When I met Jonah Hill, it was on the set of “Superbad,” and that performance in that film was all about a certain type of confidence turned up to a fairly intense level. Having already gotten to know Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg a little bit, and realizing that Jonah and Michael Cera were playing comic versions of Seth and Evan, it was one of those meta-moments where you’re not sure who you’re really meeting.
Since then, our paths have crossed many times, and watching him increase in both craft and confidence in his work onscreen and how he handles himself off-screen has been a real pleasure. Hill is smart, but more than that, he strikes me as the kind of guy who is always observing, always watching the people he works with, growing in each new experience because of how open he is to different choices that other performers or filmmakers are making around him.
Obviously, he’s gone through a pretty major physical change recently as well, and he seems to be opening up new possibilities for himself as a lead in films with the decision to slim down. He’s also changing the conversation about him as a character actor. He’s still got one more comedy coming out this year called “The Sitter,” a dark and crazy comedy from director David Gordon Green, where he’s at his heaviest, and then boom… we’re going to see a new Jonah onscreen starting with “21 Jump Street,” which he’s working on with the same filmmakers who made “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” such a great and strange surprise.
More than the physical change, what’s going to give Jonah more opportunities in the near future is the work he did in “Moneyball,” where he’s playing a key character who doesn’t completely exist in the real world. Unlike Brad Pitt, who’s playing a very specific person, the real-life figure that is closest to “Peter Brand” was Paul DePodesta, but they’ve taken enough dramatic license that they changed the name. What Hill does is give the theories in “Moneyball” a voice, and he has to find a way to explain it not only to Pitt but to the audience, while somehow giving us a sense of stakes and making it all crystal clear. No small feat, that, and he’s more than up to the challenge. It’s a nice piece of work by him, and much of what I like about the film hinges on the way he relates to Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane onscreen.
“Moneyball” opens in theaters everywhere this Friday.