“I definitely wouldn’t call it fun,” remembers “War Dogs” star Jonah Hill about playing real life criminal Efraim Diveroli. In our recent webchat (watch above), he adds, “I would feel bad about the way I had to treat people while playing that person. And Efraim was also hard to drop, especially because I looked so different. It was definitely one of the most challenging things in that regard.”
The two-time Academy Award nominee (“Moneyball,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”) portrays the former arms dealer in the Warner Bros. dark comedy, which was based on true events. Along with his business partner and friend David Packouz (portrayed by Miles Teller), Diveroli started AEY, Inc. which supplied the U.S. Department of Defense with weapons and ammunition. When it was discovered AEY violated the American Arms Embargo against China, the operations were stopped and Diveroli was sentenced to four years in prison.
Though Hill did get to meet Packouz, he never met the real life Diveroli, which he says he actually preferred for the sake of his performance: “I didn’t get to meet this person which was a good thing because then you’re not tied to how somebody walks or talks or just doing an impression. It allowed for some freedom for example like the aesthetic. I didn’t look anything like Efraim, but that was how I saw the best way to physically and on the surface express who this person was.”
The role was a transformative one for Hill, who gained weight for the role, adapted himself to the character’s manipulative ways, and as he puts it have “major Trump tan.” One other thing Hill created for himself was a distinct laugh heard throughout the film: “That was something I came up with. I remember it as the day of us shooting in Romania and we had figured out the whole aesthetic and I still felt something was missing. And I remembered when I met David Packouz, who Miles plays, he said if you met Efraim once you never forgot him. And so to do that I tried to figure out a laugh that was unforgettable or unique, but not one that doesn’t fit the character or is just tacked on for no reason.”
It’s the transformation and performance itself that has garnered the Oscar nominee some of the best reviews of his career. He’s on the Golden Globe ballot for Best Comedy/Musical Actor, and Hill says award nominations and discussions are always humbling: “I’m incredibly flattered to be, if I am, in that conversation. It’s incredibly nice to do something and have it be acknowledged in some way like that. It never gets not incredibly special. I would be incredibly honored if that was the case.”
To hear how it was working with Todd Phillips, how the Oscar-winning “Whiplash” played a part in the process, and which of his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations shocked Hill the most, be sure to watch our interview above.
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