The idea of Jonah Hill, the star of stoner comedies such as "Superbad," "The Sitter" and "This Is the End," earning his second Oscar nomination has some people scratching their heads.
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"I would never have anticipated that," Yahoo! Movies contributor Thelma Adams told ABC News.
But it's precisely because of playing against expectations that Hill is up for his second Academy Award for best supporting actor. As the outrageous sidekick Donnie Azoff to Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort, in "The Wolf of Wall Street," Hill is once again earning accolades.
"He's made a hard transition," Adams acknowledged. "He's proved he can be an actor, not just a comic."
Hill, 30, seems to have found his sweet spot by playing the ultimate sidekick to the hero.
"He's the wing man, he's the buddy, he's the one that makes the hero looks good," Adams said. "He's Hardy to somebody else's Laurel."
In the 2011 film, "Moneyball," he plays the metrics-obsessed assistant general manager to Brad Pitt's general manager. Playing against type paid off and earned him his first Oscar nomination.
In his latest role, he jumped at the chance to work with Martin Scorsese in "Wolf," taking the Screen Actors Guild minimum salary, $60,000.
"They gave me the lowest amount of money possible," he told Howard Stern. "I said, 'I will sign the paper tonight. Fax me the papers tonight.' I want to sign them tonight before they change their mind."
In a way, Hill's career has come full circle. Discovered by Dustin Hoffman, he made his film debut opposite the veteran actor in the offbeat indie film "I Heart Huckabees."
That led to comic roles in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," followed by leading roles in "Superbad" and "Get Him to the Greek."
"That's a lot of success for a young guy," Adams said.
Then, in 2010, Hill took a step back and accepted a role in the Sundance hipster dramedy "Cyrus."
"That's kind of a turning point for him," Adams said. "Before he was doing straight-out comedy. But 'Cyrus' was his crossover."
After "Moneyball" director Bennett Miller saw Hill in "Cyrus," he cast him in the role of assistant general manager Peter Brand, giving the young actor a chance to show "a side of himself that people didn't see before," Adams said.
Hill, who lost weight after "Moneyball" with Pitt's encouragement, hasn't turned his back on comedy completely, though. His buddy remake of "21 Jump Street" with Channing Tatum was so successful they are working on the sequel, "22 Jump Street." His ensemble stoner comedy, "This Is the End," was a box office hit the same year as "Wolf."
But it's his meaty supporting roles in "Wolf" and "Moneyball" that are earning him comparisons to another famous sidekick, Joe Pesci.
"Is Jonah Hill the next Phillip Seymour Hoffman? No," Adams said. "He doesn't have that range, but he can play drama. And he chooses his dramatic parts wisely and seems to have found his groove."