In addition to his trimmed-down figure, Jonah Hill fans will see a new side of the “Superbad” and “Get Him to the Greek” actor come September 23, when “Moneyball” drops into theaters: his dramatic acting chops.
The film is inspired by Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-seller of the same name, which revolved around Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he recruited undervalued yet extremely talented baseball players to build successful teams. In the film, Hill plays Peter Brand, a statistician who helps Beane (Brad Pitt) select players based on in-depth analysis of complex baseball statistics.
When MTV News caught up with Hill recently, he was excited to talk about his dramatic work and emphasized the fact that the film is more about life than baseball.
MTV: Did you read the book before you started the film?
Jonah Hill: I had just been told that [director] Bennett [Miller] wanted to meet me and I should read the book “Moneyball” in preparation, and so I did, and I really, really loved it.
MTV: Were you a baseball fan beforehand? And how did your appreciation for the game evolve over the course of working on the film?
Hill: I grew up with baseball and really respect and appreciate the game, but in the past, since I was probably 12 or 13, I haven’t followed closely. So I wouldn’t say I was an avid fan, but I grew up being a Dodgers fan. But if you’re not a baseball fan, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to love the movie. We used baseball as such a metaphor for life. The movie is about these guys trying to create a baseball team with no money, but it’s really about choices and being an underdog, so I really can start to relate the game to the people playing it and seeing them as people and wondering about them, and I couldn’t help but start wondering about all the players as people and do their stats represent them and their value — that’s a lot of what the movie’s about.
MTV: How is the film not just a sports movie?
Hill: I hesitate to even call it a sports movie, because if you love baseball, you’re going to love it obviously that much more, but for people that I know that have seen it that don’t know the first thing about baseball, [they] love it because it’s a movie about underdogs. It’s really about being undervalued and proving your worth and value and the decisions you make in life.
MTV: Everyone raves about Aaron Sorkin’s scripts and dialogue. What was your impression of the script? How does it rank versus some of the others you’ve seen?
Hill: The script was written by Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian. … I don’t think there’s any debate they are the two of the most successful and respected screenwriters in Hollywood, so between them and Scott Rudin and Mike De Luca, our producers, and Bennett Miller and Michael Lewis, who wrote the book, and Brad and Philip [Seymour] Hoffman and Robin Wright, I can say it was pretty crazy to be second lead in this movie. It was a laundry list of people I admired and respected, and it kinda didn’t seem real for the first few weeks I got the part.
MTV: Was there a learning curve for you? Did you feel like more of a student on this production?
Hill: I think I always feel like a student. I always work with people I admire or else I don’t go to work. To me, it’s about learning from people. The best advice I ever got was “Shut up and listen.” … This was obviously the most different. Drama, I had only done one other one, this movie “Cyrus,” and for me, those were two experiences, because I had done so many comedies, where I learned something totally different.
MTV: What was your experience like with Brad Pitt, as far as the actor and the person?
Hill: He’s great at both. I think he and I are really close in the movie. The movie is really the two of us playing off of each other a majority of the time, so if that chemistry wasn’t there between us, I think the movie would have completely failed. So I think we both knew that going in, and I think we both happened to like each other a lot. We definitely played some pranks on each other. That part of [Brad Pitt] lore is true, that he likes to do that. We played some really funny pranks — his a lot funnier than mine — and we became cool. He’s a really admirable dude, and I think he has inspired me in a lot of ways, both creatively and personally. If you look at his filmography, his choices are so diverse and cool and eclectic that it’s something I really just took away. He was really cool about sharing his history with me and really pushing me in a great way to make interesting choices.
MTV: Can you give me a couple of those pranks?
Hill: There were some golf-cart wars. We had these golf carts, and we would race them all the time to set and crash into each other. And he started messing with mine and eventually turned mine into a full-fledged Wham! mobile — the band Wham! — where eventually there was a bigger-than-life-sized portrait of myself as a member of Wham! next to George Michael on the front of it. It was bright pink, and eventually, by the end, if you turned on my golf cart, it blasted “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and could not be turned off unless the engine was turned off. Sometimes I feel like he has a team of scientists working on f—ing with me.
MTV: So what was your best retaliation you think?
Hill: I got him with a prank to his car that I’m not going to reveal yet. It’s a secret.
From “Abduction” to “Muppets, “Moneyball” to “Breaking Dawn,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2011 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Moneyball.”
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