JONAH Hill is not the man he was. Don’t worry about his weight. Just look at his work. From Get Him To The Greek to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, from Adam Sandler comedies to Gus van Sant indie dramas, Hill has refused to stay still.

And now he’s gone from acting to directing. His debut film Mid90s is the opening movie of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. Another marker of change.

But are people paying attention? Do they want him to be the guy from Superbad all the time? If they do, they should be prepared to be disappointed. Mid90s is just the latest proof that he isn’t listening.

“Making this film allowed me to see there was so much value in being true to who you are not what anyone else thinks you are,” he tells me one New York morning not so very long ago.

Even during the shortest of conversations Hill’s desire to be himself in his work is very evident. To be honest, he can sound a little precious about it at times, a little serious.

But maybe that’s because he is.

Maybe he always has been. Look at his CV again and that desire to be someone other than the horny teen stock figure that made him famous has always been evident. He’s done mumblecore indie in Cyrus earned himself Oscar nomination for his roles in Moneyball and the Scorsese film. Fact is, there’s always been more to him than the Jump Street movies.

It’s Friday and Hill is packing to go to Germany for the Berlin Film Festival when I call. After that the film travels to Scotland. The first thing he says to me is about how much he loves Glasgow’s art scene.

Hill is into art, yes, and fashion (he tells me his favourite designer is Marni’s Francesco Risso) and these days wants to turn his hand to everything. He’s just directed a music video and photographed a shoot for Interview Magazine. He is even working in fashion, he tells me.

Is there going to be a Jonah Hill fashion label then, I ask? “Ah, that’s not what it would be called, but I can’t really talk about it.”

Directing films, though, has always been his main goal. Mid90s took four years to make and the result is a slacker indie skateboarding drama that, as the title suggests, looks back 20 years and more.

It’s a coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old kid in a dysfunctional family who finds an alternative in a group of skateboarding friends. It’s also about finding your place in the tribe, toxic masculinity and the way the light looks at dusk in California, all set to a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and a soundtrack of nineties hip hop and Morrissey. (For inspiration he looked to England and Shane Meadows’s This is England.)

Something of a risk, you might think. An indie film with a largely unknown cast. There’s the odd familiar face. Sunny Suljic is the lead and he already has a handful of films to his name, Katherine Waterston plays his mum and up-and-coming star Lucas Hedges plays his brother. But many of the cast are new to the screen.

It would have been easier, you might imagine, if Hill had surrounded himself with his mates rather than young non-actors, but that was never an option, he says.

He did what the film needed, Hill says. “If you put anyone who is hyper-hyper famous or recognisable … not that Katherine and Lucas aren’t famous. They are … But if I had gotten Margot Robbie to play Katherine Waterston’s part, I just feel it takes you out of the film.”

Mid90s is a tough movie full of harsh language and outdated attitudes. Hill, who also wrote the story, knows that. “I thought it was disrespectful to change history rather than tell it like it was, even if it hurts to watch,” he says.

“I always wanted to protect the idea that there’s a lot of beauty in ugly things and there are a lot of ugly and beautiful things. I grew up in that era and I really wanted to explore young males and how their inability to articulate and express their emotions leads to a lot of harmful words, behaviour, decisions.”

It’s not autobiographical, but Hill knows the world he is describing in the movie. Skateboarders were his tribe back in the 1990s when he was 13, growing up in well-to-do Los Angeles.

“It was at that age I started hanging around my local skate shop and really understanding what it was like going to be like to fit in and why I wanted to fit in.”

He was, he says, a pretty terrible skateboarder. Was he brave? “I was brave to an extent,” he says.

A skateboarder succeeds on their lack of fear, he adds and eventually he got to the stage where his willingness to “throw myself off things and smash on the concrete” reached a natural end.

Were the kids he was working with in the movie very different to the kids he grew up with, I wonder? “They’re the same and they’re not. People who are 60 or 70 can relate to that feeling of growing up and how hard it was to fit in and find your tribe,” he points out.

“I set it in the nineties simply because we didn’t have cell phones and when I look back on my youth the big difference for me was that when things get too intimate now I can hop on my cell phone and go on Instagram with a friend as opposed to having these conversations that are kind of hard.”

You’re saying technology is a means for emotional avoidance? “Yeah. People do, whether they realise it or not.”

Two more things about Mid90s. It’s funnier than my description might have let on. (And it’s worth noting that there are Jonah Hill comedies I’d much rather watch than Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street; who needs three hours of Alpha male knobheads braying at you?)

Also, it’s a movie that recognises that at a certain age coolness is a currency. When, Jonah, did you realise that coolness wasn’t necessarily cool?

“Honestly, it wasn’t until I’d done making the film. I can honestly say I still valued that far too much, even in my early thirties. I definitely felt pressure to be what people wanted me to be as opposed to who I was and who I was becoming.”

In life and work? “Yeah, definitely. Definitely.”

He is clearly scratching at this gap between who he is and who people think he is. He returns to it again and again in our short conversation.

“One of the cruxes of my life is all people want is certainty and someone like me provides very little certainty. As I changed to directing it made people feel weird. Doing fashion photography and writing makes people feel weird.”

But he doesn’t care. He wants to make more films (he’s working on two scripts as we speak). He wants to break out and do new things. He is not afraid to use the A word.

“As an artist I don’t think I am ever going to be satisfied doing one thing. I love creating on a grand scale and the only thing that held me back or would hold me back is fear of judgement. And I don’t have that anymore.”

Jonah Hill is not the man he was. He’s grateful for that.

Mid90s opens the Glasgow Film Festival 2019 at the GFT on Wednesday at 7.30pm.