Before Jay Baruchel turned 20, he was the star of Judd Apatow’s short-lived college comedy show “Undeclared” and now, seven years later, he’s finally achieving another even bigger breakout helped greatly by Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, in which the lesser-known comic held his own against Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr.
In a few weeks, he voices the main role in DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon and over the summer he co-stars with Nicolas Cage in Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer’s action-fantasy The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
But first, he’s got She’s Out of My League, a raunchy romantic comedy that has him playing Kirk, a neurotic Pittsburgh TSA Agent who somehow manages to get the time of day from the gorgeous Molly, played by Alice Eve from Starter for Ten), and then spends his time worrying about whether she’ll eventually realize she’s way too hot to go out with a dork like him. At the same time, he has to contend with friends who offer varying degrees of bad advice and a family who’d rather hang out with his ex and her new boyfriend than with him.
ComingSoon.net got on the phone with the Montreal native a couple weeks back to talk about what could be his breakout role… Again.
ComingSoon.net: I was looking forward to talking to you because I’m a fan of some of your previous movies, but after watching you make out with Alice Eve, I’m kind of jealous and I don’t think I like you anymore.
Baruchel: No, I understand. Everybody is. Sometimes, sometimes my job is very fun.
CS: Yeah, that’s a great job. A couple of years ago you’d probably have been one of the funny friends in the movie, so how surreal is it to be moving into that domain where you’re the romantic lead?
Baruchel: To be honest, it’s not that surreal because when I first came out to L.A. my first job really was on a show called “Undeclared” and I was the lead in that. For every big American movie I’ve been the supporting cast member, I’ve gone home and done a bunch of cool indies in Canada, so for every big American movie where I’ve been the supporting guy, there’s been an equal amount of Canadian movies back home which I’m real proud of where I’ve been the lead. So I was groomed for the workload if nothing else.
CS: That’s cool. What brought you onto this project? I know the guys who wrote this also wrote “Sex Drive” which is a really funny movie. Was a lot of the funnier stuff in the movie already in the script?
Baruchel: Very much so, yeah. I mean, when you read a script, you gotta chess move it and kind of see what it would end up being. Once I got past all of my vanity issues of being the ugly guy or whatever in the movie I was able to see that I could do something real cool in it. I was knee-deep in mud in “Tropic Thunder” when DreamWorks said, “We have this script that you might be right for and something you might be interested in.” I read it and I dug it ’cause I saw the potential of leaving behind a pretty cool comedy. Yeah, so I was the first one involved and I’m just happy it’s finally coming to fruition.
CS: It is a high concept movie, but it’s very much based in real world things that guys often think about.
Baruchel: Yeah, well that was the thing. We wanted to make it as real as we could, given the type of movie we were making, and every step of the way, we were very conscious of not making fratboy, alpha male, misogynistic choices. We thought that it could be crass and vulgar as guys are without us being *ssholes basically because we’re just not those guys, man. I live two blocks away from my mom and my little sister. Nate’s married and has two kids. Mike’s married and has two kids and goes to church every Sunday. So, it had to be a movie that we could all envision ourselves going to see. I think that that’s the vibe that ends up coming off of it. That’s the vibe watching it is like, yeah, it’s dirty and vulgar and it’s the way boys talk, but we’re not douchebags.
CS: There aren’t that many movies which are so well-balanced for both men and women, which really does make it a good date movie.
Baruchel: Well, that’s it. You can actually bring your girl to this movie.
CS: But also so many so-called date movies are geared solely towards women.
Baruchel: Or so geared towards dudes, you know? Like, I really honestly think that we’ve succeeded in making a movie that’s totally accessible to both genders.
CS: How much do you think a movie like “Knocked Up” and having Seth Rogen as a leading man helped a movie like this get made?
Baruchel: Oh God, you’re asking the wrong guy. (Laughs) I have no idea. I mean, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt.
CS: What about Jim made you think he could handle this type of material? He had only directed shorts and this would be his first feature.
