Three unknowns – Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse – take the lead roles in new teen comedy Superbad. They tell Donald Clarke about sudden fame, friendship . . . and drawing penises
SUPERBAD, a fine new comedy from the people behind Knocked Up, concerns itself with the attempts of three high-school kids to secure booze for a potentially raucous party. Forced to rely on faked identity documents and the kindness of unstable strangers, the youngsters are driven to catastrophe by the constraints of the US liquor laws. It is, therefore, somewhat disconcerting to find each of the three stars I am to interview tucked behind a big, juicy pint of Guinness in a posh Dublin hotel. They all look very happy.
Yes, indeed. Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse have landed. Within the space of a month, they have gone from being obscure actors or, in Chris’s case, a totally unknown school student, to finding their unusual mugs plastered over buses, phone booths and hoardings. Today I find them deep in an explosively vulgar media hubbub. Dolly birds in Superbad T-shirts hang off their arms while tabloid photographers shout instrucsaid ‘shitloads’. Actually, those are the tions. What have they let themselves in for? things you have to think about: I must not
“I walked down the street where I live in say ‘copious’. I must say ‘shitloads’.” LA and went to get a haircut,” Hill says. “I The gang have just finished a tour of Brithad walked the same way the previous day ain and are gearing up for an invasion of without comment, but now, after the postmainland Europe, but they still seem to be ers went up, 10 people stopped to have getting on quite well. I wonder if, being the their picture taken with me and people oldest, Hill has taken on the duties of de were saying these strange things to me.” facto leader.
It is impossible to wholly ignore the “No. I amin the middle of the poster, so I points of comparison between the actors suppose people assume that,” he says. “But and their Superbad personae. Christopher we are all in charge of ourselves I guess. Mintz-Plasse, plucked from obscurity at an Actually, yeah, we do get on surprisingly open audition, plays the nerd and, clearly well. We have not had a serious blow-up of in no great hurry to shake off that image, any type yet.” has turned up to the interview wearing a “Maybe in Rome,” Cera says. “Then we leprechaun hat with attached red beard. can have a fight and burn a few bridges.” Michael Cera, known for his appearances The leprechaun remains silent. on the cult TV show Arrested DevelopIt’s nice to hear that they get on. Mind ment, portrays the sensitive thinker and, you, many observers have noted that, in sure enough, quickly declares his intention the film, the characters played by Cera and to write his own material soon. Hill get on very, very well indeed. Search Jonah Hill? Well, Jonah, the corpulent, hard and you can find homoerotic subtexts sexually-frustrated loudmouth in in everything from Butch Cassidy and the the picture, is 23 years old and, Sundance Kid to Pinocchio, but Superbad strangely, looks it. How on must be one of the gayest straight films evearth did he set about turner made. ing himself into such a con“Oh, I wish we could put that on the vincing school-kid? poster,” Cera says.
“I think that was the bigAt the mention of homosexuality, Hill, gest acting challenge I’ve who starred alongside Seth Rogen, co-writyet had,” he says. “I moved er of Superbad, in Knocked Up, begins a back in with my parents and long, detailed answer to an entirely differstayed in the room I grew up in. ent question. He points out that the homoI tried to channel those early phobic jokes in both films are meant to be years. Luckily I haven’t maseen as the ravings of idiots and that the tured a copious amount.” writers are not trying to set an example for
“Yeah, but I bet you others. wouldn’t have said ‘copious’ Well, yes, fair enough. But what about back then,” Cera interjects. the extraordinary affection between Hill’s “That’s right. I would have and Cera’s characters in Superbad? It’s like Brideshead Revisited with tequila shots.
“It’s not homosexual,” Hill says. “It’s about two guys who can love one another platonically. Hey, I love these guys here. That doesn’t mean I want to put my penis in any of them.”
“What do you mean, you don’t want to put your penis in me?” Mintz-Plasse says in mock outrage.
“Yeah. Now maybe we are having our first fight,” Cera adds.
Hang on a minute. In one early scene, Hill’s character reveals that for many years he had an obsession with drawing penises. Elsewhere he admits that he really enjoys pornography only when it involves the male organ. You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to infer certain homoerotic leanings in the character. “Yeah, maybe,” Hill says. Astonishingly this reading really does not seem to have occurred to him. Surely he must have asked writer Seth Rogen – the fact that the character shares the writer’s first name must be significant – about the reasons for the young man’s phallic leanings.
“I think it is more about finding penises funny than the homosexual side of it,” Hill ventures. “He is so immature that he finds drawing penises funny. I didn’t really take it as being a version of Seth Rogen anyway. Who needs two Seths on set? I just saw it as these two friendswanting to stay together after school. I didn’t see that as gay.”
Oh well. Perhaps I am reading too much into too little. At any rate, the Superbad boys seem unperturbed to discover they may be in the year’s biggest gay comedy. They are too busy drinking pints, frolicking with photographers and dressing as dwarfish mythological cobblers.
“Yeah, I do tend to get freaked out when things are this awesome,” Hill says.
“This is like the most exciting thing in my career and I just get freaked out thinking: can it really stay this good for much longer?”
Method acting: Jonah Hill as seth in Superbad
Bosom buddies: (left to right) Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill in Superbad