The Career Analyst: Jonah Hill

Yeah, we know how long it’s been since we’ve done one of these and those who enjoyed the three or four of these we’ve done thus far have probably been wondering why this hasn’t been as regular as we originally planned. Sadly, all the Oscar stuff we were writing, covering various festivals and other things got in the way, but we’re hoping to get back on track and at least do two of these a month, time-permitting.

This week, we’re going to look at the career of 28-year-old Jonah Hill, a comic actor who first captured the nation’s attention in 2007 when he appeared in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up and a few months later, had the real turning point in his career when paired with Michael Cera and newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse for Greg Mottola’s Superbad.

Since then, Hill has become an actor who could get a project made as well as doing some writing and producing culminating with this weekend’s action-comedy 21 Jump Street.

We’ve interviewed Hill a bunch of times over the years and he’s an actor we not only really like, but we actually have become a fan of his work because he brings a lot to every role he takes on, being equally as funny while providing his voice in family animated films as he is when doing R-rated humor for the college and older crowd. Hill has the kind of personality that gets him both on the late night circuit as well as the morning shows—he even cohosted with Kelly Ripa a few months back—which is a huge plus. It’s already proven to be quite lucrative for the young actor as he’s appeared or been involved with nine movies that have grossed over $100 million as you can see if you look at Jonah Hill By The-Numbers.

Hill appeared in his first movie in 2004 at the age of 21 with a small role in David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabee and he had a memorable cameo in Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old-Virgin and the popular indie Rocket Science before taking on a bigger role in Universal’s comedy Accepted with Justin Long. It grossed roughly $36 million in late August 2006 and it would pave the way for Hill’s breakout year in ’07.

Hill may not have been the most memorable part of Knocked Up but he added to the fratboy tone of scenes with Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel and Martin Starr, which helped the pregnancy comedy find just as many male fans as women, grossing nearly $150 million after opening on June 1. It set things up nicely for Superbad, Seth Rogen’s raunchy high school sex comedy which did the trick to show Hill had the potential as a comic star in his own right, as that grossed $120 million. In between, Hill had a small role in Steve Carell’s Evan Almighty, Hill’s third $100 million movie that summer.

Hill then continued his relation with Judd Apatow, playing a fan of Russell Brand’s character in Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and having a cameo in the Adam Sandler-Seth Rogen comedy Funny People.

2010 was another pivotal year for Hill, because he started to break away from the Apatow camp, first by being pulled into the DreamWorks Animation fold as he provided his voice for How to Train Your Dragon ($218 million gross), then later in the year, he had a bigger role in Megamind ($148 million), continuing a relationship with comedy superstar Ben Stiller that will continue through the summer comedy Neighborhood Watch.

In between, Hill took a more prominent role in Nicholas Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek, again with Russell Brand, which grossed $61 million (slightly less than “Sarah Marshall”) and co-starred with John C. Reilly in the Duplass Brothers’ Cyrus, a festival favorite that showed Hill’s more dramatic side. That set a strong precedent for the actor, since it helped him be cast by Bennett Miller in the Brad Pitt baseball drama Moneyball, which opened last September with $19.5 million and grossed $75.6 million. It went on to be nominated for six Oscars including one for Hill’s supporting role.

The first sign of real weakness for Hill came last December when the high concept comedy The Sitter, a movie where Hill’s name was the only name on the poster, only opened with $9.5 million and grossed $30.5 million total, less than Accepted.

That aside, Hill has been having a great 2012 so far, first being nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Moneyball–pretty huge considering how much competition there was in the supporting category–then also finally seeing the release of 21 Jump Street, a movie he has been developing for five years and which already has been getting rave reviews.

It’s another real turning point for Hill. Although he has great support from Channing Tatum, who just starred in the $115 million plus romantic drama The Vow, if it does well, the world will be his oyster because everyone will know how much he brought to the project as co-writer and co-producer.

Later this year, he teams with Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, two of the biggest comedy stars for the aforementioned Neighborhood Watch, which allows him to take a backseat again, and the same can be said for his reunion with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and the Knocked Up gang in The Apocalypse. He’s also building on his relationship with Brad Pitt, who is producing Hill’s next drama, Good Time Gang with Mark Wahlberg. If 21 Jump Street is as big as we think it is, Hill will be carrying more movies, possibly even some he wrote, before long.

The Career Analyst’s Rating for Jonah Hill:

B+

Reason for this Grade:

We’ve always thought Hill was incredibly talented whether doing comedy or bringing humor to more dramatic situations, and the fact he can write his own material makes him quite a useful commodity to any filmmaker. His missteps in the past have been minor though his looks are something that may hold him back from doing certain types of roles in the future and too much energy has already been spent with people talking about his dramatic weight loss last year. With that in mind, we’re giving Hill the same grade as his 21 Jump Street co-star Channing Tatum, and we see his continuing career to be one that’s on an upwards trajectory.

(Photo credit: Ian Wilson/WENN.com)

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