Jonah Hill got his acting break in Hollywood after impressing Dustin Hoffman by prank calling his friends
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Jonah Hill has opened up about how he first got into acting, aided by prank calls he performed for Dustin Hoffman.
The idea of Jonah Hill getting into the industry off the back of a series of prank calls isn't really as outrageous as it first seems - the 39-year-old best known for his dynamic, nuanced and side-splitting comedic performances whether it be in Wolf of Wall Street or 21 Jump Street.
However, it's pretty impressive Hill's prank calls were up to such a high standard at the age of 19 - my prank calls with my mates when I was younger being ruined in the first 30 seconds with fits of giggles and a complete break out of character - that they led to Dustin Hoffman taking interest in his dreams of becoming an actor.
Hill became friends with Dustin Hoffman's kids while studying in New York and attending open mic nights.
He told Fuse: "It was like storytelling and poetry, and they were all really serious and I would write fake ones which were dark and serious and only a couple of friends knew they were fake.
"Eventually I became friends with Jake and Becky Hoffman. [...] They really liked what I was doing."
After being introduced to Dustin, Hill ended up making prank call CDs for the Academy Award winning actor.
Challenged by Dustin to call various friends and strangers too, Hill was tasked with trying to keep the person on the phone for as long as possible.
The actor told The Jewish Journal: "I had this bit where I’d phone people, pretend to be a celebrity’s assistant and ask for outlandish things."
In one instance, Hill managed to get the owner of a hotel to agree to install a tank for a pet seal after pretending to be Tobey Maguire's assistant.
So convincing were Hill's portrayals, Dustin helped get him an audition for I Heart Huckabees.
"Dustin one day was like, 'I'm going to put you in a movie. I think you'd be really good in a movie'. And I was like thanks, and took it as a compliment but never asked him about it," Hill recalled.
After returning to LA in the summer, Hill received a phone call one day to come and meet Dustin and walked into a house to find himself face-to-face with I Heart Huckabees director and cast members 'David O. Russell, Lily Tomlin and Jason Schwartzman'.
"And they're all listening to the prank call CDs I made and my mind was blown, I was really freaked out," Hill explained.
Hill may have been freaked out, but his prank call CDs led to an audition and what ended up being his film debut.
While prank calls may seem like an odd way to end up as one of Hollywood's best known actors, Hill explained he's always viewed them as 'one of the best improv exercises you can do'.
"Because you’re never put on the spot that heavily in a scene. It’s the most jagged, manoeuvrable situation possible because you’re dealing with a real person," the actor notes.
Hill's role in I Heart Huckabees helped put him on the map and led him to feature in The 40-Year-Old Virgin - and the rest is history.