The Jonah Hill transformation story is a one-two punch. He’s broken out of comedies by nailing a good dramatic part (i.e.. baseball player analyzer Peter Brand) in a great film, Moneyball. And he’s slimmed down with a healthier diet and (presumably) a more moderate lifestyle. He’s a walking metaphor for “you can up your game and change your life.”

Jonah Hill in Toronto last September. (For some reason I forgot to take a closeup during our chat.)

Some have said that Hill’s thinner shape makes him somehow less funny. I don’t think it’s the weight. I think it’s the 1959 certified public accountant haircut that he’s been walking around with since last September. Audiences expect funny guys to look wild and rambunctious on some level, so Hill just needs to grow the hair out a bit and maybe add some whiskers. That should take care of it. You can’t look too regulated.

Last night I sat down with Hill in a room adjacent to where Moneyball was playing. We went over the usual topics and had an easy chat. The time flew. One of the things that just popped out of my mouth was a suspicion that if Stanley Kubrick had lived and was still churning out films, he’d probably want to use Hill. Kubrick liked personality guys like James Cagney, and Hill, I think, fits that mold. His energy doesn’t push through in Moneyball (it’s a very subtle performance) but it has in most of his films so far, and I think the Great Stanley K. would have seen that.

Here‘s the mp3 of our chat.

I just wrote this for the previous piece about the Pitt-Hill Moneyball q & a:

“The 28 year-old Hill slips into a new realm or membrane of some kind in Moneyball. His Peter Brand character is mostly about analytical brilliance, but he’s a guy who loves to stay out of things. His greatest comfort is blending in with the walls and the furniture. The pleasure of Hill’s performance is in the silences, the proddings, the unspoken stuff, the stillnesses, the looks of terror and trepidation.

“It’s a major growth-spurt role, and absolutely deserving of Best Supporting Actor honors, partly because Hill’s decision not to do just raunchy comedies like Get Him To The Greek and The Sitter represents the best impulse that an actor can have, which is to move up the ladder by growing his or her game.

Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball