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Interview: Jonah Hill straightens up

Money man
By SEAN KERRIGAN  |  September 20, 2011

Jonah Hill

Jonah Hill isn't goofing around anymore. The Superbad star has embraced his inner math geek for his role in Moneyball, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis's best-selling book on Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who turned the baseball world on its head in 2002 when he cast aside his scouts and embraced statistics as a way to find undervalued players. Hill plays Beane's right-hand man, Peter Brand, whose computer-driven analysis helps restock the A's roster with a group of castoffs and has-beens that would go on to win a league-best 103 games that year. Hill was in town following the film's premiere at last weekend's Toronto International Film Festival.

>> READ: "Review: Moneyball" by Peter Keough <<

SO HOW WAS TORONTO? This whole thing doesn't feel real. I never thought I'd get an opportunity like this, and to do it with [director] Bennett [Miller] and Brad [Pitt] and Philip Seymour Hoffman and [screenwriters] Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, to have them do the premiere in front of 2500 people at the Toronto Film Festival, and to get a standing ovation — it just felt like a dream.

BUT THIS ISN'T YOUR FIRST ROLE. No, but it feels that way. The movie's about underdogs and being undervalued, and I feel a real connection to that. I always want to feel like an underdog. It feels very much like when I was promoting Superbad, because Superbad was my introduction to people: "Hey, I'm Jonah, I'd like to make movies. I hope you accept me." I was an unknown starring in a major motion picture, and I got very lucky and that movie was very popular, and I got to make a lot more movies like it. But now, it's not unusual to hear I'm in a comedy, because that's what you'd expect me to do. So with this film, I'm out here reintroducing myself, saying, "Hey, I'm Jonah, I'm in this film, Moneyball. It's a totally different film than you're used to seeing me do, and I hope you accept me and allow me to make some more." It really does feel like it felt with Superbad — it's another introduction, in a beautiful way, and a very surreal way.

HAD YOU READ THE BOOK? Yeah, I loved the book. Michael Lewis's book was great.

IS IT DIFFERENT KNOWING THE FILM HAS SOME VERY POPULAR SOURCE MATERIAL? It is. It's a little annoying [laughs] — annoying and scary. Scary because you want to do Michael Lewis justice because of his beautiful writing, and he allowed us to make this film. It's annoying because people — fans of the book — are so finicky and serious about it. To me, it's not about baseball at all. I've shown it to people who could care less about sports or baseball and they adore it because I think Bennett and Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian use baseball as a beautiful aesthetic backdrop to tell a really moving story about being undervalued.

SO IN THAT VEIN, IT'S NOT A TYPICAL JONAH HILL MOVIE, IT'S NOT A TYPICAL BRAD PITT MOVIE, IT'S NOT A TYPICAL BASEBALL MOVIE. . . . It's not a typical movie.

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  Topics: Features , Baseball, winning, new,  More more >
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