Last June I got to visit the set of writer/director Nick Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek while the production was filming at the famous Greek Theater in Los Angeles. While I sometimes travel across the country to watch a movie getting made, for this set visit, I needed to drive about 15 minutes from my apartment.
Anyway, when you do a set visit, you usually get to interview the cast. That’s normal. What isn’t normal is getting an hour with one of the leads! But that’s what happened backstage at the Greek Theater as Jonah Hill gave the group of online reporters on the visit an awesome extended interview that covered absolutely everything. From how Get Him to the Greek came together, to his love for Back to the Future 2, we practically covered all of his projects on IMDb – including The Adventurer’s Handbook.
If you’re a fan of Jonah Hill, I promise you will love this interview. Hit the jump to read the transcript or listen to the audio.
Finally, a few things before getting to the interview. This interview was done on June 16th, 2009, so many projects Hill talks about might have changed a bit. Also, he says he was planning on already having filmed The Adventurer’s Handbook by now, so clearly that didn’t happen. But he does go into a lot of details about the movie and his feeling on sequels to Superbad and other projects. It’s seriously an awesome interview and one I definitely recommend listening to. Here’s part one of the audio and here’s part two.
And one last thing. When we were on set, the unit publicist and other Universal folks tried to get Hill to stop talking to us many times. You can hear it in the audio. But Hill kept answering our questions and I want to take a moment to thank him for being so cool. On some set visits you’re lucky to get 10 minutes with someone. Getting an hour is extremely rare.
Here’s the full transcript. Look for more on set interviews all week. And if you haven’t seen the awesome red band trailer for Get Him to the Greek, you should start by watching that. And for more on Get Him to the Greek, here’s the official website and the two Facebook pages:facebook.com/GetHimtotheGreek & facebook.com/InfantSorrow
Question: Have you ever been to this part of the Greek (the administrative office/VIP room)?
JH: Definitely not, but I grew up in LA so it’s pretty epic to be here because I saw some of my formative concerts here when I was in high school and stuff.
You’re the reason I didn’t get tickets.
JH: My friend got them for me and him. He had a hookup I guess. That was fun.
Who do you play, more about the character and film?
JH: I think Aaron, the character I’m playing, is just representative of a 25-year-old guy who’s really just trying to be in the music business and doesn’t really know what that means yet. I think this is a taste of what the music business is actually like, sort of the seedier side of it and what seems all fun in making music and being a part of something big, then you see kind of the darkness of it and what it takes to be a famous person and a rock star. The sort of, I guess, dark habits of some of these people.
JH: Like drug use and womanizing and no stability and no home life and no family. He sees, he wants excitement but then he gets excitement and he’s kind of like oh, maybe being normal isn’t the worst thing in the world and not being wild and crazy is maybe not the best thing in the world.
Womanizing is a dark habit?
JH: For some people. I don’t know, maybe not for you.
Was this your idea for the script?
JH: Nick and I went to Canter’s deli one day and we’re friends and were just talking and it was right after Sarah Marshall. He’s like, “What do you want to do now?” Because I was having a hard time finding a movie that I wanted to be the lead in after Superbad because I love that movie so much that I kind of took smaller parts and writing and producing jobs because I didn’t want to jump out in front of a movie that I wasn’t going to be as proud of, because I really appreciate that movie. So I didn’t want to jump out to starring in movies and have them be not good. It’s scary to do a movie that people like because what if your next movie just sucks. He was like, “I think you and Russell are really funny together. I have this idea that we have 72 hours but he’s off the wagon and fuckin’ crazy. You kinda have to deal with this insane person.” I was like, “I can see that being really funny. So I was like, “Yeah, you should write it.” We kind of pitched around ideas and four or five of the main set pieces we kinda came up with during that lunch, and then he just went off and wrote a million drafts of the script.
Why the decision to change the character? Was that done early on or later?
JH: It was done early on because my character in Sarah Marshall is so weird and stalkerish, I wanted to play a normal [person]. I wanted to be the audience’s perspective. It’s like these people are fuckin’ crazy. I’m you. I’m the people watching, like whoa, what if I was in that position or what if I was in this position. It would be weird to watch a weird stalker guy be the main character of a movie. It’d be kinda just hard to get an emotional depth to that at all.
Are there any jokes that you’re playing a different character?
JH: Not besides the one we’ll make right now. I do find it funny. It’s weird but when you watch the movie, hopefully you just won’t notice it because it’s just a different story.
So Aldous isn’t like, “Hey, you look like…”
Is there any Sarah Marshall reference?
JH: There’s a little reference to it that I think is funny. I don’t want to give shit away. It’s better doing these interviews once you’ve seen the movie because it’s like, “Oh, I know what you’re talking about.” I don’t want to give away a secret, people read it and then be like, “Why should I see the movie? I know all the fun shit that’s going to happen.”
Tell us the ending.
JH: He dies, he dies. We all die. It’s a nuclear explosion and I’m in a refrigerator completely safe.
What inspiration have you gotten from being at the Greek as far as improv?
JH: I just got here 30 minutes ago.
What was it like arriving at the Greek for work?
JH: It was cool. That was cool. Like I said, I saw lots of formative concerts for me here so it was pretty great to come here and be like, “I’m going to get to go on that stage tonight. That’s pretty incredible.”
What will you have to do to help Russell in this scene?
JH: It’s sort of like our last moment together, like I actually got him here. It’s sort of our last connection of like whoa, we actually finished what we accomplished, what we set out to do. So it’s kind of like an emotional moment, closing of the movie.
Is your character beat up by now?
