Jonah Hill’s ability to switch from fast-talking clown to serious commentator has made him an unusual member of the Hollywood in-crowd. But then the actor turned director has always been a game changer
Jonah Hill is in a moment of reinvention. At least, that’s what people keep telling him, usually with an eyebrow raised, as though his evolution from schlubby comedy star to sensitive indie director might be just another joke. It’s been more than a decade since Hill became famous as Superbad’s X-rated doodler, a fast-talking clown voted Most Likely to Get Hit by a Cop Car. Since then, he’s earned two best supporting Oscar nominations (for Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street) and yet audiences still seem to approach his serious roles tentatively, as though he might pop out and splat a pie in their face. The question isn’t just: is it time to take him seriously, it’s why is taking him seriously so hard?
“Anyone who knew me was very surprised that this first half of my life went the way it did,” says Hill on a recent afternoon in Beverly Hills. “My dream was always to be a filmmaker.” He’s dressed in a sweater and horn-rimmed glasses with just a pop of whimsy: the sweater is mauve and his hair is streaked platinum blonde.