Jonah Hill, 23, Michael Cera, 19, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, 18, are on a barnstorming press tour for the Judd Apatow-produced Superbad (co-written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg). Hill has been seen in Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, as well as Accepted and Evan Almighty. Cera, best known as the hilariously awkward George-Michael on FOX's Arrested Development, has his own web sitcom (Clark and Michael) and has been acting since he was four. Recent high-school graduate Mintz-Plasse makes his screen debut with Superbad. My chat with the Superstars came during their stay at San Francisco's Four Seasons Hotel, a day after their thrilling ride through Comic-Con. Our conversation began with their reminiscences of being backstage at Comic-Con.
Jonah Hill: The backstage area?
Michael Cera: Backstage West?
Jonah Hill: I took a picture of Josh Hartnett. While he wasn't looking.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: Josh Hartnett actually came up to Michael, and he was a huge fan of Arrested Development.
Jonah Hill: No way! Really?
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I thought that was really cool.
Michael Cera: I told him I was a huge fan of his physique.
JH: I remember Seth and Evan talking about, when they saw The Faculty, they were, like, obsessed with Josh Hartnett from The Faculty.
MC: He's good in that.
CM-P: Yeah, he was.
JH: You should put that, 'cause that'll embarrass the shit out of them.
JH: They're like, "There's this guy named Josh Hartnett. He's really great—" Seth and I were walking in to go pee—not, like, together. We were just walking to the restroom.
MC: Not in the same urinal.
JH: In the same urinal. (Laughs.) Like, there was no private bathroom for the people backstage. Like, you had to walk into the crowd to go pee. And I was like—not for us; no one cares about us—but like real movie stars and stuff were backstage, you know. It's like, "Well"—and I was walking—I was like, "If Iron Man has to take a shit, is this where he goes? And Seth and I were laughing, and then we walk in there, and Robert Downey, Jr.'s in there washing his hands. In a suit. He's just hanging out there, like washing his hands. (adopts low purr) "Hey, how's it goin', man?" It was just so weird. Iron Man was in there, just—I mean, I'm not saying he was taking a shit. I don't know what, you know, what he was doing, but it was—alright, I guess it was funnier, like, when—
Groucho: In the moment.
JH: Yeah! Well anyways, Superbad is like a really great movie.
JH: (pressing buttons on camera) Whatever. I took a picture of Robert Downey, Jr. I can't find it. This is going terribly.
JH: On a personal note.
Groucho: Do you guys remember when you first met each other? I know you guys [Jonah and Michael] probably knew each other longer—
MC: We met at Henry Winkler's birthday party.
JH: (laughs) We did! Yeah. (Busts out laughing.)
MC: It's a funny way to, like, say it, but it's very true.
JH: It's true.
MC: His sixtieth.
JH: At the tail end of Henry Winkler's sixtieth birthday party—
MC: Yeah, when we were leaving.
JH: We shook hands.
MC: That's true. Yeah.
JH: And then we had a table read together. Which is when you read a script.
MC: And we have a mutual friend. Max. Henry's son.
JH: Yeah. Henry's son is how we met. And then my friend, our friend Nick, Nick wrote a script, and Michael and I both did the table read for it.
CM-P: Nick, uh?
G: What did you guys think when this guy showed up, Chris showed up?
JH: We were blown away. I mean, he did it exactly how he does it in the movie, like with no additional prompting. He was McLovin, off the bat—
CM-P: I don't know what it's going to be like in forty years, you know, if people are still calling me McLovin.
MC: Like Booger.
CM-P: Oh yeah. I did a short film with Curtis Armstrong, you know, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. And he got—the first ten minutes on set—like, the prop guy was like, "Hey, you're Booger from Revenge of the Nerds!" And the whole rest of the day he was like pissed off.
MC: He must get that constantly.
CM-P: Yeah. So I hope I'm not like that in forty years. I guess Booger is a worse name than McLovin, to have.
MC: Yeah, and McLovin, to me, is beloved.
JH: All the people who auditioned for McLovin are going to have such a great story of like—you know what I mean? Like, I could've been McLovin.
