Interview: Jonah Hill on Get Him to the Greek!
Jonah Hill is back with Russell Brand's Aldous Snow...but he's not the same fawning fanboy he was in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. In GET HIM TO THE GREEK, Jonah plays young record executive Aaron Green. His task? Get the off-the-wagon Aldous from London to Los Angeles in 72 hours. I got to check out the set of GREEK last year and chat with Hill about the decision to change his character, working with P. Diddy and even a bit about 21 JUMP STREET.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK opens June 4th, 2010.
Is this character a direct extension of the one you played in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL?
Not at all. Russell is the same guy but I think a lot more interesting, because you saw, I think they really touched on it for, you know, for purposes of his character to be sort of like clean and stuff, and now it’s more, it’s a lot more three dimensional and dark because he’s like off the wagon and he’s dealing with like people using him and how dark it is to try and continue you know—people want you to perform—but I think it’s a lot more interesting because that’s sad and that’s like hard core. And my character’s really dealing—he’s a separate guy from the last film, but he’s really dealing with like how far will you go for your career? Will you literally go buy a guy drugs who has a serious problem? Will you—exactly, will you let him perform, what do you do? So he’s constantly—at first he’s like really star struck and interested because he loves this guy, he loves this guy’s music. But like he is struggling with the fact of like maybe, these people are fucked up, that let him do this, that let him go on and perform and care about his career more than his health or you know, well-being, so you know. I think that’s where the story really connected with me. Also, just the basic idea of how, where do you cut off, like where is your life more important, your morals more important than your job and career, you know? Because in our line of work, especially if you get caught up in wanting to be successful and not paying attention to your life.
So um, so this is after FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL?
Yeah. The continuity—he’s off the wagon.
For you, you’re playing, for lack of a better word, sort of a straighter character.
Yeah. I’m technically the straight man of the movie. Which I kind of, to me is such a wonderful challenge because, especially in Judd’s (Apatow) movies, I play sort of someone who’s specifically you know, sort of angry or upset with the world, but my character’s like, has a girlfriend, has a job and he’s trying to get further. And things are weird with his girlfriend and they kind of break up before the trip but like he’s really the most normal person, I think the closest to me out of any of the characters I’ve ever played, you know. Which is fascinating. And I kind of—it’s almost a different kind of straight man because it’s not, I’m not even necessarily a straight man but Russell and Sean are so out there that I do represent the audience. I’m far from perfect, my character. He does a lot of things that aren’t, what he shouldn’t do, but he’s definitely more centered than the rest of these guys who are out of their fucking minds, you know?
We heard you sort of improvise a line, 'That's so disrespectful.' But if you thought that Russell should say something --
Yeah, during takes everyone is open. That's how we worked. I learned that straight up from Seth and Judd. Sean all day I'm saying, 'Say this' or 'Say this.' They know all day I'm saying lines to them from off camera, and I'll say it and they say it right back. With BRUNO I spent six months of my life writing jokes for Sacha (Baron Cohen) to kill and no one will know I was involved with it. For me, sitting in a theater watching a joke I wrote destroy I'm more psyched than when I'm saying it. Or it's just as gratifying.
How are the comedy stylings of Puff Daddy? I'm curious because I don't know that I've seen him be funny.
You have to bring out who he is, because he's a truly funny guy. He's hilarious in MADE. I thought he was great in that. He's really funny in MONSTERS BALL... I'm kidding. He really wanted this part; he flew out and fought for it. He was truly the funniest person who auditioned. Everyone else was great but he just fucking nailed it. Sometimes people come in and knock it out of the park. It's not worth it for us to put him in the movie if he's not going to destroy. The table read comes along and he's like the McLovin of this movie. He literally comes and steals this movie. Every time he opens his mouth something is hilarious.
Is he a big improver?
What I do is I interview him when I'm off camera. I think he trusts me a lot. I'll go 'What is your theory on any historical figures who were black but were portrayed as white?' and he'll just start talking about it and it's the funniest fucking thing you've ever seen in your life. You just gotta feed him lines and push him. When he's comfortable he's funnier than anyone.
Can you talk a bit more about your character?
The big idea was to have my character to be nothing [like the character in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL] I was against Aldous being the same character because my character wasn't going to be the same character. That character was funny for SARAH MARSHALL because it was such a cameo, peripheral character. He couldn't carry a movie unless you found some emotional depth to him, which I didn't really have. I thought of a lot of funny ideas about him, that he was possibly homoerotically obsessed with Aldous and just obsessed with him, but I don't think you can do that for a whole movie. You have to create a person you can connect with, where I feel that it's a three-dimensional human being. When you make a movie and you really want people to connect with it – if SUPERBAD was just about two guys and if my character didn't have other stuff going on and was just filthy you wouldn't want to watch the whole movie, because eventually you start to care about who these guys were and what their relationship is with each other. I think Aaron sees something in Aldous by the end of the movie where he's a human being. He's a rock star, but that's not all he is, and these people are messing his life up. [Aldous] doesn't allow anyone close enough to say anything because he'll fire them or the record company will hire people who look the other way when his behavior gets terrible. No matter what you do or how grandiose your image becomes it doesn't matter unless you have supportive people who are looking out for the best thing for you.
