It’s Danny McBride Day on ComingSoon.net as we have two interviews with the rising comic star leading up to his appearances in two action-comedies, Seth Rogen’s Pineapple Express and Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. First, Heather in L.A. has a video interview with McBride talking about his eccentric character Red from “Pineapple” and then Ed in New York talks with McBride about both movies, as well as some of his other projects, including his star-studded HBO comedy about a down-and-out baseball player, formerly titled “Eastbound and Down.”
Earlier this year, McBride’s low-budget martial arts comedy The Foot Fist Way was finally released in theaters, but it had already been seen by so many of the comedy power players in Hollywood that McBride was getting small but memorable parts in comedies like The Heartbreak Kid and Drillbit Taylor.
Pineapple Express reunites McBride with director David Gordon Green, friends since film school who first cast McBride in his early film All the Real Girls, and Tropic Thunder has him playing pyro and weapons expert Cody Keith Underwood on a Vietnam war film gone wrong. (You can see a special video of him at the Rain of Madness blog and learn more about his character at Cody Effects.)
And here’s our second interview with McBride talking about a wide variety of topics including his new HBO show, which will mark the directorial debut of Will Ferrell! As we discovered, McBride never intended to become a comic actor, wanting to write and direct his own films, but the popularity of his characters in these two movies surely will get him the attention to get those movies made, including a couple more with Green, which we also discussed.
ComingSoon.net: It’s kind of ironic that you have two high-profile movies coming out back-to-back like this.
Danny McBride: It’s nuts. There’s two big action comedies this summer and they come out a week apart from each other, which is crazy, but I guess the audience is the lucky ones. I’ve seen both these films and they’re both so f*cking awesome and I really do feel like they’re groundbreaking as far as summer comedies go. It’s like you haven’t seen it like this, it’s good. Three cheers for the R-rated comedy. I think it’s a good thing as long as those movies are making money it makes things more interesting.
CS: Which of the movies did you film first?
McBride: I did “Pineapple” first and then I went down to North Carolina and shot the pilot for this HBO show and then went to Hawaii and shot “Tropic Thunder.”
CS: Did you actually get to meet some of the pyro guys on “Pineapple Express” like the one you play in “Tropic Thunder”?
McBride: Yeah, and some of the guys worked on “Tropic Thunder” too.
CS: I talked to David (Gordon Green) last week and he was saying that you were the one that introduced him to the Apatow gang by bringing him along when you visited the set of “Knocked Up.”
McBride: Seth and Judd had seen “The Foot Fist Way” and wanted to meet me and invited me to come to the set of “Knocked Up.” It was my first star encounter where I was just tongue-tied. I’ve been a big fan of theirs and it was pretty interesting because as I watched them work it was really, really similar to the way David works. As long as he trusts the actors he’s with, and makes sure that they have a good understanding of the characters, they’re just allowed to go wherever they want to. He encourages it, and he throws out ideas along the way. It was just cool to see that these guys are doing what David does dramatically, only comedically; it’s great. And David’s just a funny dude. I just knew they would hit it off with him, so when Seth told me about this film I just said, “David’s a funny guy, you guys should meet him.” And then he did his own little dance for them and they talked him into it.
CS: They couldn’t go from all of the comedy in “Undertow” or “Snow Angels”?
McBride: That’s the thing that I always think is funny too, because with “Snow Angels” which is such a kick in the balls–it’s such a dark, intense film–but there’s still moments of doubt where you just laugh. Sam Rockwell works that side. That’s what’s so brilliant about David; his comedy comes from such a real place. To pair that up with something’s that an action weed movie, it just takes the movie to a place where you’re not expecting it to go.
CS: You were in “All the Real Girls” I think four or five years ago, so what have you been doing since then? Have you just been writing stuff and working on your own things?
McBride: It’s funny because I never had any plans or ambitions to become an actor at all. I went to school with David and went there as a director and a writer and was just doing all that stuff and out in L.A. trying to sell screenplays, and David had his actor pull out. The guy who was playing Bust-Ass originally pulled out within days of him shooting, and so David was in a weird pinch, and I had been over the script a bunch of times with David before just because we collaborated and would go over ideas all the time as kind of a sounding board as a few guys who would help each other out that way. So David knew I knew what he was going for with the character and just asked if I would come down and do it, and so I did. So I really wasn’t trying to get any more acting roles after “All the Real Girls.” I literally thought that would just be it and I was back out here trying to write, and then Jody Hill, another of our classmates, just wanted me to be in “The Foot Fist Way” and so we just started writing that together. So definitely the fact that I’m popping up in these movies is a surprise to me as well.
CS: When I saw “The Heartbreak Kid” I was like, that’s the guy from “All the Real Girls”! “Foot Fist Way” was at Sundance not this year, but in 2007, so basically, it was just circulating the rest of that year and building a fanbase in the industry?