Baruchel: Yeah, he made these two incredible, incredible shorts. I remember watching them back to back and just devouring them in like a minute. I saw them and was like, “Oh, that’s the guy. That’s gotta be the guy. We have to get him.” Because his shorts, there was this perfect, perfect tone of moments that were at the same time kinda painfully awkward and funny and whilst emotionally-compelling in the same moment and they were real pretty to look at. So like, I knew that no matter what, we’d nail all the kinda awkward funny stuff about it, but I didn’t know I knew the biggest concern for me was making it work like, as a movie, as a story and making sure that it’s somewhat compelling and that the audience actually gives a sh*t enough to watch it until the end of the movie. When I saw his shorts and saw that he was able to like, just pull you in, and he really just knows how to tell a story. I mean, he has this amazing ability of like, knowing where the jokes are and knowing how to track the emotions as well. So he was just absolutely perfect for it. He directed the hell out of this movie. Give credit where credit’s due man, because the cut of the movie that’s coming out in theaters, that’s his version. They didn’t really do anything; he turned in his movie and that’s the one that’s coming out. I’m so proud to have worked with him.
CS: There are so many supporting characters around the basic story, there’s like the family stuff, there’s your friends. It must’ve been really hard to balance all of that stuff.
Baruchel: Well, that’s exactly it, and with a movie like this, everything has so many criteria that need to be met. All the different stories that we’re tracking and all the different like–the worlds that the movie takes place in–everything has to be funny and interesting and it has to make sense and the audience has to buy it. So, there’s a bit of a gamble with everything, with the family, with the boys, with the girls, my scenes with Alice. There are very few scenes in the movie which are just kind of one note. We’re always playing a bunch of different things. So, when I take her to meet my family, it is obviously hilarious, but it’s also kinda painful as well. So, I think that that’s what’s best in our movies, that there are some real, real hilarious moments that actually are truthful as well.
CS: Were a lot of those subplots and stuff in the original script?
Baruchel: Yeah, most of it was there. The biggest changes were giving Nate more to do because when they hired Nate to played Devon, they just realized that they had stumbled onto something genius because he’s just such an incredible performer. So, they beefed up Devon’s role because everybody wants to see Nate on camera ’cause he’s just amazing. But, the gist of everything was there. We started from a real great script. We ad-libbed a hell of a lot, but that in no way means that we needed to. The script is really, really good and I think that combined with all of our ad-libs elevates the movie from really good to pretty great I think.
CS: It definitely worked and I agree, I thought Nate was just a great addition and his character would normally have gotten completely lost in a movie like this, just kind of come and gone.
Baruchel: That’s exactly it. That’s another thing about, it’s a myriad of things that Jim Field Smith did really well and one of his most genius moves was the casting ’cause he really put together just an incredible team of people on this movie. There are like, 10 different breakout performances in this movie. There are a bunch of future movie stars and they’re all in my movie. I was just so honored to show up and to get to play with them every day.
CS: This is pretty daring for a studio movie because you’re really the only name in the movie–Alice has only appeared in one movie anyone might have seen–so it’s really on you to carry it.
Baruchel: Yeah, it’s a gamble on their behalf, exactly, and everybody was conscious of that. So I think that everybody brought their A game and we all showed up. Also, the other thing was we were all just having so much fun really. Like, we were really just trying to screw with each other all day long and that many funny people in a room together and it’s amazing that we were able to complete the movie in two months’ time.
CS: The movie has an R-rating but it’s not a hard R, it’s milder I would say. It has swearing, it has nudity and stuff like that.
Baruchel: It’s just real. The thing about the “R rating,” people build it up to be a lot more than it is and to me, all R rating means is like, “Oh, so it’s gonna be more like people talking real life?” That’s why it’s not a hard R in that there’s no nudity or people getting shot in the head and no one’s saying real bad words. Hollywood likes to try to convince people, (Laughs) I guess by movies, how they’re supposed to be. That’s the thing with like, smoking in movies. I understand all the theories behind why you wouldn’t want kids to see smoking in movies, but then at a certain point it starts being fake because you walk down the street, people smoke cigarettes sometimes and people use the F word. That’s how people talk. So, yeah, that’s what I think is cool about our movies. It’s not like, as you said, it’s not a hard R, it’s just kind of like, it’s as R as it has to be to make it so that we talk the way people talk in real life.
