MovieWeb goes on the set of Get Him To the Greek to talk to Jonah Hill about the upcoming Nicholas Stoller comedy and his chemistry with comedian Russell Brand
"He is lovely. He is a very funny, sparkly individual. He is bright, and he has a clear understanding of what he wants to do. I like the chemistry we have together. We both look different. That's why we are doing this. He is interesting." Russell Brand is quick to compliment his co-star Jonah Hill on the set of their upcoming musical road-trip-to-Hell comedy Get Him to the Greek. The two actors first met on the Hawaiian-based set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was directed by Get Him to the Greek's own Nicholas Stoller. While the two didn't share many scenes that first go around, Stoller saw magic in this odd pairing and decided to write a new project specifically for them, "It was actually the first table read of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. They were hilarious together. They really had a good chemistry. From that moment on I thought they should be in a movie together."
That seed of an idea turned into Get Him to the Greek. In the film, Brand is once again reprising his rock star alter ego Aldous Snow. A sex crazed, alcohol drenched, drug bathed misanthrope that embodies every band cliché in the book. But it is Jonah Hill who gives the film its real backbone. The young comedic upstart plays Aaron Green, a well-meaning Record Industry intern that finds himself faced with the task of getting Snow from London to Los Angeles to kick off his all-too-important comeback tour. He is the audiences' way into this crazy story, and he gives Get Him to the Greek something resembling a beating heart. Green is a wholly new creation of Stoller's, as the writer/director felt Jonah's Matthew the Waiter from Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a little too creepy to identify with on a grand scale.
This is not a sequel or a spin-off, really. Get Him to the Greek just happens to share a central character with its predecessor. Stoller tells us, "I wanted to do something completely original. I thought a spin-off would make sense. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is really a romantic comedy. This is a road trip adventure that is totally different. This takes place a few years after Forgetting Sarah Marshall happened. When we were in Hawaii shooting, I pitched Russell and Jonah Hill this movie because I thought it would be fun for them to do together. They spend the whole movie trying to figure each other out. What makes them tick. I think they're different in interesting ways. It's not like there's a straight man and a crazy guy. They're both hilarious and one is just totally wild. Russell's character is completely off the wall and kind of dark. Jonah's character is trying to figure him out and be super positive. He is naïve and he gets punched in the face repeatedly throughout the course of the film."
Get Him to the Greek marks Jonah Hill's return to leading man status. The actor has been very careful about picking projects since the success of his hugely popular high school comedy Superbad. He doesn't want to tarnish the image of that Judd Apatow produced masterwork with something sub par. He decided to take on this particular project because he could deeply identify with the character he was being asked to portray. Which hadn't really been true of the scripts he'd received after becoming an overnight sensation with Superbad, "Aaron is a representative of the 25-year-old guy who's really trying to be in the music business. He doesn't know what that means yet. This is a taste of what the music business is. This is the seedier side of it. What seems fun in making music and being a part of something bigger comes with darkness. There is a darkness to being a famous person and a rock star. Like drug use and womanizing. No stability and no home life and no family. Aaron wants excitement. But then he gets excitement and he suddenly thinks that being normal isn't the worst thing in the world. And that being wild and crazy is maybe not the best thing in the world, either."
Jonah actually had some input into the script, as Nick approached him fairly early on in the creative process, "I went to Canter's deli one day and we're friends. We were just talking. It was right after Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He's like, "What do you want to do now?" I was having a hard time finding a movie that I wanted to take the lead in after Superbad. I love that movie so much. I took smaller parts along with some writing and producing jobs because I didn't want to jump out in front of a movie that I wasn't going to be as proud of. I really appreciate that movie. I didn't to star in movies and have them not be as good. It's scary to do a movie that people like. What if your next movie sucks? Nick says, 'I think you and Russell are really funny together. I have this idea. You have 72 hours to get him to Los Angeles from England, but he's off the wagon and going fuckin' crazy. You have to deal with this insane person.' I thought, 'I can see that being really funny.' I said to him, 'You should write it.' We pitched around ideas. Four or five of the main set pieces came up during that lunch. Then he went off and wrote a million drafts of the script."
