Working alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and being directed by Martin Scorsese is a dream come true for most actors. This is how young comedic actor Jonah Hill felt when he got cast as Donnie Azoff, a “crack-smoking, fast-talking, morally unhinged stock-market hustler” in The Wolf of Wall St. While working on this epic film Jonah said he learned A LOT from genius director Scorsese. Here are the top 5 things he discovered:
1. Embrace the ugliness. This film has been quite controversial for its display of decadence and greed. But as an actor, Jonah says you need to go in all the way and embrace the character and the circumstances at hand in order to truthfully portray this guy. “They sent me the book and the script, so I read both a few times,” said Hill. “And Donnie just popped off the page to me, even though he’s someone I genuinely dislike. I met with Leo first, and I said, ‘I have to play this part. I’m the best person in the world to play this part. I know who this person is within society. He’s what’s wrong with society. He’s an animal, he doesn’t care about people’s feelings, he will do anything to further himself in the things that are not important, and I’m dying to play that.”
2. Take it to the limit. This film thrives on energy and extremes. As an actor, Jonah had to take his character to the limit because that was the nature of this film. If you can’t do that — you don’t get the part.
3. Relax. Hill auditioned with the scene in which his character meets Belfort in a diner: He spent two months studying the scene before he auditioned…then another two months rehearsing it in pre-production…and then a month or two thinking about it before Scorsese shot it. All this time he had to stay relaxed and calm enough to be able to get the job done.
4. Don’t relax too much. Jonah often felt insecure on-set with Leo & Scorsese being such big stars. He used this insecurity to work in his favor. He says “I work better from a place where I feel like I shouldn’t be somewhere. I feel like I have to fight to deserve a seat at the table, and that’s good for me. Any time I get comfortable I feel like I don’t do my best work.” It’s never good to get too comfortable!
5. Don’t worry about awards. When you’re working on a film and in character the last thing on your mind should be award nominations and award shows. As long as you go in and do your best work … the rest will fall into place. It’s important to not focus on the results and just be in the moment.