Sidekick to Leading Man

The star of the movie "Superbad" on being a goofy, regular guy in Hollywood.


Aug. 3, 2007 — -- Jonah Hill doesn't look that different from the thousands of "colorful" characters and fans who swarm Comic-Con, the largest comic convention in the world, where being a "nerd" has become the standard.

But Hill is different. He is one of the stars of this summer's new movie "Superbad," the next big comedy from Judd Apatow, the creative genius behind "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

This not-so-average looking movie star is comfortable being part of what one critic dubbed the "Season of the Goofball." "I don't care. I'm not offended by it. I think I am a goofy guy," said Hill.

Hill is poised to be the next member of the Apatow troupe to make it big in Hollywood. He finally goes from being the funny sidekick to the leading man in the raunchy teen comedy "Superbad."

"The movie is really about two best friends, myself and Michael Cera. It takes place in one night, like an 'American Graffiti' type of movie. We're trying to buy alcohol for these girls that we like because we think it will make them like us … but it's really a movie about you and your best friend."

For someone who never even aspired to be an actor, this is a dream role for Hill. "I became friends with Dustin Hoffman's kids Jake and Becky, who are great. We just randomly became friends. They introduced me to their dad, Dustin, and whenever he came to town we would all just kind of hang out. Dustin thought I was really funny and … he got me an audition for the movie "I Heart Hukabees."

If he didn't want to be an actor before the "Huckabees," he certainly caught the bug after. Hill quit school and moved back in with his parents in Los Angeles to pursue acting full-time -- a move that would make many parents nervous.

Hill laughs as he remembers how he broke the news to his father. "I told him, 'Look I don't think I've ever really been good at anything else. I think I'm pretty funny, just let me try this.' He let me leave school for a year, and in that year period I did absolutely nothing. … I mean, I tried but you know, kept getting rejected.

Persistence paid off, however. Eventually, he got a break -- a big break. Hill had the chance to audition for his idol, Judd Apatow, who created Hill's favorite show, "Freaks and Geeks," and was directing a film called "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Hill's improvisation skills and comedic timing won him a memorable cameo.

"Virgin's" lucky break, though, was just the start for Hill. Seth Rogan, the writer and actor in "Superbad," said, "I remember going to Judd, 'I met this guy, and we should hire him.' He just seemed like a really nice guy. And we did and when he actually came in and shot the scene. I remember thinking, 'damn, this guy's going to steal a lot of work from me in the upcoming years.' I thought I better get him on my team."

Hill is not only on Rogan's team, he is following in his footsteps; Rogan went from a supporting role in "Virgin" to the lead in "Knocked Up." They seem to be ushering in a new breed of leading men -- rather than the hunky Brad Pitts and George Clooneys of Hollywood, films like "Virgin" and "Superbad" feature men you can imagine seeing in your grocery store -- not just on screen.

Hill said, "Our movies are attempting to be super-realistic. I think that guys like me and Seth and Steve Carell are people that you know in your life. Hopefully, just a little funnier." Rogan agreed, "It's harder to be funny if you're handsome than if you're very normal-looking. It's just more relatable. You're the underdog. I mean it's funny to see people struggle, and you don't buy that Brad Pitt is struggling -- you know that guy could be the most skill-less guy in the world, but if you look like that you will be fine for the rest of your life."

Whether or not Hill is the typical leading man, he definitely has a following. Walking down Hollywood Boulevard, one fan ran up and said, "Let me just give you a hug and hug it out. Cool, it was nice to meet you!"

But Hill is keeping humble. He's not sure if he has officially "made it" in Hollywood, but he said, "I have more opportunities to make movies, which is all I really wanted." Like Rogan before him, Hill plans to write and direct films, and for now, to simply enjoy the ride as the "regular and somewhat goofy guy."

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