Movie's most debauched action takes place in Vegas, actor says


Party like a rock star = good.

Party with a rock star = way better.

Just ask Jonah Hill, half of the starring team in the comedy "Get Him to the Greek," which opens in theaters today.

In the movie, Hill plays Aaron Green, a young record company executive desperately trying to escort his favorite rock star, the debauched Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), to a comeback concert at Los Angeles' legendary Greek Theatre.

Naturally, all roads lead to Vegas -- including the one that takes Snow and his hapless traveling companion from London to New York to Las Vegas to L.A.

It's the same route Hill and Brand followed recently to publicize their movie, the latest in a long line of Vegas gross-out comedies, one determined to "go full-throttle with debauchery and wildness," he says.

"Our movie is the ultimate fantasy," Hill adds, focusing on something "everyone has fantasized about: You partied with your favorite rock star."

In 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Brand's Aldous Snow also was the favorite rock star of a different character Hill played: a waiter named Matthew, who was obsessed with the rocker.

Because "Get Him to the Greek" is a "Sarah Marshall" spinoff, not a sequel, only Brand is playing the same character -- this time definitely, and defiantly, off the wagon. But Hill's Aaron Green is an entirely different character.

After all, Matthew was "too bizarre to be the lead of a movie," Hill points out. "If the character's too weird, people can't identify with him." Especially because, this time around, "I have to represent the audience."

At the moment, however, Hill's job involves meeting the audience during a pre-release publicity tour, which has taken him from college campuses to red-carpet premieres.

After stops in London and New York, the "Get Him to the Greek" tour touched down recently at Planet Hollywood Resort.

Before meeting the multitudes on the red carpet, however, Hill's relaxing in a suite with a panoramic Vegas view.

It's a far -- and far quieter -- cry from the last time Hill hit town for filming, in May 2009.

He's "not particularly" a Vegas kind of guy, Hill says, admitting that "it's a little fast-paced for me."

But he definitely got into the mood before shooting began.

That's because he and co-star Sean Combs -- who plays Aaron's irascible record-company boss, Sergio Roma -- got together for a weekend of Vegas-style partying prior to the start of production.

Friends from high school joined Hill and "Diddy" to get in the mood for the movie's Las Vegas sequence -- which depicts the crazed comic complications that occur as Aaron tries to rein in his out-of-control charge.

In the movie, Aaron and Aldous hit a variety of Vegas hot spots -- from Caesars Palace's Pure to the Plaza's Dome Ultra Sports Lounge and "Rat Pack Is Back" show.

They also hit the Strip. And the Strip hits back -- when Combs' Sergio is struck by a car during a moment of comedic madness.

That sequence was filmed on the movie's first day of production, according to writer-director Nick Stoller, who also directed "Sarah Marshall."

Generally, "your first day is supposed to be, 'This is an easy movie,' " Stoller states in the movie's production notes, "and the first thing we shot was (Combs) getting hit by a car."

The movie's very Vegas-ness ranges from the inevitable lap dances -- and beyond -- to Aldous' reconnecting with his estranged father (Colm Meaney), a longtime lounge musician.

And while a super-fantasy hotel suite -- inspired by those at the Palms and Planet Hollywood -- was built on a soundstage for ease of filming, "I'm sure there's something bigger and crazier in Las Vegas," Stoller said last year before filming began.

Capturing that trademark wild Vegas vibe proved much easier on location, Hill says.

"To most people and myself, it's a climactic piece of the movie," he says, because "the most debauched action takes place here."

Well, here and in New York.

"The New York and Vegas sequences are both pretty out of control," Hill acknowledges.

Then again, what else do audiences expect from a movie that continues a summer string of Vegas-spree movies stretching from 2007's "Knocked Up" (which featured Hill and was directed by "Get Him to the Greek" producer Judd Apatow) to 2008's "What Happens in Vegas" to 2009's "The Hangover," a box-office monster (with more than $277 million in grosses) that surpassed "Beverly Hills Cop" to become the top R-rated comedy in movie history.

That's some heady competition, but there's "no competition whatsoever" to see if "Get Him to the Greek" can surpass its predecessors, Hill insists.

"I think it's more that you're pushing yourself," he says. "When people go pay and see your movies, you have a responsibility to them."

And that responsibility involves showing them "I wasn't holding back on them," Hill explains -- in other words, "to be as outrageous as we possibly could have been."

Along with all that outrageousness, however, "at the core, there's a tremendous amount of heart," he maintains -- a quality he says "Get Him to the Greek" shares with Hill's 2007 "Superbad," another Apatow production.

"You have to make sure people can connect with the characters," he explains. And to do that, "you have to approach everything honestly. I try to create a character that feels genuine, never forced or disingenuous."

No matter how wild the comedy gets.

Doing the movie's "heavy improvisation and jokes is harder than just being real," Hill says. "I'm playing a real person -- but I also have to be cracking people up."

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

 

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