus and it stars myself and John C Reilly and Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener. That’s more dramatic and funny… far more than this one I’d say. It’s a different tone.

Then, the next movie I’m shooting with Bennett Miller, who directed Capote. He saw Cyrus and cast me as the second lead in this drama called Moneyball, which stars Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman. So I am doing two dramas in a row, I guess. But I don’t like one more than the other; I just try and… first of all I’m just lucky to be in any movie but I just try and choose movies that I’d love to go and see. So, I go by at that time what’s the best quality of movie I can be in… whether that’s comedy or drama, or any genre.

Q. This year does seem to be a particularly big year for you with two leading roles in Get Him To The Greek and Cyrus – your first leads really since Superbad. Was that a deliberate choice to wait and play more supporting roles after the success of that film?
Jonah Hill: Yeah, it was deliberate. Superbad was the only movie I’d been the lead of and that was a very popular movie. So, for me, I feel like I had the opportunity to really sell out or do movies I wouldn’t have been really proud of to make a lot of money.

But I have too much respect for a) how lucky I am to be doing this in the first place and B) to the fans of that movie to not just go out and star in a movie that wasn’t going to be as funny or as good. So, I really took my time. I did some writing jobs… you know, I was a writer-producer on Bruno and I just took my time and wasn’t going to be the lead in a movie until I felt it could be as interesting. And Get Him To The Greek and Cyrus were the first two that felt right for me.

Q. So, finally, what’s the secret to making a good outrageous comedy, as so many have tried since Superbad and Knocked Up and failed, whereas Greek puts things back on track…
Jonah Hill: I think the secret to a good comedy is that all the jokes and everything have to come from genuine emotion and character.

Read our review of Get Him To The Greek

Read our interview with Russell Brand