JH: Yeah, he’s fucked. He’s been run ragged for 72 hours. He hasn’t slept. When you see the movie, it’s so hard doing this interview because once you see it, you saw the journey, how messed up I am from beginning to getting here. But it’s still lovely to talk to all you guys. I know there’s absolutely no point to any of this but it’s lovely to see you all again and sit around and chat.
What’s the beginning of the journey? You’re sent to London from LA?
JH: All over, London, New York, Las Vegas. We detour from all these places that we’re supposed to be going. He’s fully off the wagon on heroin and I’m a guy who’s used to normal people so he just takes me through the fucking mud. He just drags me through the mud with him and I’m not used to it.
But it was your character’s idea for Aldous Snow. Is your character pissed off after all the drama you had to go through?
JH: I don’t think he’s pissed. I think he’s just like f*ck, I don’t want to get fired, I want to do well and I love this guy’s music. I’m like a fan of his and I want him to succeed, but he kind of learns what a mess this guy really is underneath the persona. It’s like a lot of times when you meet some of these people that you really look up to, they’re a lot darker and weirder than you want them to be, and not as interesting. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes because they’ll usually let you down. So it’s like this guy’s meeting a guy he really looks up to, part of the reason why he’s in the music business, and he’s a complete wreck.
Talk about working with Sean Combs?
JH: Now that’s interesting. We can talk about that.
He’s been twittering a whole bunch.
JH: Has he really? He’s always on that thing. I don’t know. I’m not on Twitter. I don’t go on it or anything like that, so I don’t know much about it but he’s always on his phone like, “Hey, 100,000 people just read this message that I wrote.” I’m like, “Cool. I’m playing Wii in my trailer. I don’t know.”
He says you guys are “locked in”.
JH: Yeah, he’s fuckin’ great, man. You’ve got to get him to be himself. That’s sort of the trick that I’m learning through this movie. A lot of people that go through really classical acting training don’t understand our type of movie because it’s so improvisational and loose. If you just prepare to say your lines exactly how they were written, it’s going to throw you off because I’m immediately going to say something that’s not in the script and you’re going to have to react completely differently than what you planned on doing. So I think Sean, I kind of have to ask him questions and then when he’s angry at me, I’ve kind of got to really make him angry at me is the idea. So he’s supposed to be angry at me. I’ll do something to really piss him off while we’re shooting, and then he’ll start yelling at me for real. He’ll start screaming at me.
What does it take to make Sean Combs angry?
JH: I just interrupt him a lot and sort of ask him questions that have nothing to do with what he’s talking about. This is while we’re filming. Then I’ll ask him questions as my character to his character. He finally just gets frustrated and starts yelling at me and it’s really funny .That’s what we end up using in all the cuts and stuff, put it together.
Does he know you’re doing this on purpose?
JH: I think now he’s starting to pick up on my methods. I do it a lot though. I plan on being a director and when I do that, I think you really have to fuck with people. You have to make them feel what you’re trying to make them feel. If you’re trying to make someone happy, you gotta try and make them happy. If you’re trying to have a normal conversation, you’ve got to have a normal conversation. If you’re trying to make them sad, you’ve got to make them sad. I think that’s how you get real performances out of people.
JH: Absolutely. Stanley Kubrick made Shelly Duvall go crazy during The Shining. It’s like one of the best performances ever. Maybe he shouldn’t have gone that far, but I love that movie.
You guys are good at getting to the reality and heart of things. How does that continue in this film?
JH: Well, it’s weird because usually our movies have a lot to do with like minded people. Usually it’s me and Seth or Michael Cera or Segal or whoever, and it’s a lot of people who are pretty similar in the way they think. This is kind of the biggest movie we’ve made where it’s a guy around people, none of whom think similarly to him. Sean’s character and my character are like aliens to each other and Russell’s character to my character are like aliens to each other. I don’t understand these people’s minds. My character doesn’t understand how a rock star thinks because this guy lives in a one room apartment with his girlfriend. He’s not out at a nightclub every night.
Is that not your real life?
JH: No. Besides the fact that I make movies, there’s nothing interesting about my life at all, unfortunately.
Have you had any Hollywood experiences with crazy people?
JH: With Sean. He’s taken me out a few times, he’s forced me, he’s kidnapped me into going out to nightclubs and shit with him. It’s interesting.
What do you do, sit there and watch him be Puff Daddy or P. Diddy?
JH: You call him Sean. That’s the funniest thing is I’ll go with my friends and be like how’s work? “Oh, I did this scene with Sean.” They’re like, “You sound like an idiot referencing as Sean. He’s fuckin’ Puff Daddy or P.” It’s like you sound pretentious immediately going, “Sean was really cool, he’s really mellow” but when you sit and talk to him, he’s totally smart and locked in to what you’re saying.
Will this be rated R?
JH: I’d say so. You wouldn’t be going too far out on a limb to say that.
Does it give you a lot of liberty ad libbing and working with other people on set?
JH: I don’t hold anything back ever. I’d say you shoot whatever and then they’ll use what’s good. I don’t really hold back as far as ad libbing. I always just go as far off page and explore every corner so that when they’re editing, let’s say something doesn’t work. You have 10 other options to draw from.
What’s a typical amount of takes?
JH: Sometimes we shoot a scene all day.
Do you still have to do clean takes?
JH: Yes, for TV.
Are you in wardrobe now?
JH: No, these are my clothes but they’re very similar to the clothes in the movie, shockingly similar clothing.
Did you talk to any music assistants?
JH: Yeah, my dad and brother do this. My dad’s an accountant for musicians and my brother manages bands.
