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“Sometimes in life, truth is stranger than fiction, and this just became one of those stories,” director Todd Phillips told The Hollywood Reporter of his latest film, War Dogs, based on the true story of a pair of stoner bros turned international arms dealers, played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.
The film was adapted from a Rolling Stone article, which was picked up by screenwriter Stephen Chin, a Hollywood exec at the time with ambitions of becoming a writer, who followed the boys to Iraq, hired a driver to take him across the border and bribed security officers with two cartons of cigarettes and $20. Speaking to THR at the War Dogs premiere in L.A. on Monday, Chin explained how he knew he had an incredible story.
“The moment I saw the money room — there were pallets of money the size of trucks, and people would cut out the $100 bills with knives — when you see that, you understand the fever that takes over people, that there’s this incredible gold rush,” Chin said. “War is their business.”
To capture the essence of larger-than-life Miami hustler Efraim Diveroli, Jonah Hill adopted a maniacal laugh that left Monday’s premiere audience howling.
“Everyone who met Efraim said that if you met him, you never forgot him,” Hill said. “So I tried to think of people I met who I’d never forgot, and a lot of times those people had a very distinct laugh. I tried to create one that was distinct, but not just randomly attach it to him — one that would fit him but be distinct also.”
Teller, still sporting his new, blond ‘do, told of a high-school business that helped prepare him for his character’s wheeling-and-dealing.
“My boys and I found this person where we could get graphic calculators for cheap, and then we were selling them to everybody in my geometry class,” he said. “The profit margin is pretty good, so we used to make a decent amount of money doing that.”
Teller was supported on the black carpet by his Whiplash co-star J.K. Simmons, with whom Teller says he has maintained a “special relationship.”
Also in attendance was Bradley Cooper, who helped produce the film and makes an appearance as an arms dealer on the U.S. terrorist watch list; supporting actors Shaun Toub and Julian Sergi; Los Angeles Lakers player D’Angelo Russell; Samira Wiley of Orange is the New Black; Glee alum Heather Morris; and Instagram star “The Fat Jew,” who describes himself as a combination of Samantha and Miranda from Sex and the City — “a total Mirantha. I’m a little bit down to party, but like, I’m also down to get legal.”
The screening was followed by an afterparty at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Hollywood, where Rashida Jones and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig joined the revelry.
Heading to see the film? Don’t expect a Hangover-like story even though War Dogs comes from the same director.
“While this movie is about guys who make bad decisions like all my other movies, in the other movies, the bad decisions bring them closer together, and in this movie, it kind of tears them apart,” Phillips said.
For Chin, “this fundamentally is about: What if you and your best friend found a way to make hundreds of millions of dollars? What would it do to your friendship? If the drive and the greed is what drove you there, how are you gonna stop once you have the money?”
War Dogs hits theaters on Aug. 19.
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