Jonah Hill

Newsweek International - - CONTENTS - —Zach Schonfeld

“A Tribe Called Quest is what the Bea­tles were to my par­ents—the back­bone of my youth.”

You might call it a fil­mog­ra­phy. Jonah hill calls it an ed­u­ca­tion. “I was priv­i­leged enough to have this 15-year film school from some of my fa­vorite di­rec­tors,” the ac­tor says of the leap from act­ing in come­dies, like 2007’s now-clas­sic Su­per­bad, to di­rect­ing his first fea­ture film, Mid90s. He lists the film­mak­ers who’ve taught him most: Ben­nett Miller, who di­rected him in 2011’s Money­ball, for his first best sup­port­ing ac­tor Os­car nom­i­na­tion; Martin Scors­ese, who turned Hill into the pump-and-dump stock­bro­ker (an­other Os­car nom­i­na­tion) in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street; and Spike Jonze, whose screen­writ­ing wis­dom helped shape the nar­ra­tive of Mid90s. The warm, nos­tal­gic com­ing-of-age film, set against the Los An­ge­les skater scene of Hill’s youth, took three years to write. It’s not an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal story, Hill tells Newsweek, but it is “my heart. I looked at my he­roes, peo­ple like Mike Ni­chols or Barry Levin­son, who started in com­edy and be­came great film­mak­ers—their early work clearly meant some­thing to them.”

What did you learn from Scors­ese?

I mean…do you have a few days? To watch some­one on that level run a film set, tell a story, fix prob­lems— the high­est level of di­rect­ing skills I’ve seen are high-end prob­lem­fix­ing. I’ve seen master di­rec­tors take an hour to fix a prob­lem that takes Scors­ese 30 sec­onds. I think he’s the great­est liv­ing film­maker.

The film is set in the ’90s—could it be set to­day?

No, be­cause of [cell­phones]. At its core, it’s a movie about a group of friends at a time when it was you and your friends ver­sus the world. The rea­son those close friend­ships were able to form was be­cause we didn’t have phones. We were skat­ing around, wait­ing for the bus or just talk­ing—we didn’t have gad­gets to break the con­nec­tion.

The sound­track in­cludes great ’90s hip-hop, like the Phar­cyde and GZA. Did you hand­pick the mu­sic?

I was the mu­sic su­per­vi­sor, yeah, and I’d writ­ten the scenes to those songs. Skate­board­ing is of­ten butchered in film, which was a big rea­son I made Mid90s. But so is hip-hop, which is of­ten used to show “’hood stuff” or “balling.” To me, A Tribe Called Quest is what the Bea­tles were to my par­ents— the back­bone of my youth. It was im­por­tant to show that el­e­gantly, and as an art form de­serv­ing re­spect.

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