CM-P: You could've been—yeah.
JH: That's interesting to me. But Michael, yeah, that is a good point, you were saying, about like how, like when someone calls, like the guy who played Screech "Screech," almost with disdain—
JH: Or anger.
MC: "You suck, Screech!"
JH: But then McLovin, you say it with such love and affection.
JH: You really are happy to see him.
MC: McLovin is beloved, to me.
JH: Yeah, beloved.
MC: But I mean just from—strictly based on what we're seeing at screenings, people wearing shirts with his face on it.
CM-P: Yeah, like one—when we're like walking up, after, for the Q&A, people were like screaming, "What up?!"
MC: Even from the trailer.
CM-P: From the trailer. Someone at the airport recognized me from the trailer.
JH: (doing Adam Sandler) "Hey. McLovin."
CM-P: (Laughs.) Adam Sandler came up to me, and was like, "Hey. McLovin. What's up?"
MC: He did?!
CM-P: Yeah, at the Man Choice Awards. That was the first time I ever met him, and he was like, "McLovin. What's up?"
CM-P: That's crazy, isn't it?
MC: That's awesome. Adam Sandler is from, uh, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore
CM-P: Yeah, you might have seen him somewhere before.
MC: Shakes the Clown.
G: Just imagine who you'll be meeting at your sixtieth birthday.
CM-P: (Laughs.) Yeah, right!
G: So you guys are tearing up Hollywood--why are there no Lindsay Lohan headlines coming out of the Apatow camp?
CM-P: Um, we don't get caught with our cocaine.
MC: We know our dealers.
CM-P: We know how to handle that stuff.
MC: We know our limits and our dealers—
JH: (slurring his speech) I only drive the motorcycles drunk.
JH: I don't know.
MC: I don't know. We don't have big breasts.
JH: We're the most unexciting people you'll ever meet.
JH: We're like—
CM-P: We play Guitar Hero.
JH: We're on this tour.
MC: Lindsay Lohan's crazy.
CM-P: We don't go to clubs.
JH: We're on this like crazy tour promoting a movie.
MC: It's funny how often we get that question. It's funny how often we get that "Are you guys Lindsay Lohan?"
JH: It's always Lindsay Lohan, too.
G: It's a "Young Hollywood" thing.
MC: Lindsay Lohan sucks. She's made some personal choices that were—
JH: The only reaction we've had with Lindsay Lohan was that impression we were doing of the newspaper.
MC: The mugshot.
JH: I was doing an impression of her shitting her pants in jail.
MC: She was doing the "Help me."
CM-P: He was like—if this was Lindsay Lohan's face on the paper, he would just put it in front—
MC: I have footage of it, of him doing it.
CM-P: It was, it was hilarious.
JH: (grunting) "Hellllp! Hellp me!"
MC: "I shit in my pants!"
CM-P: Ohmigod, it was the funniest.
JH: This is how we spent, like, 45 minutes.
MC: "Hellp me!"
JH: "Hellp! Hellllp!"
MC: (laughs) "I shit my pants."
JH: "I'm fucking swallowing blood."
JH: Please don't print any of this. The whole interview's going to be—
CM-P: Bashing celebrities.
MC: I feel safe under the security—
JH: Of this interview.
MC: The security blanket of the word "shit" means they can't print it.
(JH busts out laughing.)
G: Don't assume that—internet, buddy!
JH: No, they just go "Hill does an impression of Lohan defecating herself."
MC: Or like put pound sign, dollar sign—
(JH busts out laughing again.)
JH: Pound sign.
MC: Like the Tasmanian Devil.
JH: (Laughing.) Asterisk.
MC: Yeah. Isn't that weird, when they do, like, the letter "F," and then, like, three symbols. You know what that word is! It's like: you read it as, you know, the word "fuck." It's not like it's—just seeing the letters, what difference does it make?
