By JENNIFER PIRONE and LAUREN EFFRON
Jonah Hill, who is Oscar-nominated for his role as Donnie Azoff, the sleazy sidekick in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," has long admired the film's director. So when the chance came to audition for Scorsese's film, Hill knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I was so passionate to Leo [co-star Leonardo DiCaprio] and to Martin Scorsese about why I needed to play him," Hill told ABC's Chris Connelly. "Because I recognized who Donnie was within society and I … have known people like this, people who value being excessively wealthy over anything else."
Hill, 30, wanted the role so badly, that he agreed to be paid $60,000 - a low cut by today's Hollywood standards - to keep the film within its budgetary restrictions.
But his wanting to please Scorsese put Hill in a tight spot when he was shooting a scene in which a drug dealer violently confronts Donnie.
"He's supposed to pull a gun on me and then he's supposed to punch me in the face," Hill said. "And we're shooting it and we do a couple takes… Scorsese's going, 'well, I don't know. It doesn't look good. Doesn't look good,' then he turns to me and he goes, 'Hey kid, you want to try one more [where] he hits you for real?'"
Not wanting to actually get punched in the face, Hill said he looked to DiCaprio, who plays lead role Jordan Belfort, to save him.
"I turned to Leo… because I'm never going to say no to Martin Scorsese, and Leo just, I'm looking at him like, 'please help,' … and then he just slowly looks away in the other direction," Hill said, laughing. "Leaving me hung out to dry basically… and I go, 'OK, alright, cool, alright, let's do this.'"
So the scene was reset, the drug dealer pulled back, and Hill took a real hit to the face.
"My big fake teeth that I wear split in half and fly out of my mouth, and I'm on the floor," Hill said. "Scorsese's like, 'get him new teeth and shoot his face because it's swelling.'"
But Hill would get his revenge on DiCaprio later, in a climatic sushi-eating scene that marks their characters' plunge from riches to rags.
"It's my favorite scene I've ever shot in any film," Hill said. "The line was for me to say to [DiCaprio], 'are you going to eat that last piece of yellowtail,' and then I'm supposed to eat it. And in the first take I just said, 'take that last piece of yellowtail,' … and so he had to eat it."
But in doing take after take, Hill said eating all of that sushi eventually caught up with DiCaprio.
"We did takes all night, and so he had to eat, like, 80 pieces of raw yellowtail," Hill said. "And by the end of the night, he was on the floor throwing up in a trash bin, and everyone was so concerned… and the only two people on the floor laughing were myself and Martin Scorsese."
Watch ABC Chris Connelly's full interview with Jonah Hill on the ABC Special, "Countdown to the Oscars," on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. ET.