Are there any references at all to the fact that you played a different character in the last one?
We talked about. I'm personally against it, and we haven't finished the movie yet so there may be one. I'm personally against it and think we should go out with 'He's the same the guy, I'm a different guy.' Trust me, I've had tons of arguments about this - 'Both of us should be different guys!' but then it's like wait, he's playing this guy that's too close for him not to be the same character. But Russell's bringing a lot from his life to this movie, and there's a reason why we wanted to make this movie, because it's interesting. My life's not very interesting; aside from the fact that I make movies I don't think my life is very interesting! That's why if I direct a movie I would want it to be a smaller, personal movie because it's not like I was every a drug addict. There are relationship things or life things that I would want to write about and would hopefully be funny, but Russell has this history that's very deep and emotional and fascinating.
I'm assuming this movie grew out of the chemistry you guys had on SARAH MARSHALL.
I think that's what Nick noticed and then he came up with the idea and we talked about it and he thought our scenes were interesting together.
How does that chemistry change when you're changing your character to be someone much straighter?
I think he noticed that [Russell] and I have a very interesting chemistry. I think I represent Nick and me and Rodney and Judd - a guy like us who is pretty plain jane when you think of our lives. He saw that we all have this weird thing and I'm the actor out of Nick and Judd and I. Nick is I think taking a step forward with this movie. He hired Rob Yeoman and visually it feels like one of the biggest - there are shots that look like they came from CASINO. I think he's growing as a storyteller.
Is Nick (Stoller) the kind of director who encourages you to laugh at one another? There seems to be a mentality among some comedy directors that since the audience is going to laugh the characters shouldn't, which can feel inorganic. Or does the dynamic of your relationship preclude you laughing at something Sean would say.
I think if the scene calls for it. With this movie my character is legitimately worried about losing his job. It's not like in KNOCKED UP or SUPERBAD- those are the movies I've had the most experience on besides this one - I look at those and see that those guys were best friends and when I say something funny or Seth says something funny, [the characters] would laugh at it. But this is more of a state of being frightened. I don't laugh at much of the outlandish behavior, I'm just like 'Let's get out of here and continue on our mission.' But I think that's really funny because for me that's an interesting change of pace. I've only played people - in the movies people have seen me in; I did a movie before this with the Duplass Brothers that was great, a Fox Searchlight movie and that's a lot more like a smaller drama comedy - but before that from the movies anyone would know me from those were the types of characters I would play. But with this for me a lot of the movie doesn't call for that because I'm genuinely freaked out.
Does that change the way you prepare for the part?
I think it's just an overall different experience because I'm not going to work going 'Hey I'm going to joke around with Seth today.' I'm going to work and the scenes are me being stressed out; I think generally it's a more stressful job, but I think that's what's going to make the movie great. Sean and Russell's lives are far, far different from mine. But they're great guys. That's interesting, you find you can connect with people who have different lifestyles than you. They're sweet, smart individuals who just happen to have chosen a completely different lifestyle.
You're doing 21 JUMP STREET, right?
Yeah. Mike Bacall is writing 21 JUMP STREET- he wrote SCOTT PILGRIM that Edgar Wright is directing. He's a great guy and he and I came up with the story and the outline all together.
You're in it or you're just producing it?
I would be in it, but it's not like I would be the main... there's more than one main character.
Johnny Depp's the main character?
On MTV News there was... we wrote... I can't tell you, but trust me it's the best cameo ever. It's not a bullshit cameo. The movie is hardcore. That's the main thing. They approached me to see if I was interested in it, and I didn't feel like that was a story I really needed to tell. But I thought about what was interesting about people going back to high school for a second chance, and I like that BACK TO THE FUTURE aspect of it, where if you could live your life over again. And I do love BAD BOYS and crazy action movies, but I also love high school movies that are really genuine and character driven. I thought of what would be the interesting thing about that [movie] and I thought if you went back to high school to do a job and just got caught up with what high school was. The partners, the cops, went to high school together the first time around, and they had issues in their relationship and now they're having them again. It really is very comedic, but it's not a spoof of 21 JUMP STREET. It's not 80s style; it is about cops who go back to high school to do a job - to bust drug dealers, essentially. When we do it it's really an opportunity to make a big, fun crazy R-rated action movie. I love those movies, personally. For me, if I'm told five years from now that I can't make movies anymore, if I made a bunch of movies that I liked that are all kind of different - even though a lot of mine are the same - if there's the opportunity to see what that's like, why not explore the opportunity.