At first, I was really looking forward to meeting
I thought he was one of the funniest things about Knocked Up, in which he played
But I also liked that his two Oscar nominations (for Moneyball and The Wolf of
But then I started to research him and instead of looking forward to meeting him, began to dread it. "He does this weird psycho staring thing at you," warned a colleague who had interviewed Hill a few years ago. An infamously bad-tempered interview he gave to Rolling Stone last year, in which he came across as obnoxious and, most damningly of all, a fan of the word "prideful", compounded this image of Hill as a pain. Even his friends seemed a bit unsure of him. Apatow once described him as "an angry nerd". When one journalist asked Rogen for tips on how to interview Hill, Rogen replied: "He is serious, he is, which I'm not . . . I don't know [how to approach him]. It's a good question." Was Hill actually kind of a douche?
"Hey, thanks so much for coming," says Hill sweetly when we meet in a hotel room in
We'll get to that in a bit. First, let's talk about the matter at hand - Jump Street! So, Jonah, I say, you must have been quite a fan of the 1990s TV show to make two films based on it.
"I was not, actually," he says. "My agent called me when I was about 22 and she said: 'Would you be interested in turning
Later, he thought better of this and decided, wisely, that rather than remaking the 90s cop show (which its star,
In the first film, Tatum and Hill go undercover at a high school to find the source of a new illegal drug, and the movie is smart on how school cliques have changed in the past 15 years. In the sequel, Tatum and Hill go undercover at a college to find the source of a new illegal drug, and the film is utterly clueless about college kids. There's a bit of, er, repetition, don't you think?
"I feel like the movies only work because we're really self-aware. Like, in the first one we really make fun of how it's such a terrible idea to turn a TV show into a movie, and in this one we make fun of ourselves for doing a sequel. So I think that self-awareness helps the audience go, OK, these guys aren't taking it seriously, it's about just having fun so let's just laugh," he says. Which is sort of true, but the real reason the first one works is because it is funny, whereas with the second one it feels as if they tried to have their cake and eat it, but instead fell asleep face down into the icing.
But there are more interesting things to talk about with Hill than
"Oh yeah, I feel so lucky," he begins dutifully, and he talks about how being nominated for an Oscar "brings more opportunities" blah blah blah, and it's these "opportunities" that are "exciting" blah blah blah.
Come on - it's got to be a little more exciting than just getting more jobs. Where was he when he heard he had been nominated this year?
"I was in bed in
It is notable that he has only been nominated for his dramatic roles and never his comedic roles. Does he think he would have been nominated if he had stayed in comedies?
"No, probably not," he replies, probably rightly.
"Ha, Evan's hysterical," says Hill, a bit dismissively. "If that's something those guys are upset about, that's totally their right. But for me, it's just not something I think about." Which presumably he doesn't have to, seeing as he has been nominated twice.
Was part of the appeal of moving out of comedy the prospect of getting more industry respect?
"I just made a conscious effort to do different things instead of the same thing over and over again, which people will get tired of anyways, as would I," he says. "Cyrus was the movie that changed everything for me as that got me Moneyball, and Moneyball got me The Wolf of
He still talks with a film geek's awe of Scorsese, referring to him twice as "my hero" and smiles beatifically when he remembers his first day of shooting The Wolf of
"I'm in slow-motion on drugs and you see me with the big shades on. Leo leaned over at one point and was like: 'You're being shot on drugs in a slow-motion in a
Hill was born and raised in
The only real criticism he has suffered has been about his weight: I remember seeing him grimace, understandably, when someone cracked a joke about it at the Oscars the first time he was nominated. Today, he insists he "doesn't pay attention to stuff like that".
Hill was raised as a Jew, but describes himself as "not super religious. I like the parts of Judaism that are about being with your family and being a good person more than the specific rules. And lox. I really like the lox."
Goldberg once said that Hill refused to say a joke in This is the End because it went against his religious beliefs. Hill scoffs at that: "No, no. I just didn't think it was funny!"
Time is almost up, so I ask some fact-checking questions. I'd noticed on Hill's imdb.com page that he was born
Is this a difficult question?
"Can we just not?" he whispers.
I didn't realise this would be awkward.
"Just . . . don't," he hisses.
Right. Well, um, what does he think he'd be doing if he wasn't an actor? The forced perkiness instantly reappears. "I'd probably be married with kids now. It's hard for me to focus on relationships with my job now, but otherwise I would probably have focused solely on that."
I turn off my recorder and Hill instantly changes again: not into the on-message
Maybe Goldberg and Rogen wrote an exaggerated version of Hill as his character in This is the End: the guy who turns from nice to enraged zombie on a dime. Or perhaps Apatow had it right when he described him "an angry nerd". About a week after we met, Hill was caught by tmz.com telling a paparazzo to "Suck my dick, you faggot", which seems to suggest, at the very least, certain anger issues. He has since apologised.
"Having a bad day doesn't reflect who I am as a person, you know? It's about learning what to show people about your life," Hill said to me at one point. It's still a learning process, I suspect.
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