Jonah agreed with Nick that Aaron Green should be a completely different character from Matthew the Waiter, whom he played in Sarah Marshall. "It was decided early on. Matthew is so weird and stalkerish, I wanted to play a normal guy. I wanted to be the audience's perspective. These people surrounding him are fuckin' crazy. I'm you. I'm the people watching, like, 'Whoa, what if I was in that position?' It would be very strange to watch a weird stalker guy be the main character in a movie. It'd be hard to find an emotional depth inside him at all." The film doesn't recognize Matthew the waiter, or make any reference to him, "It's weird. But when you watch the movie, hopefully you just won't notice that. Because it's a different story. We thought of ten different jokes to acknowledge this. But they all seemed so cheesy. Like, 'Have I met you before?' You just have to go out and establish that this is a totally different character. Audiences will understand that. There's a little reference to Sarah Marshall that I find funny. I don't want to give shit away. I don't want to give away any secrets. People will read that and be like, 'Why should I see the movie?' They don't want to know all the funny shit before it happens."
That said, we all know the ending, right? Aldous Snow gets to the Greek on time, doesn't he? "He dies. We all die. It's a nuclear explosion. I'm in a refrigerator completely safe." This is of course a joke, but Aaron Green is in pretty bad shape by the time he reaches that third and final triumphant act, "He's fucked. He's been run ragged for 72 hours. He hasn't slept. When you see the movie, you'll see the journey. How messed up I am from the beginning to getting here. They go all over. London, New York, Las Vegas. We detour from all these places we're supposed to be going. Aldous is fully off the wagon on heroin. I play a guy who's used to normal people. Aldous just takes Aaron through the fuckin' mud. He drags me through the mud with him. My character is not used to that. I don't think he's pissed. He's like, "Fuck, I don't want to get fired! I want to do well. And I love this guy's music." I'm a fan of his. I want him to succeed. But Aaron learns what a mess this guy really is underneath the persona. It's like when you meet some of these people that you really looked up to. They're a lot darker and weirder than you want them to be. And not as interesting. They say you shouldn't meet your heroes because they'll usually let you down. It's like Aaron's meeting a guy he really looks up to. Aldous is part of the reason why Aaron's in the music business. And the guy comes on like a complete wreck."
In the film, Sean Combs plays Aaron Green's boss, which wasn't at all intimidating for the young actor, "He's fuckin' great, man! You've just got to get him to be himself. That's the trick I'm learning throughout this movie. A lot of people who go through classical acting training don't understand our type of movie. Because it's improvisational and loose. If you just prepare to say your lines exactly how they were written, it's going to throw you off. Because I'm immediately going to say something that's not in the script. You're going to have to react completely differently than what you planned on doing. I have to ask Sean questions in the movie. When he has to get angry at me, I have to really make him angry. That's the idea. He's supposed to be angry at me. I'll do something to really piss him off while we're shooting. Then he'll start yelling at me for real. He'll start screaming at me." What does it take to get the iconic Sean Combs mad? "I interrupt him a lot. I ask him questions that have nothing to do with what he's talking about. This is while we're filming. Then I'll ask him questions as my character to his character. He finally just gets frustrated and starts yelling at me. It's really funny .That's what we end up using in all the cuts. I think he's starting to pick up on my methods. I do it a lot. I plan on being a director. I think you really have to fuck with people. You have to make them feel what you're trying to make them feel. If you're trying to make someone happy, you gotta try and make them happy. If you're trying to have a normal conversation, you've got to have a normal conversation. If you're trying to make them sad, you've got to make them sad. I think that's how you get real performances out of people. Stanley Kubrick made Shelley Duvall go crazy during The Shining. It's one of the best performances ever. Maybe he shouldn't have gone that far, but I love that movie."