What have you been saying no to since Superbad?
JH: I mean, nothing I’d like to mention. Just things that didn’t feel right, didn’t feel like the next step. This feels like a really natural next step. Funny People is a supporting part but I love the movie and I love my performance in it. I’m prouder of that than anything I’ve ever done. This feels like the next evolution to be the lead of a movie. It’s not only on me. I’m playing an adult. I have a girlfriend in the movie, I have a job. It just seems like the next step. I didn’t want too far and be like The Jonah Hill Movie, Jonah Hill is, like, Boner Party or whatever. You just want to do things naturally and don’t do too much so people don’t get sick of you. My next job after Superbad was producing the Bruno movie. I just want to try and do as many different things as I possibly can.
JH: Yeah, I spend most of my [time], I do a lot more writing even than acting professionally. The next movie I’m shooting, I wrote and it’s me and Jason Schwartzman and Jason Segal called The Adventurer’s Handbook for Universal.
You said you want to direct too.
JH: Yeah, I wrote a movie that I’m going to direct after that. It’s smaller. It’s more contained. Again, with something like that, you don’t want to go too big and then if it’s not great… it’s a really small independent.
Are you still doing the stepbrother movie?
JH: That was the first writing deal I ever got with Judd and then Stepbrothers was clearly too close. The script, I thought was funny, but I was 21 when I wrote it and Step Brothers kind of did it and it didn’t feel right to make a movie where Seth and I play brothers when John and Will just did it so well. Two curly haired brothers movies coming out a month apart from each other didn’t seem like we were doing anything original.
How big a part do you have in Invention of Lying?
JH: Oh, that’s interesting. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’d say it’s like three or four scenes. That was cool because I’m a massive, massive Ricky Gervais fan. Obviously, I mean, he’s a genius. He called me and was just like, “Do you want to be in my movie?” See, it becomes clear, something like that, obviously there’s no question whether you say yes or no to that. It’s just so clearly yes, whatever you want me to do, I believe in you. For me, it’s all about trust. Guys like Judd and Sacha and Ricky I just trust. They’ve done such great work, and Nick.
He seems like he’d be fun to work with.
JH: He is. He’s really funny. He’s a really funny guy and he’s really interested in American comedians which is kinda cool because I’m very interested in British comedians. So we just kind of asked each other a lot of questions. When I was in England just hanging out recently, I called him up and we went to lunch and it was totally fun.
I heard he breaks all the time during takes.
JH: He does. He laughs. Almost everything that you say that’s a new joke, improvised, he’ll laugh.
Publicist comes in…Last question.
JH: I’m not in a hurry if you guys have more. I don’t want to sound like I want to keep talking, but if you have more questions, I’m not like in a hurry. Thank you though, for trying to rescue me, but I’m okay.
Do you have to rehearse the best joke so Ricky doesn’t break.
JH: No, I don’t like doing the same thing twice ever. So even if the joke gets less funny over time, I’d rather have it be different.
JH: It’s boring. That’s why I’m not like on a TV show or else – – if you are comfortable with that, it’s great because you don’t have to think. You can just say the same thing over and over again. That’s why I never got hired on a TV show, because I would improvise. Apparently, really rich sitcom writers don’t like it when 19-year-old unemployed actors rewrite all their jokes. Apparently, they don’t like to hire people like that. I think that’s why Judd and I work together a lot is because he encourages people to just come up with new stuff. I do it because I know now from Bruno having been on the other side of the camera, when you test a movie and the joke doesn’t work, if you have no other options, you’re completely f*cked. If you have 10 other versions of the joke, you can test a new version and keep testing until the joke works. If you only have one version, you’re screwed. You don’t want a joke in your movie that just falls flat.
How much input did you have on Bruno?
JH: I was one of the producers so I would give my input and the director and Sacha would take whatever we had to say. I got a lot of good stuff in there though. It was exciting.
How did you get that gig?
JH: It was really cool. I was really lucky. Basically, Sacha loved Superbad and we became friendly because he loved the movie so much. Then when I finished the Superbad press tour overseas, it was like my life had completely changed and I was kind of freaking out a little bit because I was nervous. I just wasn’t used to people recognizing me. There was never any pressure to my career so I just took any movie that came my way, because I wasn’t getting hired and stuff. Then I just was scared to take another movie as an actor and I’d been writing before I was acting, so I just auditioned. He needed another writer so I went in and said, “Hey, can I come in and write some jokes?” He was like, “Yeah, read the script, tell me what you like and dislike and write some jokes.” So I wrote like 100 jokes and told him what I liked and didn’t like about his script. Then he said, “Yeah, come back tomorrow.” Then I came back then and he said, “Come back tomorrow.” I did that for a week. He’s like, “We’ll pay you for the next two weeks.” Then after that three weeks, he was like, “You’re hired, you have the job.” I was like cool, because he’s one of my heroes. I would sit around in college and watch Da Ali G show with my friends and I was like, “This is like a dream.”
Have you learned a lot from Nick Stoller as far as directing?
Hill: Yeah. I learn a lot from every director that I work with. I sit on set and watch them, everyone. Especially Judd [Apatow] and Sasha are veryopen. Also, Nic and [Greg] Mottola. They’re all very open to their process because most people don’t ask. Most people go back to their trailer, but I literally sit there and go, ‘What are you doing now? What’s that guy’s job? What does he do? What are you doing now? What lens is that? What lighting setup are you doing here?’ I have this great school in front of me and it’d be stupid to just go back and sit around and not take it all in.
What’s ‘Adventurer’s Handbook’ going to be?