McBride: It was weird, man. We got international distribution right at Sundance, but we didn’t have domestic distribution, so we left Sundance with that feeling of, “Yeah, we got into Sundance.” And then nothing happened once we were there and we didn’t really get the deal we were looking for. So we just went back to our jobs and were trying to get back to normal and unbeknownst to us the film was starting to be circulated around, and it was starting to get passed, and then we started getting calls of this person wants to meet us, and this person had seen it. And then we found out that Will and Adam wanted to release it, they had this new company. They were getting the company set up at Vantage at the time, so the movie just got held up in paper work for a long time, but it was ready to go for a while, and then it finally came out, and it just had its release. So it’s good that movie’s out there, and it comes out on DVD in September.
CS: There you go, so that can capitalize on these two movies.
McBride: Exactly, so if anyone digs what they saw in “Pineapple” they can go there and see what we did.
CS: Having worked with David for so long, was this a very different experience?
McBride It felt the same because David rolls with a lot of the same crew which happened to be a lot of the guys we went to school with. So it was pretty awesome to be on the set of a movie at Sony, on a soundstage, with real actors like Franco, and Seth, and then there’s Tim Orr who I went to school with, and Chris Gebert on sound, and all these guys I went to college with. And here we are getting paid real money as opposed to ham sandwiches to make this movie. It was cool. It was a really good feeling.
CS: What did Evan tell you about Red and what excited you about the character?
McBride: They told me they wanted to do a weed action movie, which to me seemed f*cking hilarious. I was like, that’s the least likely guys you’d see in an action movie, apathetic potheads. That idea just inherently seemed funny to me, and I just like their work. I like how they balance the heart and the comedy, and I like that the comedy comes from a real place, not necessarily a place of gags and pratfalls and sh*t. So reading it, I was just stoked that they would consider me to be anything of this, so yeah, I was stoked about it, but I was less thinking about the character and more like, “God, I’m going to be in a f*cking real movie.” (laughs)
CS: But there must’ve been something on the page and they must’ve said something to get you into that kind of role?
McBride: A lot of that was when I met David on it. I was like, “What should we do with Red? What’s the deal with him?” and David’s initial instruction was like, “Your character is going to have his armpits shaved.” I was like, “Well what’s with that?” and he was like, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
CS: Wow, I think most people would have thought that came from Seth or Evan, but I guess David’s got his own freak thing goin’ on. You’ve talked about improv, but you’re a writer, as is David. I was curious about that dichotomy, because you spend a lot of time developing a script and then you can just throw it away? When you’re doing something like this just as an actor, do you feel you have to turn to the writer to make sure you’re not stepping on what he worked on?
McBride: That’s what’s interesting. On some films I’ve been on, you feel kind of guilty doing improv feeling like you’re insulting them, like what they wrote isn’t really funny enough, which isn’t the case, but it’s just sometimes fun to toss it up. With Seth there, you’re in a scene with Seth who wrote the script and he’s throwing everything out and saying whatever he wants to, and it just makes you feel easy about it. I think it’s a smart way to approach comedy. We would always get what was on the page first and then we would just open it up. It seems kind of narrow-minded to think that just a writer in a room, not on the set, not with the people playing it, not with the props there, can come up with the only thing that’s going to be funny for the scene. It’s good, it’s smart. It takes guys like David and Judd to just get these people in here and just let them f*cking play and just see what happens.
CS: Do you feel the same about your own writing?
McBride: It’s helped me in a way in my writing because now I don’t kill myself over dialogue as much anymore. It’s just like, “Let’s make sure the story works, and these characters work, and then let’s make this thing up as we go.”
CS: As far as working with Nick Nolte in “Tropic.” He can play some pretty insane characters, but was he able to get into the whole improv thing?
McBride: That was the most normal thing working on that film was just getting to hang with Nick Nolte all summer. It was just f*cking awesome. That dude is the f*cking coolest guy. He’s just so cool and he’s a wild man. It was just nuts to watch and when the cameras turn on and that guy just kills it. He’s awesome. He’s just a beast.
CS: Is he more of a classical actor where he comes in and has to get into character or not really?
McBride: He just rips and rolls. There is no method to that madness I don’t think.
CS: Adam McKay told me about your HBO show, but I don’t think he told me the entire premise.
McBride: The guy I made “Foot Fist” with, Jody Hill and Ben Best, we sold the show and so we’re writing that now, we start shooting this fall, and that doesn’t have a title as of yet, but I just play a major league pitcher who loses his fastball and it’s about his epic downwards spiral, reaping what he sows.
CS: Is it going to be the same kind of thing where you’re going to do some writing?