JH: But to answer your question, I mean—
CM-P: It's the same thing with—
JH: We're pretty—
MC: To answer your question, Lindsay Lohan—
JH: Boring, our lives themselves of like, for example, being here and stuff and going to all these cool hotels and stuff. We don't really go out to, like nightclubs and drink and do stuff like that. We just kind of hang out. I think it's like—there's a way—being like Super-Famous Person is something that you have to choose to perpetuate yourself. You know what I mean? You can avoid that easily. Especially with comedy. Nobody gives a shit.
MC: Yeah, that's true.
JH: When do you see people really invading Jack Black's life, or Will Ferrell's life, you know what I mean? People just tend not to care as much, which is awesome. (Laughs.) Thank God!
CM-P: They just stop you on the streets and be like "Oh, you were hilarious in this film," but that's always good.
MC: I don't think it's about your level of fame. I think it's about—I think the people who are in, like, People magazine decide to be, you know?
JH: That's what I'm saying: you perpetuate that on your own.
MC: Exactly. 'Cause like who's the most famous person—
JH: (Mock narcissistic) Like when Michael and I go eat dinner at the Ivy, I mean it's just a fucking storm.
MC: You don't see, like, Tom Hanks—
JH: It's a whirlwind of photographers.
MC: I think the most famous actors—like maybe Ed Norton, or like Will Farrell—you never see them in those. It's not about like—
JH: Ed Norton and Will Ferrell?!
JH: What a crazy mix of people!
MC: Will Ferrell, I think, is one of the most recognizable peoples out there.
CM-P: Yeah, he is.
MC: (Laughs.) Peoples out there. People out there. And so is Ed Norton.
JH: Yeah, like Geoffrey Rush and Rob Schneider.
MC: Yeah, I'm not making fun of that. They're both very recognizable.
JH: Right. It is a strange combination.
MC: Well, I guess, uh—
JH: Combo. Sorry, I was wrong.
CM-P: Like a dramatic actor and a comedy actor.
MC: Yeah, I wanted to get some of both.
JH: You wanted some mixima.
G: One of the things that's always striking about a Seth Rogen movie or a Judd Apatow movie is the banter.
G: The advanced banter. It seems like that's not a problem for you guys, right? (Laughs.) Just watching you now, getting through this. I guess it's really about trying to bring that to the screen, right?
JH: Well, yeah, I feel like I'm more entertained watching Michael and Chris talk with each other than I am watching most movies, you know what I mean?
JH: Most comedies. That's why I choose to hang out with them. You know what I'm saying? So, there's a way to bring that onto the screen. That's at least what we're attempting to do. It just makes things seem realistic. Like, you know, I don't know. Those have just always been my favorite—James L Brooks movies always seemed like—they were just really good conversations that he was kinda putting into his movies. And I was always like, "That's awesome." He just kind of took really cool, interesting people and made them talk to—and would have them talk to each other. And the story would be good, but like—that's always the most exciting to me. I hate when dialogue feels like—
JH: It's super-written. You know? You can almost see the actors thinking about what they have to say as opposed to what they would say.
MC: Unless its really well acted.
MC: Like a Coen Brothers movie—
JH: Totally, right.
MC: You get that's so well-scripted, but they've just nailed the performance.
JH: Then you have to hire talented actors.
JH: And not writers.
(CM-P and JH laugh.)
MC: Instead of people who know how to have a conversation.
JH: (Laughing.) Right. You'd have to go out of your way to hire talented actors—[Improv] never changed the intention of the scene. That was the thing, it was like—the script was extraordinarily well-written, and you know: only things just to make jokes that—
CM-P: Like jokes, yeah.
JH: We found funny. Or suit our strengths, or whatever. Mike?
MC: Yeah. How you doing?
JH: Mike, you got any—?
MC: Yeah, the script was, uh—
MC: Yeah, the table read where we were just reading off the page was one of the funniest things.
MC: One of the best table reads.
JH: Ever in the world.
MC: Well, one of the best things I had done.
JH: (Laughing.) We're the funniest things ever in the universe.
MC: Yeah— (Laughs.)
G: You guys seem to be living the dream. Like Jonah, you have screenplays set up with the studios; Chris, this is your first big movie—
G: [To Michael:] You're working with people that you've idolized.