Hill: It’s cool. It’s really exciting. This is the first movie that I think I have real writing credit on that’s getting made into a movie. It’s me and [Jason] Segel and [Jason] Schwartzman basically in like ‘Indiana Jones’ or ‘Goonies’. Our point of views are very grounded but it’s basically like an ’80’s adventure movie. We basically go on this adventure together and immediately get chased by drug dealers around the world.
Is it PG-13 or R?
Hill: Oh, it’s R rated.
Are you guys looking for something? Is that why they chase you?
Hill: We basically find this handbook that we think is very special that has a map to this sacred island on it. We’re going to find the island because we’re all bored with our lives and then mayhem ensues. I lose my passport and we immediately get chased by these people who are after something else.
Who’s directing that?
Hill: Akiva Schaffer is directing it. I don’t know if you saw the digital shorts.
When are you going to be filming this?
Hill: Hopefully spring of next year we’re gonna start because of Schwartzman and Segel’s shows. We have to go during their hiatus.
It seems like in the last six or seven years film comedy has gotten smarter.
Hill: Cool. I think so, too, but it’d be a little weird if I said that. ‘Since I started making comedies it’s really changed the way that the world views -‘ no.
But I mean Judd is influenced by Albert Brooks.
Hill: Albert Brooks is definitely one of my biggest influences, for sure.
You can feel that in these movies that would typically be like a sex comedy. Has that sprung from Apatow or what are your thoughts about this renaissance in comedy?
Hill: I think that has a lot to do with Judd’s movies being successful. That allows the studios to give people more freedom to make a subversive $20 million movie because usually their movies cost $80 million. So there’s no as much risk involved with it. I think that Judd’s movies have turned a lot of profit and so that helps everybody. I mean when ‘The Hangover’ came out, it was an R rated comedy and when that did well – I haven’t seen the film yet – I jumped for joy because it means that my business is doing well which means that’ll help me make ‘The Adventurer’s Handbook’ for a little more money. Lets say that I want to hire some subversive young independent actor for the fourth part with me Segel and Schwartzman, that allows me to do that because R rated comedies not made for a lot of money are still doing well, at least for a little bit. So I think audiences embracing them allows for a great time. I wouldn’t compare and I wouldn’t say anything on this subject because I’ve been in some of these movies. So any answer I give you sounds completely pretentious and stupid, but my favorite time period for film was the ’70’s with all the [Martin] Scorsese movies. ‘King of Comedy’ is like one of my favorite movies and ‘Lost in America’. I really love that, too. But those movies were really subversive and the audience went to go see them and that’s why they were allowed to be made. So I think as long as the audiences are open for it the movies will keep getting made. If the audiences all of a sudden decide that they don’t want to see these kinds of movies anymore they’ll stop being made because some rich people are getting money from it and so they’re allowing us to make them, thank the Lord, at least for right now.
In the ’70’s audiences were more cynical and embraced these films. Do you think it’s a generational thing?
Hill: I don’t know. It’s very philosophical. I think it has a lot to do with what’s going on in the country. I think that comedies seem to pretty much, at least right now, comedies are doing well because I think people want to laugh and not think about everything for a little bit.
What’s really made you laugh recently?
Hill: ‘Observe and Report’. I thought that was the best movie this year so far. I loved ‘Up’. I saw that twice and thought that was really moving and really great.
Did you cry?
Hill: I did cry. I totally did. I thought that it was extremely touching and hilarious. I would say that you kind of have no heart if you didn’t like that movie. If you’re the biggest cynical asshole or the most intelligent or idiotic person, how could you not be interested in that story. It was so moving. Those Pixar movies are incredible.
Aren’t you doing an animated film right now with ‘How To Train Your Dragon’?
Hill: Yeah, a DreamWorks movie. It’s based on a children’s book. It’s about these kids who get a pet dragon. They’re kind of Viking type kids who get a dragon. The main character, his dragon is kind of a dud. He’s not good at being a ferocious dragon and I’m like the bad guy. I’m the bully kid. It’s really fun. I get to be mean.
Is it your voice or are you doing a voice?
Hill: It’s my voice.
And you’re the bad guy?
Hill: Yeah. I’m the bad guy. I’m like the villain.
Has there been anymore talk about the ‘Superbad’/’Pineapple Express’ sequel?
Hill: I wish. I would never want to do a ‘Superbad II’ but the only way that I thought it was ever interesting was if it was going to be like a crossover movie. I think that Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg] are pretty special about the movies that they do. I think they’re really care about them. I know that Michael [Cera] and I, when we talk about ‘Superbad’ we very fondly discuss the work that we did and the way that the movie turned out. If it wasn’t as good – which it probably wouldn’t be – I wouldn’t want to fuck with the good work that we did. It was such a great experience from the second we started rehearsing the writing until the movie came out. It was just a great experience with all of our friends. So you don’t want to make something that could possibly shit on something that you’re very proud of. Try and do something new also. I hope that the things that I do are different.
Is ‘Adventurer’s Handbook’ kind of your action fix like ‘Pineapple’ was for Seth?
Hill: I think it’s my adventure fix. I grew up loving adventure movies like ‘Goonies’ and ‘Romancing the Stone’ and ‘City Slickers’. They were just so fun to me. I love ‘City Slickers’. I think it’s a really great movie and this movie, we were watching an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie when we heard they were making ‘Indie 4’ and my friend, one of the guys that I write with – I write with these two guys, Max Winkler and Matt Spicer – Spicer found this ‘Adventurer’s Handbook’ at Barnes and Noble and he was just reading it one day and it says, ‘What happens if you get swallowed by an anaconda, you cut your way out.’ We were sort of laughing at all the things.
