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The Untold Truth Of Jonah Hill

Jonah Hill has become an unlikely force in Hollywood. His early work as a foul-mouthed comedian was so successful, he seemed destined to remain one of Hollywood's go-to joke slingers for the rest of his career. However, sticking with the formula wasn't in the cards for Hill. Starting around 2010, he started working overtime to show off his remarkable range as an actor. He hasn't stopped doing raunchy comedy entirely, granted, but he's become much more focused on serious fare, as well as his craft as a writer and director. This has paid off: Hill has been nominated for two Academy Awards for his performances in "Moneyball" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." Recent years have also seen him explore voice acting, adding yet another talent to his arsenal.

Considering Hill's versatility and age, it seems likely he'll be a major player in movies and television for several more decades. However, with around 20 years of professional experience under his belt (alongside his "always willing to share" attitude and self-deprecating sense of humor), Hill has already created a fascinating and multifaceted career. This the untold truth of Jonah Hill, from the stories behind his tattoos to the lucrative roles he's turned down.

Early ties to music

Jonah Hill was born in 1983. He had a fairly well-to-do upbringing that was always entertainment-adjacent: His mother, Sharon, worked in the world of fashion, and his dad, Richard, worked in the music industry. In fact, Richard worked with one of the most recognizable rock bands of the '80s and '90s — Guns N' Roses. No, he wasn't the rhythm guitar player behind the big names or anything like that. He was the band's tour accountant.

Richard Feldstein (Hill's birth name is Jonah Hill Feldstein) apparently worked with the legendary band for a number of years, though Hill downplays the connection. He's stated in different interviews that his dad toiled behind the scenes to ensure everything ran smoothly for the notorious rockers. "It wasn't like I was going to Guns N' Roses concerts when I was four years old or anything," Hill clarified in an interview with CBS. "And it's not like Axl Rose is like, 'Oh, I'm gonna go party with my accountant tonight!'" Still, it's a pretty cool link to have.

Acting runs in the family

Jonah Hill isn't the only Hollywood denizen in his family. If you're searching your memories for another actor named "Hill," you're barking up the wrong tree. Hill's sister Beanie Feldstein uses their family's actual last name, and she's proven every bit as adept at comedy as her older brother. In fact, once you know Beanie Feldstein is Jonah Hill's little sis, it becomes very obvious they're related — they share impeccable comedic timing and a family resemblance.

Though the actress' real name is Elizabeth, her childhood nickname has stuck with her into her acting career. She's 10 years younger than Jonah, but she's not far behind him in terms of notoriety. Feldstein is best known for starring as Molly in 2019's "Booksmart," an absolutely hilarious film that earned an avalanche of critical acclaim. Recent years have seen her gain further fame as Jenna on "What We Do in the Shadows," a series regularly hailed as one of the funniest things on television.

Like her big brother, Feldstein has also started branching into more dramatic roles. She played the supporting role of Jenna in 2017's "Lady Bird," and is set to portray Monica Lewinsky in "American Crime Story: Impeachment."

A celebrity roomie

Hill shares some impressive chemistry with actor Justin Long. That isn't just due to the professional skills of both men — Long and Hill are actually very good friends. For a period of time early in their careers, they even lived together.

On a 2016 episode of "Watch What Happens Live," Long was quizzed about the best and worst parts of living with Hill before the two made it big. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Long's fondest memory of living with Hill is how much the two laughed. The worst part, however, was the mess: Neither man is terribly neat, so things just got worse and worse in their home. Eventually, the pair started bickering over little things "like an old married couple," as Long revealed in 2009.

The duo have appeared in a number of films together. The first of that number, 2006's "Accepted," was actually one of Hill's first starring roles. Long and Hill went on to take part in 2007's"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," 2009's "Funny People," and other funny flicks. 

A Maroon 5 wedding

Jonah Hill's family is entwined with the music industry. Not only did his father serve as Guns N' Roses' accountant, Hill's elder brother, Jordan Feldstein, managed several prominent acts before his death at age 40. One of Feldstein's clients, pop super-group Maroon 5, actually has very deep ties to Hill's family — frontman Adam Levine became buds with the brothers in childhood.

Speaking to Howard Stern in 2016, Hill explained that he and Levine have known each other since junior high. They essentially "lived at each other's houses," and Hill considers Levine something of an elder brother to this day. It's fitting, then, that Levine asked Hill to officiate his  2014 wedding to model Behati Prinsloo.

Hill was more than happy to accommodate, and even managed to crack a few jokes — while still trying to be thoughtful and respectful of the situation, of course. However, Hill also said the experience was exhausting: He told Stern that once his duties were over, he left the party after only half an hour.

