Jonah Hill Had a Four-Hour Meeting With Martin Scorsese, Got Advice From Ethan Coen Before Directing ‘Mid90s’

Hill was also inspired by Seth Rogen during the making of his A24-backed coming-of-age movie.
Jonah Hill attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibition, in New York2018 MET Museum Costume Institute Benefit Gala, New York, USA - 07 May 2018
Jonah Hill
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Jonah Hill has amassed an impressive list of collaborators throughout his years in Hollywood as an actor, from Martin Scorsese to Bennett Miller and Quentin Tarantino, so it’s only fitting he relied on some of them to steer him in the right direction before cameras started rolling on his feature directorial debut, “Mid90s.” The night before Hill kicked off production, for instance, he ran into Ethan Coen at a restaurant (via Vulture) and asked the legendary filmmaker for advice.

Coen, who directed Hill in “Hail, Caesar!,” told the new director: “Just try and enjoy it. I was so stressed out during my first movie, I didn’t enjoy anything. Even try to enjoy the stress. Just enjoy the newness of it.”

Prior to seeking advice from one of the Coen brothers, Hill had an extensive meeting with Martin Scorsese. Hill earned his second Oscar nomination for starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Hill told Vulture he originally expected to meet with Scorsese for 15-minutes, but the conversation ended up lasting four hours. Hill wouldn’t divulge the specifics of his meeting with Scorsese, but he did marvel at how amazing it was to watch Scorsese on the “Wolf” set.

Hill remembered Scorsese’s gift of being able to solve set problems in 30 to 45 seconds, which the actor-director estimates would take other directors hours. “That’s some combination of genius and experience,” Hill said “It’s so awe-inspiring that you don’t even aspire to it.”

Hill also looked to his friend and collaborator Seth Rogen for inspiration. Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote “Superbad,” which gave Hill his breakout starring role when he was just 24 years old.

“I got to watch Seth and Evan and [director] Greg Mottola make something that was truly what they wanted to make,” Hill said. “It was their voice, their ethic, their aesthetic, their emotions.”

The “Superbad” team’s creative control was never lost on Hill, who wanted to emulate that kind of creative authority on his directorial debut. “Mid90s” stars Sunny Suljic (“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) as a young teenager who falls into a crew of skateboarders in Los Angeles. Hill said his goal for his debut was to “show what it’s like to try and make your way” and “how acceptance happens so gradually or not at all.”

A24 is world premiering “Mid90s” at the Toronto International Film Festival before an October 19 theatrical release. Head over to Vulture to read more from Hill’s interview.

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