So it was a pocketbook, like how to survive, that kind of thing?
Hill: Yeah, this book and we started watching ‘Indiana Jones’ and these movies are so funny because Harrison Ford, they never act like anything that’s happening is crazy. If this was happening to me, like if a fucking giant ball was running after me I’d be like, ‘That’s weird and fucked up. That’s crazy. That’s insane.’ So we just pictured me and Segel, who we wrote that part for, and Schwartzman, three of the four guys we wrote for those two guys and myself and were started talking about who we went to high school with and character traits and friends of ours. We were like, ‘What if we made this movie about four guys who wanted to go just discover themselves, who are somewhat looking for something in their lives and they find this book and the book causes them to go find this island just to connect with each other and fulfill some quarter life crisis that they’re going through before they get married and have to deal with how fucking mundane life is?’ In those movies everything kind of seems to go right. Something terrible happens and then something great happens. So our idea for this was what if every time that something fortunate happens something fucking thirty times worse happens immediately after? So that was our idea, to never let these guys have a victory, basically. It’s truly a fun ride. It’s like a really cool, grounded adventure movie if that exists.
PR Person: Do you guys have anymore ‘Greek’ questions or we’re going to let Jonah go?
Hill: We’re talking about ‘Adventurer’s Handbook’. It’s Universal, too. You guys don’t have to freak out. I’m doing some early press. What’s going on over here? You guys are cutting me off.
PR Person: It’s taking time and we know that you have other things to do.
Hill: I don’t have other things to do. I like talking about this. Are you guys bored? You can tell me to leave. I’m trying to plug my movie!
PR Person: We want you to plug it.
Hill: I want people to see it! Sorry [laughs]. I love talking about ‘Adventurer’s’. I spent three years of my life writing it. I love to talk about it.
It took three years?
Hill: Yes, and we sold it and it was great and now we’re almost done. Working Title is producing it with myself and Max and Matt. Akiva is directing. We start in March or April, hopefully.
Akiva and the Digital Shorts which are phenomenal, some of them are sort of strange.
Hill: He’s very artsy, yeah.
Is the tone that you guys wrote, will it be a straight forward film or will you have those moments of craziness?
Hill: There’s nothing like any spaceship landing in the movie. I’m not referencing ‘Indiana Jones’. That was like an accidental reference. It’s not going to be as surreal as Akiva’s stuff is with the digital shorts. We want to make a grounded version. We want the action to feel almost like ‘Children of Men’ where it’s like, ‘Holy shit, these guys are going to die.’ You never feel like those people are going to die in those movies. We’re like, ‘Whoa, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel and Jason Schwartzman are going to pass away from this gun battle,’ and it’s like they’re shitting their pants because they’re so scared and have no idea what to do because they’ve never held a gun before. David O. Russell is one of my favorite directors and the first director that I ever worked with. ‘Three Kings’, I think the action in that movie is so funny and real. It felt like real guys in action but it was scary and sometimes hilarious. That movie is great. I think that if you watch the way that Akiva shoots stuff, there is such a thick awkwardness to people talking to each other and I felt like him dealing with us talking to people who don’t speak the same language, also a lot of comedy directors don’t have a really strong visual style and I think that Akiva is really great with comedic material. When I watch a lot of those shorts I think he’s really strong visually which I think is a really great aspect to comedy that I think Nic was trying to do by hiring Bobby Yeoman on ‘Get Him To the Greek’ and Judd is doing hiring Janusz Kaminski on ‘Funny People’. I think that’s something that’s going to take comedy even higher. When Tim Orr shoots ‘Pineapple Express’ or ‘Observe and Report’ it’s like, ‘Whoa, this actually looks like pretty fucking awesome and it’s really funny.’ That’s my opinion.
Do you spend a lot of time with those guys, those cinematographers, figuring out how they do that?
Hill: If Brad Pitt walked in here I wouldn’t look twice. If Gordon Willis walked in here I would shit my pants. Like, Bob, I sit and ask him ‘Rushmore’ questions and ‘Bottle Rocker’ questions to the point where he has to ask me to leave him alone. I’ll sit there and go, ‘So, the curtain shot in “Rushmore” or in “Darjeeling”, the final shot, how do you get the camera out of the train and how does that work?’ He goes, ‘We swung and a rope and I ducked under it.’ To me I just get off on that stuff. I find that stuff to be incredibly fascinating. Sorry. I get super into this stuff.
Every time Ghostbusters 3 is brought up your name is mentioned for that.
Hill: I have no information about that at all. I wish I did. It would have to be a pretty incredible endeavor for me to want to attempt to work on a movie that is a lineage of two of my favorite movies ever. I don’t feel worthy of a task that big.
But they might be bringing in new people.
Hill: That being said, if I have the opportunity to work with Bill Murray in ‘Boner Party 7’ for some reason I would do it. Bill Murray is my acting hero.
So you’re not hating on ‘Ghostbusters II’?
Hill: No. I love ‘Ghostbusters II’. I love it. It’s great.
It’s not the same as the first though.