Keeping things cheap in The Wolf of Wall Street

By the time 2013 rolled around, Jonah Hill was becoming a major player in Hollywood. He'd been part of several extremely successful comedies, and had also received his first Oscar nod for his role in "Moneyball." Even so, there were a few directors and projects that could make the budding star reveal his inner fanboy. One such director came calling that year: Martin Scorsese.

Hill was so interested in working with Scorsese that he took the SAG minimum salary for the role of Donnie Azoff in 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street." For those keeping track at home, the SAG minimum salary for a role in a production of that size is $60,000. Though that's still an impressive amount of cash to most of us, it pales in comparison to other salaries for the film: Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie's star, made $10 million.

Hill said the opportunity to work with Scorsese overrode anything else. He went so far as to say that he would have paid Scorsese himself, if that's what he needed to do to be in the film. The role proved a good fit: Scorsese got a great deal on an incredible actor, and Hill netted his second Oscar nomination.

Crank calling for Dustin Hoffman

Hill's talent and versatility speak volumes, but even the most skilled individuals can use some help breaking into the business. Luckily for Hill, he had ties to the entertainment industry that helped open doors. One of Hill's oldest friends is Jake Hoffman, son of legendary actor Dustin Hoffman. This bond helped Hill land his first film role in the 2004 ensemble comedy "I Heart Huckabees." 

Hill owes the Hoffman family a lot, but he didn't only get the role because he's friendly with the Hollywood clan: Hill impressed the Hoffman household years prior, on the strength of his talent alone. How did he do this, you ask? Apparently, when Hill used to hang out at the Hoffman house, Dustin Hoffman would enlist the young funnyman in making crank calls to his famous friends. The goal was to keep the call going as long as possible, a task Hill claims is wonderful for developing one's improvisational skills: As he put it, crank calling is "the most jagged, maneuverable situation possible because you're dealing with a real person." He handled this risky set-up with such aplomb that, years later, Hoffman helped him net an audition for "Huckabees."

Getting into shape

Though Hill's comedy has never revolved entirely around the fact that he's a big dude, there have often been jokes made about his stature in films like 2012's "21 Jump Street" and 2007's "Superbad." Eventually, Hill decided that he'd be better off professionally and personally if he lost some weight, and so he did what we'd all do in that situation: He called Channing Tatum for advice.

In a 2016 interview with Jimmy Fallon, Hill recalled the conversation with his trademark humor: "I called Channing Tatum, and I was like, 'Hey, if I eat less and go to a trainer, will I get in good shape?' and he was like, 'Yeah, you dumb motherf*****, of course you will.'"

Hill has said that he wishes he could tell people he discovered some secret, magical technique that contributed to his weight loss, but that this simply isn't the case. What got the job done for him was going to see a nutritionist, who worked with him to change his diet and lifestyle. It's a lot less exciting than "a pill or a genie," as he put it, but a lot more effective.

A traumatic injury

If you've ever seen Jonah Hill in short sleeves, you've probably noticed the scar on his right arm. It almost looks like a birthmark, and circles the entirety of his forearm before disappearing onto his bicep. How did he get this distinctive scar? Hill revealed in 2010 that it came from a terrifying accident he endured in his youth.

As the actor detailed to Rolling Stone, Hill began acting out as a teenager when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. One night, when Hill was 15 years old, he and a friend snuck out in an SUV. Hill had his arm out the window when the car flipped mid-joyride. The next thing Hill knew, he was waking up in the hospital, hearing doctors discuss whether or not they'd need to amputate his arm, which had been dragged across the pavement.

The incident was terrifying — and sobering. The sight of his father and mother (who has since recovered from her bout with cancer) crying in his hospital room made Hill realize he needed to get his act together. Today, he uses the scar as motivation: "I look at this scar every day. That reminds me to work hard."

Skateboarding into a directorial debut

Jonah Hill contains multitudes, like so many creative individuals. One of the actor's early interests, in fact, inspired his directorial debut, 2018's "Mid90s:" The wide, wild world of skateboarding.

Hill grew up with a love for skateboarding, and he poured his heart into the depiction of skate culture in"Mid90s." This effort paid off: Many outlets praised the film for capturing skateboarding with a passion and authenticity no mainstream film has before. Hill was extremely careful to avoid falling into stereotypes of skate culture, and for good reason. As he told Vice, he knew that skaters would be skeptical of "the kid from 'Superbad'" making a movie about them. But of course, their love of skateboarding is also Hill's, even if his career isn't oriented around it. He put the work in to ensure he paid homage to both the wider culture of skateboarding and its '90s era. It paid off: "Mid90s" was well received by audiences and critics alike. With this success under his belt, we likely haven't seen the last of Hill's work behind the camera.

Turning down major roles

As Jonah Hill has branched into more and more genres, major franchises have come calling. Hill is fairly selective about the roles he takes, however. In fact, he's turned down a few films that would have been surefire paydays.

