The making of "Superbad" was a blessed event. Everything from the heartwarmingly puerile script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to the hiring of highly underrated indie filmmaker Greg Mottola (whose critically acclaimed debut, "The Daytrippers," was not just out of print, but a decade in the rearview), seemed to go just right. The high school comedy about two affable, yet far-from-popular best friends (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) who scheme to deliver a bounty of liquor for a year-end, senior-year bash perfectly captures the uncertain yearning of that strange pre-college summer. The film has since earned its place in the teen comedy firmament alongside the sacred likes of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "The Breakfast Club," and "Clueless."
While you can't ascribe the success of "Superbad" to one single factor, there are certain key elements that elevated the film to classic status. No disrespect to Emma Stone or the pitch-perfect soundtrack, but if we're going to spotlight one essential ingredient, we're slotting Christopher Mintz-Plasse's thunderbolt-of-overconfident-nerdery portrayal of Fogell aka McLovin right at the top.
Given how beloved Mintz-Plasse's McLovin has become, it's funny to learn that if Jonah Hill had his way, Mintz-Plasse wouldn't even have been allowed anywhere near the set.
Casting The Coolest Nerd
According to Vanity Fair's immensely entertaining oral history of the film's production, casting the character of McLovin, who was written to be a scene stealer, proved difficult. "It became very evident that there were no actors who were right for the role," said Goldberg. Casting director Allison Jones was forced to look outside of Hollywood, ultimately wallpapering Southern California high schools with casting notices. A seventeen-year-old Christopher Mintz-Plasse tagged along with his friends to an open audition and was shocked when he earned a callback. After sufficiently impressing Mottola, the non-professional actor read with Cera and Hill, where he went straight at the latter in his final audition.
"Chris was really, really amazing off the bat," says Hill. "And I think he was really annoying to me at that time." Mottola adds, "He played it like he was clearly the coolest guy in the room and everyone else was a nerd and a loser. He was Dean Martin instead of Jerry Lewis." This is, of course, the core of McLovin's being. He's a born loser who believes he's god's gift. Through sheer, unabashedly dorky swagger, he makes it work. This drove Hill absolutely nuts.
"APATOW: In the audition, he was very caustic and attacked Jonah and did improvs insulting Jonah.
ROGEN: Jonah immediately hated him. He was like, 'That was f***ing with my rhythm. I couldn't perform with that guy.'
APATOW: Jonah said, 'I don't like that guy. I don't want him doing it.' And I said, "That's exactly why we're hiring him. It couldn't be more perfect. The fact that it bothers you is exactly what we want.'"
Reaction Is Often The Best Acting
It's a joyous combination. Hill's exasperated insults upon learning of Fogell's fake ID moniker ("What, are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?") are effortlessly parried by Mintz-Plasse ("Nah, they let you pick any name you want when you get down there"). Hill, who was primed for a breakout after one wonderfully silly scene in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and a bevy of laugh-inducing moments in "Knocked Up," might've felt a tad threatened by the thought of Mintz-Plasse showing him up in his first co-starring role.
Hill had nothing to worry about. Exasperation is his thing. Watch him in "Get Him to the Greek," "Moneyball," or "The Wolf of Wall Street" — he's at his very best when desperately trying to make sense of his co-star's seeming insanity. Mintz-Plasse doesn't work in "Superbad" without Hill, and Hill doesn't work in "Superbad" without Mintz-Plasse. Hill didn't get it at the time, but I guarantee he understands now. He's got two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor because of it.
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