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Jonah Hill: ‘I like to understand people’s lives’

by Giovanni Fazio

Special To The Japan Times

Name: Jonah Hill
Age: 30
Nationality: American
Occupation: Actor, currently appearing in “The Wolf of Wall Street” as crooked stockbroker Donnie Azoff
Likes: “Goodfellas,” “The Big Lebowski,” Shibuya Loft
Dislikes: Rolling Stone interviews


1. Where do you currently live? I live between Los Angeles and New York.

2. Which do you prefer? I’m from L.A., so my family’s there and my heart will always be there. But I like them both.

3. How hard was it to pick up the New York accent for the film? It was challenging, but both my parents are from Long Island, where Donnie’s from, so that made it easier.

4. What did you learn about Martin Scorsese that you didn’t know before you had the chance to work with him? His ability to fix problems so rapidly.

5. “Goodfellas” or “Taxi Driver”? “Goodfellas.” It’s my favorite film of all time.

6. Did you notice any similarities between Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character) Jordan Belfort in “Wolf”? They seem quite similar to me. He (Scorsese) said that “Goodfellas,” “Casino” and “Wolf” felt like a trilogy to him.

7. After making “Wolf,” would you ever invest any of your own money in stocks? No. I had to learn about the stock market in order to prepare for the film, and it didn’t leave me wanting to invest my money in stocks. Not that lots of people would behave like these guys did, but it just seems like gambling to me.

8. What was the most challenging aspect of playing Donnie? The most challenging part was playing someone with no impulse control, no morality. I just really didn’t like the way he treated people.

9. What about the teeth? (Hill had to wear prominent veneers.) It was a problem trying to speak without a lisp. So I had to wear them a couple of hours a day to practice speaking with them. It took a lot of work to retrain the muscles in my tongue.

10. Do you think poor impulse control is something that’s more common on Wall Street than elsewhere? Well, I don’t know. I have to really look at who this person is, as opposed to, like, blanket statements about the whole culture. It would be unfair to generalize the whole occupation, especially as an actor. People can say so many bad things about certain actors, but it’s not fair to say all actors are like that.

11. Had you ever heard of Quaaludes before doing this film? I had heard of them, but they were before my generation.

12. As an actor, do you study people? I like to understand people’s lives, what it feels like to be them.

13. If you were seated next to U.S. President Barack Obama at a dinner, what would you tell him? I’d ask about what it feels like to be president, what that pressure feels like, what it’s like to raise a family while being president.

14. When you think of Japan, you think of . . . I really like the art and fashion, and Japanese culture. But being here, looking at the view out the window, I’m just surprised by how massive Tokyo is. It’s like the New York skyline, but it goes on and on and doesn’t stop.

15. Are you chuffed that “Wolf” has broken “The Big Lebowski”‘s record for most F-bombs in a movie? I love “The Big Lebowski.” It’s one of my favorite films. I’m excited that “Wolf” is a film that is as aggressive and unapologetic as it is, and is being received as well as it is.

16. You started out as an actor in comedies, but lately you’ve been doing more serious work. At this point, do you have a preference? I’m really lucky because I’m known for both. I prefer to do things that I’m passionate about, and don’t really think of myself as one or the other.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is now screening at theaters nationwide.