In one of the many interviews that Jonah Hill gave for the premiere of Don’t Look Up, he said that he had a machine capable of emitting sounds of flatulence at a distance (a gift from Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Like a boy laughing at an anticipated mischief, Hill didn’t hesitate to use it in Leonardo DiCaprio in the middle of a press round.
At Netflix, the production platform of that feature film, this humorous did not go down well, and they demanded that he stop using that device. To that, Hill’s response was blunt: “Netflix, I love you, I love working there and I’m a big fan. But no company is going to silence my digital farts.” More than a provocation, that was the statement of principles of an interpreter born by a generation of actors who took Hollywood by storm just over ten years ago, and of whom Jonah revealed himself as his great ambassador.
Writing as a refuge
Jonah Hill was born on December 20, 1983, in California. His mother was a designer, and his father had the atypical job of being the accountant for the Guns N’ Roses. Since he was a child, he found in writing an unexpected hobby, an activity that he was passionate about and in which he poured all his energy. And in an interview, he explained: “All the time I wrote. Whether it was angry, happy, or lonely, I always liked to go to my room and just write. I dedicated a lot to that, I tried to improve.” In his teens, he began to prepare his first student plays that he was able to present on Broadway off. And acting in those small projects, led him to want to look for a place in the world of interpretation.
While dreaming of a career as a hip hop producer, Hill had a habit of making phone pranks. As a kind of acting class, he perfected his taunts in which he assumed different roles, to the laughter of his friends who witnessed those calls. His favorite trick was to impersonate Tobey Maguire’s personal assistant, booking hotel rooms on his behalf and making all sorts of extravagant requirements. As fate would have it, one of the casual observers of those jokes was Dustin Hoffman, whose children were friends with Jonah. The protagonist of Rain Man had a lot of fun with the talent of the young man, and when he knew that he wanted to be an actor, he got him an audition for the film Strange Coincidences. In that way, Hill had his film debut.
The importance of Super cool
In 2004, director Judd Apatow premiered his great debut film, Virgin at 40, in which Hill had a very small participation. But the important thing about that project was that there he established his first ties with a group of comedians who marked a break in the Hollywood of those years.
In that title, the actor strengthened bond with Apatow, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. And with them she collaborated again a short time later, when in 2007 she arrived in theaters Slightly pregnant, Apatow’s second film, in which Hill had a greater participation. In that piece, the family of comedians around Jonah grew, and names such as Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr, Craig Robertson, Ken Jeong or Bill Hader appeared. While none of them were a debutante, under the wing of Apatow they became recurring names within a series of films in which, directly or indirectly, that filmmaker had some kind of interference. And within that bubble of exceptional comedians, Hill had his big break in 2007.
After having participated in Accepted, 10 items or less or Rocket Science, Jonah reached his first major role with the film Super cool. The film, written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, tells the bond between two best friends, during the last night of partying before moving to their respective universities. Although its tone is decidedly comical, the plot hides the sadness of some friends who do not want to recognize the nostalgia caused by the distance, and who decide to live that last exit as the closing of a stage that will accompany them for the rest of their lives. And Jonah Hill and Michael Cera achieve an unbeatable chemistry in the skin of those protagonists who say goodbye to the irresponsibility of adolescence.
Super cool was a blockbuster, and it skyrocketed the careers of its main stars. Apatow as producer, and Rogen as screenwriter, entrusted Hill with a perfect character, which the actor played in a laughing tone, subtly suggesting the melancholy that went through him. From that moment, he began to go through other essential comedies, such as How to survive my ex?, Funny People or Get Him to the Greek. Those were sharp titles, comedies with remarkable observational power and iron scripts. But below the jokes linked to marijuana use, sex and gags anchored in male worlds, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Bill Hader or Russel Brand managed to compose rich characters, unable to be appreciated by the prejudiced eye that still understands humor as “a minor genre”. And in that runaway world, Hill was part of the hard core and one of its best representatives. But attentive to escape the label, the actor soon wanted to look for other ways.
Hill off-road: master of humor and drama
In 2009, What Happened Yesterday? became one of the big surprises of the year, but what few know is that Hill could be part of the leading trio. He preferred to reject that offer, with the intention of orienting his career towards independent projects, which flirted with drama. So, he chose to work on Cyrus, a drama directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass. That title marked Jonah’s desire to step out of his comfort zone and momentarily step away from the group led by Apatow to pursue other paths. The following year, he was presented with a great opportunity when he worked alongside Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman on The Game of Fortune. In that feature film, his performance was widely praised, to the point of being nominated for best supporting actor at the Oscars, Golden Globe and Bafta awards. However, and true to his roots, Jonah did not deny his talent for humor, and returned to that genre very soon.
In 2012 he starred alongside Channing Tatum, in the action comedy Special Commando, based on the eighties series. The following year, he was part of a key title of the past decade, one of the great jewels of current humor and, perhaps, the twilight piece of that group of actors associated with the world of Judd Apatow. This is the end was a film in which Hill, Rogen, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and a dozen stars who played themselves, starred in a wild story in which hell came to Earth. Once again, that film served to show himself as part of the heart of a litter of comedians that revolutionized Hollywood by dint of political incorrectness and an acid sense of humor that was not afraid of taboo. With This Is the End, a key episode of comedy in Hollywood was closing, and the frequency in which those actors would work together again would be much lower.
After a brief appearance in Django Unchained (working, even a little, with Quentin Tarantino was one of his great desires), Hill received the call from a true heavyweight of the industry. In 2012, Martin Scorsese was preparing The Wolf of Wall Street, and the actor’s name emerged as a possibility to play one of the protagonists. In order to be there, the interpreter accepted a salary of sixty thousand dollars, which represents the minimum wage imposed by the guild, but that did not matter to him: “This is not about how much I charged. None of this has to do with money. In order to work with Scorsese, I would be able to sell my house and give him all the money. I would be able to do anything in the world, and I wouldn’t hesitate.” That film not only earned him a friendship with DiCaprio, but also a second Oscar nomination and a professional bond with Scorsese (for whom he will return to work in a short time, playing the mythical Jerry Garcia).
An eternal comedian
Do not look up is one of the most important titles of this 2022 that is just beginning. Released late last year, the feature film directed by Adam McCkay is a social satire about the arrival of the end of the world and the miseries that are emerging even in a context of imminent tragedy. In that film, starring names of the caliber of DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep, Hill works a tone that, like the rest of the film, explores humor from a frame of despair. And it’s no surprise that he excels in Don’t Look Up, because that school where he learned the mechanisms of laughter from teachers like Apatow or Rogen taught him how to build a character of enormous wealth, even when he’s surrounded by figures that attract all the attention.
Jonah Hill did not stop demonstrating his versatility in animated pieces such as The Lego Movie or The Sausage Party, going through atypical titles such as Friends of Arms or The Beach Bum (or in his project as a director, the remarkable In the 90s). Each time he appears, he can both spearhead projects, and afford to take a back seat if the film excites him enough. This is someone who has no star air, although he spends his time surrounded by the highest grossing names in the industry. But the secret of its success, on and off the screen, seems to have to do with not abandoning that wild humor, inside a Hollywood pact in which no one dares to use “fart machines”. Jonah Hill still does cheer up, and that’s why he’s a one-of-a-kind creature.