Movie Machine

The Difference Between Miami and Everywhere Else, According to Jonah Hill

Actor Jonah Hill is a New Yorker by way of Los Angeles who bounces around the world to shoot major Hollywood movies. Efraim Diveroli is a Miami entrepreneur who spent his 20s peddling weapons around the world and, in 2007, supplied US troops in Afghanistan with $300 million worth of Chinese ammunition. The two lives converge in War Dogs, which finds Hill stepping into Diveroli's well-worn shoes to chronicle an inconceivable story.

With the globetrotting thriller hitting theaters this weekend, we asked the nomadic thespian to weigh in on the locations he visited while shooting. Do people recognize Hill in Romania? Is Las Vegas fun for a famous person? Miami -- what?

Miami

"Miami is like so much in the DNA of Efraim. It's not in a negative way, but everyone in Miami is on their hustle. They've got their clothing company, or their hip-hop, or their restaurant they're working with. It's very mover and shaker-y. It's very loud, vibrant, colorful culture, which is a big part of Efraim. And it's a really big immigrant culture. So many people come from Cuba and Haiti, and they land in America for the first time in Miami. They really are after their version of their American dream. I think Efraim is a real embodiment of someone who wants to live his American dream, get his piece of the pie. I think Miami says so much about this story.

"People there really wear and drive their wealth. I think it's easy to get caught up in that there, and to really want that for yourself. I found myself dressing differently when I was there than I normally do. I dress in my nicer clothes. I especially love the Latin influence of the culture there. That's my favorite part of the culture there.

"I make a playlist for every scene that I do, to stay in the tone of everything. Efraim's playlist was a lot of [what you hear] in Miami: booty-bass, like 2 Live Crew, and a lot of Rick Ross and Stitches, and music that really got me in the zone of bravado as opposed to some more deep, soulful music that maybe, would be more for an introspective character."

jonah hill in war dogs
Warner Bros. Pictures

Morocco

"We shot Morocco for Jordan and Iraq. Morocco is a really interesting place. So different than anywhere I've ever been. It's a Muslim country, which I never spent time in, which I enjoyed. People would recognize me in Morocco, but not as much as in the States, or more Americanized countries. I really enjoyed it there, actually. It's so foreign. The [biggest difference] is language. You go to cool restaurants, and market places and stuff, and you get the flavor through the food and the music of the culture, for sure." 

Romania

"We [also] shot Romania as Albania. It's very eastern European, for sure. It was a very strong sense of that. The thing really is, I'm a big animal guy. I love animals, and there was so many stray dogs. That was the hardest part for me. Tons, and tons, every street would be 20 stray dogs. 

"And I found that it was a little harder for me to walk around unrecognized there. It's so bizarre -- I go to different countries and I never know. In Japan, because comedies don't do well in Japan, I'm only known for Moneyball and Wolf of Wall Street. It's always different everywhere you go."

Las Vegas

"I've shot there before, and I really like the chaos of shooting in a casino. It's a challenge, because people are there, and they're there on their vacation, and if they're seeing a movie being shot, they're attracted to see what's going on -- especially with Bradley [Cooper] having been in The Hangover films. But I always think I'm really lucky to have my job, where you get to live out your extremities through your work. I live a pretty mellow lifestyle, but it's interesting to get to live the life of someone like Efraim for a few months. 

"It's hard not to take it home with you. I felt bad a lot, playing Efraim. Todd [Phillips, the director] would be like, 'Why do you look sad?' I'd be like, 'I just don't like playing this person a lot of the time.' He's like, 'But, he's got so much swagger, and he's so flamboyant!' I'm like, 'I get that, but it's like he uses people's trust and love to manipulate them.' That, for me, would just get depressing a lot of the time.

"So I wouldn't say I'm a Vegas guy by any means. I get pretty depressed there pretty quickly. But we saw Elton John one night. We made the most of it!"

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment Editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.