Hill: It’s not the same but it’s not a bad movie. It’s not a sequel where you’re like, ‘Oh my God, why did you do that?’ It’s not ‘Legend of Curly’s Gold’. I don’t even want to shit on that. No. I actually like that. As I said earlier I’m a huge ‘City Slicker’s’ fan but the thing is that it was a little weird that Jack Palance was Curly’s brother. That’s kind of a lame move. That’s kind of like ‘Die Hard II’, like, ‘That’s my brother.’ But I love all those movies. I don’t mind sequels. I wouldn’t want to make one because I would know it wasn’t as good but when I loved the movie I see the sequel and ninety percent of the time I’m like, ‘Cool.’ Some sequels I like better. I think that ‘Wayne’s World II’ is better than ‘Wayne’s World I’. I get in a lot of fights about sequels that I like. Here’s the biggest one, and my friends hate me for it and I’m sure that people on the internet are going to yell at me. I like ‘Back to the Future II’ better than ‘Back to the Future’ and here’s why, because ‘Back to the Future II’, I know what the past is like but I liked their view of what the future was like.
But it was short, that future sequence.
Hill: I just loved the future sequence so much. I like the way that Hill Valley looks like. I liked the Almanac. I like future Biff married to his mom. It just got me. His shoes and the jacket that dries itself and the 80’s café, I was fucking in from second one.
They recently made those ‘Back to the Future’ shoes. Do you own those?
Hill: No I don’t. I think that Kanye West made them. When I’m going to fucking wear those? ‘Hey, look at my “Back to the Future” shoes.’
Wasn’t the best part when they back into the first movie and messed around with stuff?
Hill: That was awesome, yeah, when he sees himself making the clock tower or whatever and he meets himself. Oh, what about Marty meeting himself when he’s depressing and old and a wash-up, that was amazing. It was so dark and the pizza that’s this big and then it explodes. And ‘Austin Powers 2.
I was thinking you were going to say ‘Godfather II’.
Hill: ‘Godfather II’, most people think is better than the first one.
What about ‘French Connection II’?
Hill: No, not so much for me. I love the ‘French Connection’ though. I’ll revisit and we’ll talk about this later. They’re going to yell at me.
We saw Judd out there. What’s it like knowing that he’s out there watching over you like an angel?
Hill: It’s not weird. I’ve done it like five other times. We were just in my trailer, bullshitting and talking. I don’t get nervous around him or anything like that. I’ve known him since I was a young man.
Is it easy for you to adjust to night shoots like this?
Hill: Sometimes. I actually don’t mind night shoots so much because I have the day free which is kind of awesome. It’s kind of nice to be out in the sun. I have a Vespa and I ride that around and just bullshit.
You work from ten to eight. Do you use the day or do you just crash?
Hill: I try and make myself wake up by at least two or something so that I can do something. It’s kind of a waste, especially when you’re in L.A. because it’s beautiful.
What do you like to go do?
Hill: I like to see movies which doesn’t really utilize the sunlight a whole bunch. I have a Vespa. I like to ride that around. I have a bicycle that I like to ride around. I really like aquariums and so I go to the aquariums a lot. I tried to go to the zoo a couple of weeks ago but the line was too long. I just left. I like Venice a lot. I used to live around there. I like to walk places because it’s nice outside.
How dark does this movie get? Like ‘Almost Famous’ which is about rock is sweet doesn’t get as dark as I want it to get.
Hill: I like ‘Almost Famous’ a lot.
So how far does this film go?
Hill: I think we’re to a point where you’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ But I mean the guy is a drug addict and that’s sad. He’s obviously using something to cover up thinking about things from his actual life. Any time that happens to me I think that’s a real dark thing to come from. I think it’s less sad than someone who’s like, ‘I’m a sad guy,’ than someone who’s like, ‘My life is fucking awesome,’ but you can tell that they’re really sad. I think like Danny McBride who’s a good friend of mine, they’re humor comes a lot from that, I think. It’s like, ‘I’m totally together. I’m the shit,’ but deep down they’re just an emotional wreck. To me it’s better to be like, ‘I’m pissed about this,’ or ‘I’m sad about this,’ than to be like, ‘Everything is fine.’ It seems like so Stepford Wifey to be like, ‘Everything is normal. There’s nothing wrong with my life. I’m perfect.’ But then inside you’re just freaking out. I think that rock stars and a lot of time movie stars, that’s a lot what ‘Funny People’ is about; how famous people or how people look at a movie star or a rock star and they go, ‘Oh, man, they have no problems. They have money. They’re famous,’ but it’s like, ‘These people are and these people are, too, and they fucking hate themselves and are desperate to maintain some form of people telling them that they’re special and narcissistic.’ There are no real friendships or love in their life and that’s fucking sadder than someone with no money working a normal job.
What keeps you grounded?
Hill: I have a wonderful family that lives in town and my brother and my best friends are my best friends from high school and college. I just don’t do stupid things. If I date a girl I generally knew her from way before I was doing any of this or I’ve been friends with her for a long time before we started dating. I made that mistake a lot where I would meet someone and immediately be like, ‘Hey, I like you a lot,’ and now I just realize that I have to spend a long time being friends with somebody or know them for a long time. Everyone in my life I’ve known long before anyone wanted me to be in a movie. Thanks for saying I’m grounded. I appreciate that. I try.
Judd said that this is the most ambitious of the films since you’re shooting in New York, Vegas, London and here.
Hill: Yeah. I’ve never done this before.
How much of the film takes place in these cities and are you looking forward to one of the cities more than the others?
Hill: I’m definitely looking forward to shooting in New York City the most. It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot in New York City because I went to college there at New School University and it just seems crazy to shut down a whole street to shoot your movie. Even in Las Vegas, it still never hits me that, it was easier on ‘Funny People’ because Adam Sandler was the star of the movie and I was just the character in the movie and it was like, ‘This is all for him.’ But then it’s weird that on this movie, it’s like, ‘Whoa. I’m the star of this movie. That’s crazy.’ There’s no Adam Sandler here. This street is shut down because I’m making a movie here. There’s a scene where I’m driving my car by myself and the whole street is locked off and it’s like, ‘This is just here for me to drive this car down a street.’ In New York I think that will blow my mind because there are so many pedestrians and people that I’ll probably know from just walking down the street. I go there a lot. I also just love movies about New York, like most of Woody Allen’s movies are about New York. It just seems so cool to be shooting a movie in New York City, so romantic.