McBride: We’re going to do a lot of improv; we did a lot on the pilot. We didn’t have any interest in selling it. We pitched this to all the networks, and everyone put a bid in on it, but we didn’t have any interest in making something that was twenty-four episodes or anything. We wanted to keep it small like the British comedies are, and actually on “Tropic Thunder” talking to Steve Coogan about the show, his advice was to keep it small. That way you don’t have to turn the comedy into a formula, you don’t have to hire a big staff to translate what you do, and it just becomes stilted then. He said, “Keep it small, and just keep people wanting more.” And that’s really how we wanted to approach the TV show for HBO, just look at it as a chance for us to make a three-hour movie that’s going to just unfold over this many episodes, and if people like it, maybe we’ll get to make a sequel to it next season.
CS: And now you have all these contacts from these movies you’ve done that can bring onto it, as well.
McBride: Bring them all in, exactly.
CS: Are you writing characters specifically for them to play?
McBride: Most of it, yeah.
CS: So is the “Land of the Lost” movie you’re doing with Will Ferrell going to be more comedic?
McBride: You put Will Ferrell running away from a dinosaur, it’s definitely going to be funny. It definitely goes for a comedic route, but it’s cool, they don’t really make fun of the show at all, it’s not like it’s a spoof or anything. They just take that world and just put people in it and everyone’s reactions, whatever they are. It’s a wild movie. I had a blast making that film, and it’s definitely been a sad film of back to reality. It was a lot of fun. BoWelch was the production designer on it and the sets he would build were just incredible. Every day we’d go into work and be in some huge location that they had created and it was a lot of fun.
CS: Has anyone seen the dinosaurs yet?
McBride: I saw them at Comic-Con, they had Grumpy, a scene with him, and yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
CS: David also mentioned “Your Highness” when I talked to him, and it’s interesting to think of you doing a medieval times movie because they didn’t really have knights in America or the South, so are you going to have to hide your accent?
McBride: We’re going the Robin Hood route (laughs) just getting rid of any accents. What we’re basing it on is like what “Shaun of the Dead” did with zombie films, we’d like to do that with eighties fantasy films. So this is our stab at “Krull,” so even using those special effects everything, and that can be a lot of fun. We’ve been touring all these old FX houses and all these old guys who are some of the original glass matte painters and stuff, and we want to approach it with that sort of level of special FX and not all the computer stuff, but try to make it all practical.
CS: How are you going to be able to manage all the movie roles you’ll be offered while doing the TV show?
McBride: The TV show, luckily, is only five episodes. We’ve only shot the pilot, so we have to shoot for the rest of the season. It’s a week an episode, so it only ends up being five weeks of shooting. It’s less time than a movie, and that’s how we wanted to keep it. Let’s just make this something we don’t get dragged down by or feel weighted down by. Let’s just keep it short and fun and wild and see what people think of it. We shoot that at the end of this September and I think it’s supposed to premiere in March.
CS: And Jody is going to direct the entire series?
McBride: Jody directed the pilot, and he’s directing two more. McKay is going to direct an episode, Will Ferrell is directing an episode, and David is directing an episode.
CS: Has Will Ferrell ever directed anything before?
McBride: He hasn’t. This is going to be the beginning for him. It’s going to be exciting, but him and McKay are going to tag team it. When they suggested that to him, I think a lot of people would be nervous, like, “Oh sh*t,” but working with Will on “Land of the Lost”, that dude has f*cking insane instincts, and he knows his sh*t. Will would come up with ideas in the scenes, and we’d be like, “God that’s such a great way to do that” and I fully trust that he’ll be able to come in and knock it out.
CS: Do you think we’ll see Fred Simmons, “King of the Demo” again? I never got to see “The Foot Fist Way” but I did see your bit on Conan (watch it here). Do you think people will find it as funny if they now know who you are?
McBride: I think we’ll just leave it. They really wanted us to do all this in character sh*t which we really didn’t want to do, and we just didn’t feel like he was really crafted the same way that Borat and those other characters that work well doing a character. Fred is just another beast and we just didn’t want to lampoon him. That’s why the Conan thing seemed cool. Fred Simmons showing up on the red carpet or MTV doesn’t really make sense. But Fred Simmons showing up at Conan, maybe he submitted his demo team, and they pulled it on, and then he just f*cking blew it.
CS: You did that months before the movie came out so it wasn’t an obvious tie-in to the movie either. It’s cool that you’re now working with Will and Ben in these different capacities. Ben did an amazing job directing “Tropic Thunder” too.
McBride: Yeah, it’s incredible.
CS: What about directing yourself?
McBride: That’s what I want to do. In film school I was always a director, so yeah, definitely, but I just keep getting sidetracked by all these awesome movies, so I feel like I need to say “no” and get back to it.
CS: That’s a cool way to get sidetracked.
McBride: Yeah definitely.