If Hollywood dreamed up War Dogs’ plot — about two friends from Miami Beach who win a $300 million U.S. weapons contract — it would be considered too outlandish. But truth really is stranger (not to mention grittier and funnier and just plain weirder) than fiction. Based on a 2011 Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson (who wrote about the events in greater detail in Arms and the Dudes), this comedic drama, directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), details the real-life gonzo exploits of Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and David Packouz (Miles Teller), two amateur arms dealers who bluffed their way into a deal to equip the Afghan military. We chatted with the actors, who bought two tickets to the gun show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This story is wild. How aware of it were you before you were cast?
JONAH HILL: Years ago I tried to purchase the rights to the Rolling Stone article, and Todd [Phillips] had already bought it. So I reached out to him and said, “If you ever make a movie out of this, I’d love to talk about playing Efraim because he is one bizarre, messed-up character.”
MILES TELLER: When the news broke that Todd bought the article, my dad emailed me immediately, saying, “You’ve got to get in this movie.”
HILL: No way. I didn’t know that!
TELLER: I saw Todd out at a restaurant and I said, “Todd, you have to put me in this movie.”
HILL: “My dad would really like me to be in it.” [Laughs]
TELLER: It ended up working out! Stories like this don’t come around so often for guys in their early to mid-20s who are involved in a world with these kind of stakes. I thought it was incredible.
These guys went as hard on the party front as they did on the arms trading, right?
HILL: They did, yeah. It’s the 14-year-old version of yourself that goes, “Hell, yeah!” but you don’t examine the outcome. You see the snapshot and want to live in that snapshot, but you don’t see the moral, physical, legal repercussions. You’re just thinking like a kid.
Miles, you were able to meet the real life David, right?
TELLER: Yes, I did. Jonah did, too.
HILL: I didn’t meet Ephraim though. Although! This is a good sign: if I sign on to play a real person and they don’t want me to be involved and they don’t want anything to do with it? It ends up being a good movie. If they want me to be involved, it ends up not so much. So it’s a positive overall. [Laughs]
This movie seems like a departure for Todd Phillips. It’s not strictly a comedy.
HILL: It has big laughs, but it’s not like his other films. It’s a crime film that is very funny.
TELLER: It’s great when you work on a script and the director is completely in charge — that’s not always the case.
HILL: Yeah, Todd nailed this. I will tell you when I’m in a bad movie! And I’m really, really proud of this movie.
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