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Directed by Martin Scorsese, this tale of greed and lust and piles of cocaine that tower higher than the Matterhorn, is an electrifying cinematic feast for the senses. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a morally ambiguous Wall Street type who makes millions of dollars by screwing over virtually everyone. And, adding to this carnival of outrageousness is Jonah Hill, as Jordan's BFF and partner in very literal crime Donnie Azoff.
Hill, coming off of a brief performance in last Christmas's favorite "Django Unchained" and a blockbuster role in this past summer's apocalyptic farce "This Is the End," is absolutely amazing. Sporting buck teeth, a wispy, nasal voice, and a look that suggests Tommy Hilfiger by way of the middle-class suburban New Jersey, Hill continues his streak of mixing up his comedy work with powerhouse dramatic performances.
We got a chance to chat with Hill about what it was like securing the role, what Quentin Tarantino originally had planned for him in "Django Unchained," and what we can expect from "22 Jump Street," which we are already so excited about we can hardly see straight.
Moviefone: How did this project come to you?
Jonah Hill: I had heard from my agent that I was on a list of actors that was up for this part. And that was the most exciting news ever, and it just continued to be more exciting and nerve-wracking as the process went on.
And how did that process culminate? Did he have you come out and do a reading or what?
Well, first I went and I was promoting a film in Mexico at the same time that Leonardo DiCaprio was promoting a film. And we got to meet, and I got to pitch him on why I needed to play this part and he was incredibly helpful from that point on. He relayed to Scorsese what I had said, and instead of meeting with him I wanted to go and audition for him. I went in and read and I hadn't been on an audition in six years, so coming back and being an auditioning actor for Martin Scorsese was a little scary way to reenter that world. It was two months before I went in, so I really prepared. And it was two months before I learned whether I got the part or not.
How did you spend those two months? Fretting?
Oh, yeah. I was having incredible anxiety.
There's a real life counterpart to your character. Did you get to meet with him? Or take anything from his real life?
Well, Donnie is a composite character, but we had access to Jordan Belfort the whole time, Leo and I. And he was really helpful in being a well of information for us.
From your understanding, is this a pretty accurate portrayal of what happened?
According to him, yeah. [Laughs] I wasn't there, you know? It's interesting, because I've made three movies based on books and things that supposedly happened. And, at a certain point, I just listened to Scorsese. So you have to let go of that at some point and just work for your director.
Did you always want to work with Scorsese?
For me, personally, he's my favorite artist in any medium. He's my favorite filmmaker. He's the reason I got into movies. "GoodFellas" is my favorite film. It's beyond anything I could have ever asked for. It's what I wanted out of life.
Was it everything you thought and hoped it would be?
It was more! I got to spend over six months, every day, with my hero and learn from him and play this insane character. It was very dreamlike.
Did you learn about movies in general from him?
Yeah. He would talk about films that I had never seen before constantly. And sometimes he would give me films he thought I would enjoy or he was referencing. He's probably the smartest person I've ever met. For everyone who loves film, he's probably the biggest film historian there is. It's just so amazing to get to spend time around someone like that.
There were reports that the movie had to be trimmed to secure an R rating. Do you remember anything that you guys shot that was so insane that it couldn't make it into the final movie?
Not really. A lot of the insane stuff that really happened is in the final cut of the film.
There's something really interesting about your character and his sexuality. Did you and Scorsese talk about that at all?
Yeah, I think there was some vague innuendos that Donnie may or may not be bisexual in some way. [Laughs] Not in a humorous way, but he was always accusing people of being attracted to him or being accused of being at same-sex clubs. I thought it was interesting. The point of view I had on it was that he was such a drug addict and would party so hard and just do anything. He had no impulse control. He would do anything that was put in front of him.
The look of your character, with the voice and the teeth -- where did that come from?
The teeth were in the script that Terence Winter wrote. That was something that was already preexisting. The accent and the voice was something that I had worked on in pre-production.
You were in "Django Unchained" this time last year. You were originally approached for the section of the movie that ultimately got cut out, right?
Um... I'll just say that I was approached for a different part than I ended up playing.
How was it going from working with Tarantino to Scorsese? You're literally working with two of the giants of American cinema.
They were both incredible. I only worked with Tarantino for four or five days. It wasn't a terribly long experience. And for this I was on for over six months. So I obviously know more about what it was like to work with Scorsese than Tarantino. But they were both incredibly enriching experiences. Quentin had written "Django," so he was more specific about sticking to the script whereas "Wolf" was a lot more improvised.
What can we expect from "22 Jump Street"?
Well, honestly, I had just made two really heavy movies in a row, "Wolf of Wall Street" and "True Story." And I was so excited to go make a silly movie and be funny. The whole point of the first and second movies was just pure entertainment. That's the idea. The first movie worked because it was very self-aware. We were all very aware that we were lazy for making a movie reboot of a TV show. And now we're making fun of ourselves for making a sequel. So we always say that second missions, quote-unquote, are always worse and more expensive than first missions.
And you're in "The Lego Movie," right?
Yeah. Channing and I did a couple of hours in the booth together. Because Phil Lord and Chris Miller directed the "Jump Street" movies and they're directing "The Lego Movie" as well.
Have you seen any of it yet?
I saw a sequence from it the other day and it's one of the most impressive animated movies I've ever seen, just from the little bit that I saw.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" hits theaters Christmas Day.