One major film Hill turned down is 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Apparently, producer Steven Spielberg was impressed with Hill's "Superbad" performance, and thought he'd make a great fit alongside Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. Hill consulted his friend Seth Rogen, and the two ultimately concluded that it wouldn't be in Hill's best interests to hop on board.

Early on in his career, Hill was worried about being typecast as "the guy from 'Superbad.'" As a result, he turned down a role in 2009's "The Hangover." In fact, he didn't just turn down one role: He was approached by director Todd Phillips for any of the three leads. But Hill wanted to start moving into dramatic roles, and so he refused.

More recently, Hill turned down a role in Matt Reeves' 2022 movie "The Batman," which stars Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight. Hill was apparently in talks early on to play one of the film's villains — most likely the Riddler (which went to Paul Dano) or the Penguin (Colin Farrell). However, he turned Reeves down. Not even superhero mega-bucks can tempt Hill into doing something he doesn't want to do.

Losing out to Justin Timberlake

Jonah Hill has the luxury of being a bit choosy when it comes to his roles — two Oscar nominations and multiple blockbuster comedies give a man the range and clout to do that. However, sometimes directors can be choosy too, and not every role Hill wants is in the cards for him.

That was especially true early on in Hill's career, when he was mostly seen as a purely comedic actor. Just as he was trying to branch out into more dramatic roles, Sony Pictures expressed interest in casting Hill as Sean Parker in 2010's "The Social Network." As Hill tells it, director David Fincher wasn't into it. "It was between me and Justin Timberlake for that part ... Obviously [Fincher's] the man, but he was not having me." It's all water under the bridge, however, as he went on to say Timberlake is "amazing" in the role.

Timberlake's portrayal of Sean Parker is indeed fantastic, but it certainly would have been interesting to see what Hill might have done in the role, had Fincher been aligned with the studio brass.

Hospitalized by fake drugs

Plenty of actors have been hospitalized for drug overdoses, and we've all heard rumors along the lines of "so-and-so was actually doing drugs in such-and-such movie scene." That said, it's still pretty rare to hear of an actor who overdoses on fake drugs. Yet that's essentially what happened to Jonah Hill when filming "The Wolf of Wall Street."

In a 2016 interview with Bill Simmons, Hill recalled snorting fake cocaine for "seven months every day" while filming. Even though the "cocaine" used was actually just Vitamin D powder, Hill told Simmons that putting that much of any foreign substance into your lungs is a bad idea. "I did so much fake cocaine in 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' I got bronchitis for three weeks," Hill detailed. "I had to be hospitalized."

There you have it: Real drugs will send you to the hospital, and fake drugs will also send you to the hospital. The moral here? Don't snort things.

Taking revenge on Leonardo DiCaprio

The set of "The Wolf of Wall Street" has some legendary stories associated with it, and Jonah Hill is happy to throw his own into the ring. As he detailed in 2013, he plotted a particularly nasty revenge against Leonardo DiCaprio, due to some rough treatment Hill received at the leading man's hands.

As Hill explained, "The Wolf of Wall Street" contains scenes requiring him and DiCaprio to act out physical fights. "He basically beat the crap out of me for six months — and he's bigger than me, so I couldn't really retaliate and cause damage," Hill said. Hungry for revenge, Hill came up with something devious. In one scene they shot near the end of filming, DiCaprio and Hill's characters eat sushi. Hill's character is supposed to take the last piece and eat it when asked, but Hill went off-script and told DiCaprio's Jordan to eat it instead. DiCaprio complied. Then it happened again ... and again ... and again. "So he had to do 100 takes of eating [sushi] over and over again," Hill remembered, "and I was like, 'This is my revenge right here'."

Later that night, Hill's plan unfolded in full: DiCaprio puked up all that sushi as Hill and Scorsese laughed their butts off. Now that's revenge.

Meaningful tattoos

Jonah Hill has a number of tattoos only he knows the meaning of. However, he's got a few that are pretty obviously tied to his loved ones, and one or two more with easily discernible origins.

To start, Hill has a few arm tattoos tied to his family. The very first ink he ever got can be seen on his left forearm: It's a heart with the words "Nancy Rules!" written within it. Nancy is Hill's grandmother, with whom the actor has always had a close connection. On his other forearm, Hill sports a tattoo that reads "Hello, Beanie!" in bold black letters. Beanie is, of course, his younger sister, Beanie Feldstein.

One of Hill's tattoos can be easily recognized by any pop culture geek: Bart Simpson's skull is inked into his right bicep. As Hill recalled in 2018, when his parents asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, he told them he wanted to "live in Springfield." When they told him that was impossible, he settled on the next best thing:  "I want to write what Homer says." Hill's Bart tattoo even became a bit prophetic: Hill voiced a character on "The Simpsons" in 2009.