Jonah Hill Talks ‘War Dogs’ and Getting into Character by Listening to Music

Actor Jonah Hill

“When I started taking acting classes, it was the first time teachers were like, ‘You’re good and you should keep doing this.'” – Jonah Hill

After seeing Jonah Hill in movies like Superbad, few probably imagine that he’d end up an Oscar-nominated actor (and be nominated twice in three years!) But since his early years as an actor, Hill has become more selective when it comes to roles. While he won’t shy away from comedies like 21 Jump Street or Sausage Party, he also looks for films that are comedic but have roles he can do more with. One of those films is War Dogs, which is based on a real-life pair of arms dealers from Miami Beach who were more beach bro than weaponry kingpins. In an interview with the New York Times, Hill speaks about how his method of choosing roles and getting into character have changed since his early days as an actor.

Hill came around to acting partially because he was encouraged to do it by his teachers. He recalls, “In school I was always a decent athlete, a decent student, but I was never exceptional at any of that stuff. When I started taking acting classes, it was the first time teachers were like, ‘You’re good and you should keep doing this.'”

While Hill used to choose his roles by script, he has realized that in many cases a good or bad script doesn’t reflect the final product. He says, “If you have a great script, it’s hard to fuck it up — but I’ve kind of had that happen. And I’ve had scripts that were not even complete, and the director was amazing, and I ended up being proud of the movie.” In fact, Hill now mostly chooses his roles by who is directing the project because even if a movie that appears so-so has a great character, he points out, “You don’t want to be a cool character in a bad movie.”

One way in which Hill gets into character is to listen to the type of music he thinks his character would be into. To play an “arms-dealing bro” like Efraim Diveroli, Hill says he listened to “a lot of cheesy, baller-y Miami booty bass… I imagined him listening to music that revved him up to lie to someone. A lot of the people with confidence that you play, you try to find their deep insecurity. I don’t think Efraim is a deeply, deeply insecure person.”

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