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Jonah Hill Wants to ‘Challenge Traditional Masculinity’

First-time director Jonah Hill said he’s looking to “challenge traditional masculinity” as a filmmaker. Hill made the remarks while in Berlin to tout “Mid90s,” a coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old boy who falls in with a group of L.A. skate punks, which is screening in the Panorama program at the Berlinale.

Described by Variety as “a slice of street life made up of skittery moments that achieve a bone-deep reality,” “Mid90s” unspools in an angsty world of youthful insecurity and uncertainty that the director said was typical of the film’s Clinton-era America.

“Traditional masculinity was not to show emotion, not to show sensitivity, not to show vulnerability, because it’s ‘feminine’ or, God forbid, ‘gay’ to do so,” he said. “What that does, and what we’ve seen, is that it leads to a lot of horrible behavior, and a lot of bad actions.”

Hill, who also wrote the script, said the film shows how “these kids speak to one another in such a harmful way, such a misogynistic way, such a homophobic way.”

He continued: “I just wanted to show that that’s problematic, and really explore that. Because these kids end up making terrible decisions, their friendships end up getting fractured with one another, their lives end up getting fractured, most of the time because they can’t just say I’m in pain. And because the other person can’t say, ‘I am, too.’”

As an actor who came to prominence in his early 20s, and who said he was long looked at as the “bro comedy guy,” the 35-year old described how maturity has given him a fresh perspective on some of his early roles. “I love those films, but I also think that if you look back at those films, a lot of what they’re showing is major bro comedy, and bro masculinity,” he said.

Hill added that he hoped he could “illuminate” young fans of his earlier work about some of the problematic behavior it depicted, saying: “It’s not like a responsibility. It’s where my heart is, and what I want to make. But at the same time I’m learning I’ve got to unlearn a lot of stuff, and maybe some of the people that liked ‘Superbad’ will come with me on that journey.”

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