G: Harold Ramis, Bill Oedenkirk.
MC: Jack Black.
G: What would make it better?
JH: Less drugs.
JH: Um. I don't know. I just feel really lucky.
CM-P: Doing another movie. Yeah, definitely.
JH: Exactly. Let's just hope it doesn't end very son.
JH: Prolonging of this feeling, I guess. (Laughs.)
MC: Yeah. It being consistent—
G: The movie is somewhat raunchy—
CM-P: Oh yeah.
G: I guess you would say. Was there ever a moment's hesitancy about doing a movie with that kind of material? Or has it caused any embarrassment with people you know?
JH: My parents saw it, and—
JH: And have never been more—I've never seen them laugh harder.
MC: It's a good way to gauge—
CM-P: My parents saw it for the first time at Comic-Con, and they loved it.
MC: Yeah. Well, your mom had seen it, right?
CM-P: My mom saw it before; my dad saw it for the first time.
MC: Yeah, your dad kept telling me how much he loved it.
CM-P: Was that weird?
MC: No, no.
JH: Your mom said something really strange. Your mom said, "This was the first time I enjoyed your performance in the movie."
MC: To you? Said that to you?
CM-P: Oh, about you? Or about me?
JH: About me!
JH: Said, "This was the first time I enjoyed your performance in the movie."
MC: You won her over!
JH: But I took it as—
CM-P: She didn't like you before.
MC: Well, she only saw it once—
JH: No, that's what I felt. And was like, "Oh man, is she insulting me?" But what I took it as, to spin it, was that she maybe just was watching you so much.
CM-P: Yeah, the first time, and then—
JH: But still!
CM-P: I'm going to call her after this, and be like "What the hell?!"
JH: Ask her, please!
MC: It was only the second time she'd ever seen it, right?
JH: Yeah. But what a strange thing to say!
CM-P: Yeah. I know.
JH: Ask her. Inquire.
CM-P: I will, I will!
JH: I'll try harder next time.
G: Talking about getting ahead of ourselves—
G: Any inkling of an Arrested Development movie?
MC: No, I don't think so. (Laughs.)
G: Maybe a 25-year reunion movie.
MC: Yeah, maybe. (Laughs.) I doubt that there will be one—
JH: Would you want a Superbad sequel, as a viewer—?
MC: My favorite movie is Rushmore, and I would never want a sequel to that. It's just so perfect. That story is conclude, you know?
JH: Harold and Maude 2.
G: The Fierce Creatures sequel, you know?
G: Reassemble the cast.
JH: Maude didn't die; she was—
Publicist: One more question!
MC: (Chuckling.) Maude didn't die.
JH: She didn't die; she's—
MC: That's funny. She lived.
JH: She lived at the end.
MC: She just lived.
G: Can you say something about how each of you developed your comedic style, as an actor? Were there sort of unconscious influences of things you had watched before?
JH: I think everyone's influences is just what they like.
JH: The weird mixture of things that they liked, and I think that concoction is what forms what you find funny, actually.
MC: Totally, yeah.
JH: So I guess it's just—so who would that be?
G: Yeah, who are like the top three comic actors that really do it for you?
CM-P: Um, I love Steve Carell in The Office. I think he's a genius. And, uh.
MC: Do you have more?
CM-P: Um, c'mon! Um—
MC: Three each?
CM-P: Mel Brooks. Um.
MC: Bill Murray.
CM-P: Bill Murray, Bill Murray, yeah.
JH: I'd say Albert Brooks. I was more influenced by writers and directors than perfomers. For sure. So probably like The Simpsons. Hal Ashby. James L. Brooks. Woody Allen, Albert Brooks. I guess I had to do five.
G: Those are good.
JH: And a million more. But I think it's just that mixture of weird stuff that you liked, all mixed together, creates this—
JH: Seinfeld. Yeah, I mean like—.
MC: He loves Seinfeld.
JH: It's that weird mixture, and then what you identify with. You know—?
G: Thank you.
MC: Thanks, guys.
CM-P: Thanks a lot.
MC: Nice talking to you.
(Photo by Peter Sciretta.)