How much of the movie takes place in each place though? Is it an equal share of the movie?
Hill: I’d say so. I’d say it’s pretty equal. I think that’s why the movie feels so high energy, because you’re traveling constantly. You spend fifteen to twenty minutes in each place and then you’re in a whole new city. It’s cool to see what these guys would be like in Las Vegas or what these guys would be like in New York or in London. To me that’s cool and I think that a lot of movies don’t do that because, frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to travel so much. It’s beneficial for me because I get to see all these cool places.
Are you taking him to these places?
Hill: He’s detouring, basically. We’re just supposed to fly from London to L.A. and Aldous makes some detours that I’m not happy with.
Why do you go to Vegas?
Hill: Because he wants to go to Las Vegas. He wants to visit his dad and look for more debauchery. I’m just desperate the whole time to get him to Los Angeles.
Where does most of the debauchery take place, in Vegas?
Hill: Everywhere. Honestly, I’d like to say Vegas, it seems appropriate to say Vegas but everywhere. Part of the struggle of the movie is that my character has this really serious girlfriend who’s a doctor and works weird hours and we’re kind of fighting and we kind of split up before I go on the trip. I’m like, ‘This is what I wanted, to be single and partying with a rock star and girls are paying attention to me.’ I hook up with girls throughout the movie that Aldous hooks me up with. It’s like, ‘This is what I wanted,’ and then you realize, you do that, and this is very much what I’ve found in my life when I’ve tried to be cool and do that, I immediately find out meaningless it is and how vacant it seems because you’re like, ‘Whoa. I have an actual connection with somebody that I’m giving up to talk to these people who I’m meeting at a nightclub for two hours.’ You don’t seem impressed by that.
I think it’s sweet.
Hill: It’s true. Anyone who’s going to have sex with you at a nightclub that’s known you for two hours, you probably don’t have a deep connection with that person or have a lot to talk about. That’s been my experience.
Is this going to be about two hours?
Hill: No. I think this one will be a little shorter. It should be.
Hill: No. I think it’s just really high energy and doesn’t seem to slow down. I watch all the cuts and the dailies. It’s a very high energy film and so it’s not really about taking a breath. You kind of want to be, like, ‘Yeaaaahhhhh!! OK. See you guys.’ You want it to be like, ‘Lets have the greatest time ever! Oh, it’s sad. They connected. See you guys. Big crazy ending. Bye.’
Can you talk about some of the cameos –
Hill: I was going to make a joke and say some really old uninteresting ones.
How far back would you go?
Hill: I don’t know. Here’s how jokes always form in my head. I think of the initial references which is the easy one and then I spend an extra three seconds thinking of the most obscure thing I can think of. So that’s my process.
Have you shot any extra stuff for the DVD on this?
Hill: Yeah, we’re shooting stuff. We had this idea for the DVD where Russell [Brand] and Puff Daddy switch entourages and also how I’m the only person who doesn’t have an entourage in this movie –
And in real life?
Hill: Yeah. I’ve never met anyone with an entourage before, but then I realize I do but they’re just like dudes who are exactly like me. None of them are really cool. Russell’s entourage is all dudes that kind of look like him and are cool rock star looking dudes. Puff Daddy’s are all dudes that are kind of like hip-hop guys that dress cool like him. My guys are kind of like my friends from high school which I guess you would consider my entourage because they hangout a lot and the guys that I write with are on set because we’re rewriting ‘Adventurer’s’ and so I guess I do but they’re not really cool. It’s not like that show or anything like that. We don’t do anything fun.
Has Russell changed at all since ‘Sarah Marshall’?
Hill: No, because Russell was super famous in England already. I’ve said this in an interview. Someone asked me about it for a magazine that he was in. I said, ‘Russell acts famous in the best way possible where you don’t hate him at all.’ If I acted like a famous guy you would hate me because it’d be so weird. He doesn’t act famous like a douche. He acts famous like he knows that people are looking at him but he’s saying hello to everybody. He’s like old school famous people. Normal people, when they get famous in acting it’s really like off putting in my mind, at least. I get very judgmental of that, but with him he is this grandiose figure and you wouldn’t want him to be anything else. That’s his thing. Either you do that or not. I almost find it a hard time because I’m technically the lead of this movie and for me it’s not in my nature to go around, like, ‘What’s up, guys?’ But I have to do that to set the tone. It’s weird. I’m not used to that and you’re supposed to do that as the lead actor of a movie. You’re supposed to be the guy who’s going up to everybody and making sure that everyone is in a good mood but I’m kind of the guy who sits down and hangs out. I’m not really good at that yet. I’m trying to force myself to be like, ‘What’s up, everybody,’ and I don’t know how. I’ve had times where people look to the lead actor, and I’ve never really noticed it before, but they really look to me to set the tone of what the environment is like at work. I’m just sitting around bullshitting with Nic or Judd or something but it’s really my responsibility to kind of go and have conversations with everybody and make people laugh and stuff. I’m trying to settle into it and I hope that I get better at it.
It’s kind of like you’re the host of a party?
