Celebrities

Jonah Hill Is Glad He Got Punched in the Face in The Wolf of Wall Street

I was making a beeline to Drew Barrymore when a stately gentleman clasped my arm and asked a question: “Excuse me, are you Jared Kushner?” Though being mistaken for the presidents son-in-law is nightmarish, this was not a belated Halloween party: it was the 11th annual MoMA Film Benefit, presented by Chanel, where Hollywood heavyweights descended on Midtown Manhattans modern-art mecca to celebrate the career of director Martin Scorsese.

“I know this is the Museum of Modern Art, but really, I think it must be said . . . Marty Scorsese is no Pablo Picasso,” Robert De Niro said later that night, gently ribbing the director hes known since starring in Scorseses 1973 film, Mean Streets.

“Picasso was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright,” De Niro continued, speaking from the podium of MoMAs subterranean stage. “Marty pretty much just makes movies. . . . Picasso needed one frame for a picture like Les Demoiselles dAvignon. Marty needed more than 200,000 frames for a picture like, say, Le Loup de Wall Street.” In the audience, Wolf of Wall Street stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill laughed heartily.

Wearing his signature yellow-tinted glasses, Hill later took to the stage to thank his mentor, and to regale the audience with a behind-the-scenes tale that left a mark on the actor-turned-director—in more ways than one.

“When we were making Wolf of Wall Street, there was a scene with Jon Bernthal and I out on the deck, where Im provoking him, and hes supposed to punch me in the face,” Hill began. “And we did it a few times, and—I dont know if you guys are familiar with John—hes a great actor, but hes also a huge buff maniac.”

“I had stayed in character that whole time with him, and had kind of been talking shit to him in the makeup trailer every day. And I was like Oh, its just acting . . . We go back in the room. Martys in there going, It looks stupid. It looks fake. Leo and I are sitting on a tiny little couch, and John is pacing back and forth, and Im not scared because, you know, its just a movie. And Martys like, “Why dont you try hitting him for real?”

“And I just quietly hope the thought would float away.” Naturally, he continued, “it doesnt float away. And I look to my friend Leo, because hes like my ambassador—like, I felt comfortable looking to him for things if I didnt want to say something, because thats what friends do for one another. . . . Long story short: John punches me in the face, and its one of my favorite scenes Ive ever acted in.”

DiCaprios own speech took a more political route. The actor, who has collaborated with Scorsese on five, soon to be six films—next is an adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon, based on David Granns best-seller—opened by saying how great it was to be honoring Scorsese now, “in an age where there seems to be a populist contempt for expertise.”

The actor spoke of his first encounter with Scorseses work, when he went to see Goodfellas with his father—who was also at the tribute, sitting next to Hill. “When I was 15 years old, just starting out,” DiCaprio recounted, “my father . . . took me to a dark theater for inspiration. He pointed to the screen, and as the reels to Goodfellas began to spin, he said, This is the epitome of modern filmmaking. This is someone who you may be lucky enough one day to work with, and when it comes to directors, this is where the bar is set.”

After a stirring video montage paid tribute to Scorseses considerable oeuvre, guests—among them Spike Lee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Emily Mortimer, Robert Kraft, Larry Gagosian, and Tony Bennett—made their way upstairs for dinner, where Gary Clark Jr. took the stage to perform before the tarte tatin arrived.

At the top of the escalator, my arm was grabbed once more—this time by Drew Barrymore herself, eager to gush about her Thanksgiving plans in upstate New York. “Im taking my daughters horseback riding!” she said. “And Ill be tripping out because Im a super Western rider, and apparently New York is, like, super not. Im about to meet the elite, and I dont assume Ill be very comfortable there.”

Something tells me Barrymore will be just fine among the Eastern equestrians, even if she isnt as comfortable there as she was at MoMA. As we passed Moretz, the actress asked Barrymore what she thought of the Scorsese tribute. Barrymore called back, “Im a Barrymore. Of course I love him!”

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