A 2011 Rolling Stone article about two unlikely Miami dudes who landed a US$300 million defense contract to arm the Afghan military sent shock waves across Hollywood, with studios fighting for story rights.
“It was such an outrageous story, you could hardly believe it was true,” muses Jonah Hill when STACK meets with him in Los Angeles. “I immediately went after the rights but Todd beat me to it.”
“Todd” would be The Hangover director Todd Phillips – but Hill wouldn’t come up empty-handed. Phillips later cast him as Efraim Diveroli, one half of War Dogs’ audacious duo.
Exploiting a government loophole to deal arms to US troops in Iraq, 20-somethings Diveroli and David Packouz (portrayed by Miles Teller) lived the high life on the grey side of the law ,until a deal turned sour and an angry Albanian partner blew the whistle to the FBI.
The blow-out resulted in a seven-year sentence for Diveroli and house arrest for Packouz.
“The extraordinary thing is that this is actually a true story. You couldn’t make this stuff up,” laughs Phillips.
Hill agrees: “Efraim was so idiosyncratic, selfish and outlandish; one of these people you can’t believe really exist. It’s a pretty complicated scenario to buy and sell weapons when you don’t really have a company, and how you build that out and get the reputation to make those deals is interesting. It’s so insane that these two guys end up in Fallujah; humorous, but then it’s also depressing, weird and shocking.
“There’s something exciting about people who are looking for the loopholes. These guys definitely found a very peculiar and odd way into making a lot of money. I can’t imagine this would be the route I would think to go down,” says Hill, whose other dodgy loophole-leaping character in The Wolf of Wall Streetearned him an Oscar nod.
While Teller spent time with Packouz, Hill didn’t share the same dubious pleasure.
“I never met him. I respect people’s space,” he says – although in Efraim’s case that space happened to be a prison cell.
“I’ve played real people a handful of times, and sometimes they’re really psyched about it and sometimes they’re not. For me, it’s usually a good sign if they’re not.”
Shot in multiple locations in Romania, Morocco and the US, Hill’s greatest challenge was his nightly spray tan sessions. “My body literally does not accept spray tan. It sticks for about a day when it’s meant to last a week, which meant I had to do it every day after shooting. We’d finish at midnight and this lovely woman named Felicia would come to my room and spray me with freezing cold spray tan stuff and then I’d go to sleep to shoot the next day. My bed sheets would look like a crime scene covered in all this wet spray tan. I really came to resent it, but was happy when I watched the movie because it’s just so odd to see this guy who is, like, orange.”
War Dogs also serves to introduce Cuban beauty Ana de Armas, who STACKpredicts has a long career ahead.
War Dogs is in cinemas August 18.