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Interview: Jonah Hill Talks On-Set Film School With Martin Scorsese, The Reality Of ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ & More

The Playlist By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist January 7, 2014 at 12:01PM

The infectious insanity of Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” continues to spread, as audiences settle down for their first viewing of the 3-hour, NC-17-skirting film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, or perhaps a second or third after a horribly misguided Christmas outing with the family. We called it “ a wild, potent ride” in our review, and from hearing actor Jonah Hill speak about his experience on the film—playing Jordan Belfort’s right-hand man Donnie Azoff—it’s clear that the “Moneyball” actor was feeling the same vibes throughout the entire shoot.
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The Wolf Of Wall Street

On Approaching The Tight-Knit Working Pair of DiCaprio and Scorsese
We rehearsed for about a month and a half beforehand, and the first month was just Scorsese, Leo, and myself in a room, you know, and I was terrified. And these guys know each other so well. But Leo, what's so great about him is that, even though he's made five movies with him, he has the same reverence we all have for Scorsese. He grew up worshipping “Goodfellas” and all those movies as well. He understands that, so he understands that you might be intimidated and he tries to make it more comfortable.

"We rehearsed for about a month and a half beforehand, and the first month was just Scorsese, Leo, and myself in a room, you know, and I was terrified."

It was great because [Leo and I] got to spend so much time together, and that usually, to me, creates a bond. That's usually the process that I enjoy. Same thing with “Moneyball”, where I spent a lot of time with Brad Pitt, or “Superbad” with Michael Cera—it kind of gets you on the same page of what we're all making. But Leo and I just talked and talked and talked, and we happened to get along great. That was great, because I got a new friend, and it helps a lot obviously, but I think it's just you can't force relationships, and that could probably work in the opposite direction if you didn't like working with that person... I think the movies that I've made that are good are the ones where the people are all on the same page of what you're making. It's just that unspoken, cosmic thing.

Hill Divides A Line Between His Approach To Comedy and Drama
The process of making a broad comedy and a drama are just completely different from one another. When you're in a broad comedy like “21 Jump Street” or “Superbad” or something, you have the responsibility to make the audience laugh every minute or you've failed. And with a movie like “Cyrus” or “Moneyball” or “Wolf of Wall Street,” you just have a responsibility to be that character as intricately and authentically as you can. And that, as an actor, is way more interesting because you just get to be this person and that's your responsibility.

It's completely different [in ‘Wolf’]. We never try to make a joke. Like in “21 Jump Street” I'm trying to be funny throughout the film. They are abstract comedic ideas. More of the stuff in a comedy is the writing and the improvisational writing of what you're doing; it's more about what is the idea of this joke. Whereas drama you would never think, "I'm gonna say this for this effect." You just say it because it's natural to that moment.

On Transitioning From “Wolf of Wall Street” to Another Story Ripped From Real Life, “True Story” opposite James Franco
Both in “Moneyball” and “Wolf of Wall Street,” the names were changed and that was a relief to me—these people have families and they didn't write the books the movies are based on so it's like, "Alright, that takes the pressure off.” You can do what you need to make the character how you and the director feel is necessary. And “True Story” was really dark, so honestly doing ‘Wolf’ and “True Story” was doing two dark characters in a row. I had to do “22 Jump Street” just to not be bummed out for a year straight, or live in that world for that long. I think it's why people take long breaks between movies or take time off, because the film is a true story about young kids who got murdered, and it's really heavy stuff. But I find real life fascinating. I think movies should feel as much like documentaries as they can, and acting should feel like you're watching a documentary. How people treat each other, and why they hurt one another is what's interesting to me. And that's something that I'd like to keep exploring.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is in theaters now.



This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews, Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street


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