Hill: It really is. It feels that way, which I’m terrible at. Don’t come to one of my parties, ever. I always throw parties and then every time I’m like, ‘Why the fuck did I do this? I have to talk to everybody.’ At other people’s parties you can just kind of hangout and get drunk and relax. I’m making sure that no one is touching my shit. It’s like that everyday now. Usually, like on ‘Funny People’, I’m the fifth lead or something. I’m like, ‘Let Sandler do all that stuff and Seth and I will just bullshit with each other.’
I went to the standup night that they did at The Orpheum. I saw Aziz Ansari do the Randy character.
Hill: I thought that was hilarious, really funny. There’s not much to that but it’s really funny, that character. I bet there’s a point where he stops doing that and goes out as Randy because he could become huge as Randy, I think.
What’s your character in ‘Funny People’? Will you be at the press junket?
Hill: Yeah. They’re giving me like a week off to do all the talk shows and stuff for it. I’ll do it.
Have you ever thought about doing a series, like the New Beverly?
Hill: They actually approached me to do that and I couldn’t do it because I was working because if I did I’d want to be there every night and actually do it. To me, sometimes it feels a little…I know what I would put on. I know I would probably put on ‘Defending Your Life’ and ‘Back to the Future’. They asked me to do this iTunes celebrity playlist or whatever one time and I was like, ‘I’m not going to do that because I would just try and go as pretentious and cool as I possibly could without actually choosing…’ I feel like you have to and try and look as possibly cool as you can with those things. Even if you don’t people would think you were. My taste in music and film is slightly more pretentious than you think it would be. You’d think my taste in film would be like probably more classic comedies but I like other types of movies when I’m just watching them at home. I’d probably do like ‘Defending Your Life’ and that documentary ‘Dig’. That would be my night.
That’s not pretentious.
Hill: I’m just too judgmental then. I’m too judgmental of other people putting themselves out there in any way, I guess. Maybe I will. I want to open Alamo Draft House here. That would be my dream. I think it’d be an incredible endeavor to do.
Jim has talked about opening one up here.
Hill: He should. Whenever I’m there, man, I’m always like, ‘Even if it’s not call that, just open a movie theater that plays great movies,’ and they’re interstitialed before the trailers and everything. It makes going to the movies so fun. If I lived in Austin I would do that at least once a week.
Is there talk between you and Michael Cera working together again that’s not ‘Superbad’?
Hill: Yeah. We’re figuring it out. I imagine that we’ll work together again at some point. I just think we will.
In the future, would you imagine that it’s –
Hill: We’re remaking ‘Back to the Future II’. I didn’t want to say.
Don’t pretend that you have Crispin Glover in it.
Hill: We won’t. We’ll hang him upside, it’s true.
But you even liked that part, didn’t you?
Hill: I loved it. I love when he comes in from outside and he goes, ‘Hey, Grandpa.’ I love him as the fucking daughter. It’s crazy. What? I love that shit. Flea with that super racist version of an Asian dude’s boss, where he’s like, ‘McFly!’ I was offended as a white Jewish man at that part let alone how Asian people must’ve felt during that, this crazy racist thing in the middle of the movie.
What did you think of part three?
Hill: I personally did not get emotionally invested in part three. I’ll leave it at that because I don’t like to say mean things about people’s hard work, especially people that have been given me so many millions of hours of joy. They shot them consecutively because I remember at the end of two in the theater there was the trailer for three.
So that might’ve compromised the integrity of the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy?
Hill: I’m just saying when you create something you’re free to explore it however you want to do it. So, for me as a fan I love the first two. They’re two of my favorite movies. For some people, three might be there favorite of the three. You never know. If you want to talk about any movie I could go for like ten hours. I just like this interview and I didn’t want it to end. I like when you can have a conversation with people and it’s not just stock questions. I’ve probably answered all your stock questions, hopefully.
Are you going to go the Hal Ashby Tribute?
Hill: I’ll definitely try and go. He’s one of my favorites. I have this great picture in my house, in my apartment that’s a photograph of Hal Ashby and Peter Sellars on the set of ‘Being There’. I printed it online and framed it because I got a good print of it. I just Google imaged Hal Ashby one day to show my friend what he looked like because he’s such an interesting looking guy that you don’t think would look like what he does look like. There’s this photograph and someone photoshopped this huge yellow arrow that goes from the right pointing right down to Hal Ashby. It must’ve been someone pointing out to their friend, ‘This is Hal Ashby.’ I thought it was so funny I printed it out and framed it because I love Hal Ashby so much. Nic and Rodney and I have been talking a lot about ‘Shampoo’ on this movie. It’s a great movie. My favorite thing about him is that you wouldn’t be able to tell that the same guy directed all of his movies. You look so bored right now. You don’t give a shit about what I think about Hal Ashby. You literally could not give a shit about what I think about Hal Ashby.
A little bit.
Hill: That’s fine, I know. You’re at work right now. ‘I’m trying to get my five fucking questions and get outta here.’
We’ve done a lot of set visits and you really stepped up to the plate today.
Hill: Oh, cool. You guys are awesome but part of me just doesn’t like huge crowds and doesn’t want to have to go out there and talk to a lot of people. It’s a lot more fun down here than five thousand people out there.
You were just talking about how much you hate talking to five thousand people –
Hill: No. That’s the worst part of my personality. I don’t mind going up on stage in front of five thousand people. I just don’t want to have to actually talk to anybody. I wasn’t nervous at all hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ but if I was in the audience at ‘Saturday Night Live’ I’d be super bummed out because I’d have to talk to the people next to me. I’d be nervous and scared that I’d make an idiot out of myself and say something stupid.
For more on Get Him to the Greek, here’s my write up on going to the set.