Jonah Hill is serious, bro
To promote This is the End, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jonah Hill were interviewed for a cover feature on Rolling Stone. Among that group, who do you think would come across as the most pompous and least fun? If you guessed Jonah Hill, you guessed right. And in a group that includes Franco, who’s built a vacation house up his own ass, that’s kind of a problem.
Yes, Hill comes across like a dick. He won’t answer the same silly questions or do the stupid gags the others do, and again, if Franco can roll with it, anyone should be able to. It’s like when Daniel Day-Lewis allowed himself to have fun at award shows while Tommy Lee Jones grumped his way through—the contrast only served to make Jones look worse, when even the Method Man himself was laughing along. It’s the same vibe here—everyone was down for this interview, even Franco. So why isn’t Hill game like his buddies?
Well, one, he isn’t a comedian. Rogen and McBride are dyed-in-the-wool comics who also happen to be decent at acting. Franco is a natural comic, too, but in his case his acting ability actually outweighs his comedic chops. But they’re there—he couldn’t deliver a character like Saul Silver, or make these, without an inherent gift for comedy. Hill, however, is just a good actor whose strengths happen to include timing and delivery. The difference, to me, is the ability to flip the switch and be “on”. Comics are kind of always on, so each interview becomes like a little set, another chance to tune up some material or work on their persona.
But actors often, and sometimes notoriously, can’t be on in situations like an interview. Think of all the people we discuss here who give bad interviews: Kristen Stewart, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara, and more often than not, Franco. People usually say, “You’re an actor, can’t you just act your way through it?” For many, yes. Robert Downey, Jr. is great at striking the balance between personal and performance in an interview. But a lot of actors are actors because they’re more comfortable when they’re being someone else. That’s Hill’s issue—he’s not very comfortable in his own skin.
He’s had so much success in the last few years, with an Oscar nomination and producing and starring in his own comedy hit, 21 Jump Street. He should be feeling great, enjoying his time in the sun, but you can see the gaping cracks in his armor in this interview. It makes me a little sad—Hill is more interesting than this. And he is funny, when he doesn’t feel like he’s being judged. That’s that problem here—he wants so badly to be taken seriously for his craft and it’s making him defensive and paranoid. He’s anticipating slights that have not and very likely are not coming. Lainey wished recently for Jesse Eisenberg to learn to manage his insecurities. I have the same wish for Hill.
Click here to read the entire interview.