Jonah Hill on ‘Mid90s’: ‘This Is Me Coming Out As Who I Am’ (Listen)

PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.

With 15 years in the film business behind him, 34-year-old actor Jonah Hill has made the transition to directing with “Mid90s,” a raw, personal story of his youth brought to life by an array of actors and non-actors. Inspired by filmmakers like Mike Nichols and Barry Levinson, who moved from comedy to drama with equal aplomb, Hill says he held out on tackling his first feature behind the camera because, after all, you only ever get one crack at it. The result is a work that has been compared to the cinema of Larry Clark and Richard Linklater, but nevertheless pulses with its own distinctive voice.

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“I really wanted to take time and have patience to wait until I was mature enough emotionally, had my own voice and had a story that really meant something to me,” Hill says. “I was writing a play with Spike Jonze and we would do this exercise where we would talk about the screenplays we were writing and walk each other through the story. Originally [‘Mid90s’] was about something else and it kept flashing back to when the kids were young and skateboarding together. Spike wisely pointed out I was far more exuberant about the flashbacks, the B-story, than I was the A-story, so I kind of just made it all about that.”

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