Jonah Hill is learning how to rebuild his self-esteem.
The 34-year-old actor started in showbiz when he was young, which left him vulnerable to public criticism about his body. Hill said he started to reflect on that for the first time during his directorial debut, Mid90s, which is about a 13-year-old boy trying to fit in.
As he worked on the movie, Hill put together a magazine called Inner Children, in which he wrote about his body image issues throughout the years.
“I became famous in my late teens and then spent most of my young adult life listening to people say that I was fat and gross and unattractive. And it’s only in the last four years writing and directing my movie, Mid90s, that I’ve started to understand how much that hurt and got into my head,” he read from the magazine on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Friday.
Hill writes in Inner Children that he thinks this is a universal experience.
“I really believe everyone has a snapshot of themselves from a time when they were young that they’re ashamed of,” he read. “For me, it’s that 14-year-old overweight and unattractive kid who felt ugly to the world, who listened to hip-hop and who wanted so badly to be accepted by this community of skaters.”
Hill told host Ellen DeGeneres that he thinks that feeling stays with you, regardless of success earned later in life.
“I think everybody has a version of themselves … at some point in your life the person you’re trying to kind of hide from the world,” he said. “Even if you get success or you grow up or you become good looking or whatever, the things that you think will fix the thing, you kind of carry some part of that with you.”
But exploring those issues in the magazine while working on Mid90s helped Hill to work through his emotions.
“What I found amazing about [the magazine] is it was really a companion piece to writing and directing Mid90s because, to me, this movie is about learning to love yourself and finding a community of people that accepts you and how imperfect life is,” he said. “It took a long time, honestly until right now, for me to come out as sort of the person, the artist, mind, what I represent, how I feel, how I’d like to be spoken to, how I speak to the world in a way that actually represents who I am as a person as opposed to me trying to be something else that I’m not.”
DeGeneres added that she understands exactly how Hill feels, especially as someone who is also working in Hollywood.
“We enter into this business — especially actors and actresses — first of all looking for approval, looking for love, to fill a void and also to kind of become other people to avoid being exactly who we are,” DeGeneres, 60, said. “A lot of people get stuck into that role playing instead of just knowing who you are. So it’s very cool that you have found who you are and love who you are because you’re a brilliant man. I’m glad you love yourself!”
“I’m under construction like we all are,” Hill tells her.
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The Maniac star has spent the last few years of his career altering his body for various roles. After gaining weight for the 2016 film War Dogs, he decided to slim down again, with some tough love from his 22 Jump Street costar Channing Tatum.
“I gained weight for this movie War Dogs, and then I wanted to get in better shape, so I called Channing Tatum, and said, ‘Hey, if I ate less and go to a trainer, will I get in better shape?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you dumb motherf—–, of course you will, it’s the simplest thing in the entire world,’” Hill said in 2017.