CS: Right. It seems natural. It doesn’t seem like a forced R.
Baruchel: That’s exactly it, that was the point. Yeah, we didn’t want there to be any moments where the audience is like, “What are we watching?” We didn’t want to do anything that takes them out of it, but we also like, wanted to be truthful to the moments. There are times in life where the F word is the only thing that is apropos.
CS: I assume you’re the hockey fan. Were you the one who brought that into this movie as well?
Baruchel: Strangely enough, no. That’s one of the things that I gravitated towards actually. Kirk was always a hockey fan and hockey always played a fairly big role in the script. Even when it was set in Phoenix, it was about hockey, so it was just a marriage of my two favorite things making movies and watching hockey. The fact that I got to shoot a scene of a movie at an actual NHL hockey game getting to watch the Penguins and the Islanders play, it was so awesome. I got to meet Sidney Cosby, which was like a “pinch me” moment for me.
CS: Have you had a chance to see any of “Sorcerer’s” yet with finished FX? We talked to you a bit on the set, and you were shooting in Chinatown a block from where I live so I brought the trailer to the local shops and showed it to the people.
Baruchel: Really? What did they think?
CS: They were very excited the fact that their street was in a movie.
Baruchel: And the big, big, big sequence in the movie is on that street there. No, I haven’t gotten to see anything. I’ve seen snippets of the sizzle reel and all that stuff, but yeah, I can’t wait. When that movie hits, it’s gonna be like an atom bomb. That movie is like your quick essential midsummer event movie. It’s like going to an amusement park, buying a ticket to see our movie. It’s gonna be a hell of a lot of fun. The most fun, dare I say the most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer.
CS: Wow, that is a very daring claim.
Baruchel: (Laughs) But I’m that confident. I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t believe it.
CS: How have things been going with some of the other movies you’ve been developing over the years? I know you’ve been so busy doing these movies and press for them now. What about like, some movies that you’ve been developing and trying to write as well?
Baruchel: Yeah, well, a weird almost like a triage system here. There’s a few things I’m trying to do and it’s just whichever one happens first. There’s something called “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse.” It’ll be hopefully sooner rather than later, but it’s just given the fact that it’s Seth Rogen and I involved and we both have a lotta stuff going on. Then, there’s a movie that Evan Goldberg and I wrote called “The Goon” which we’re producing as well that we’re pretty close to getting going and best case scenario, we’ll actually start shooting “Goon” this August in Montreal it could be. Then there’s my kinda horror movie I’m writing which is something I wouldn’t really act in. I might get killed in a scene or something, but it’s this movie called “Pig” which I’m writing. It’ll probably, hopefully, fingers crossed, be my like, directorial debut. What I want to do is direct horror movies in Montreal for the rest of my life. So like, I’m trying to get that going as best I can.
CS: As far as “The Goon,” what’s the general take on that? Is it slapstick comedy? Is it set in the real world of hockey?
Baruchel: We like to think of it as a funnier “Raging Bull” ’cause it’s real mean and it’s truthful. It’s everything that hockey is without any of the bullsh*t sport’s movie clichés. It is dead funny. It’s gonna be a lot of swears. It’s gonna be that’s a hard R. It’s a very crass movie. There’s some like, 20 fights in it. But, it’s just, it’s the bad ass movie hockey fans have been waiting to see their whole lives. It’ll be by far the best hockey movie since “Slap Shot.”
CS: I spoke to Kevin Smith last week and he’s doing a hockey movie, but he said he’s not doing “Slap Shot,” so I’m glad someone is doing something more in that vein.
Baruchel: Yeah, well that’s the thing. We needed one for a long time. Hockey fans, it’s a sport that movies never do well and yeah, ours will be something, ours will be a f*cking movement.
CS: What’s the general premise of the horror movie you’re doing, is that something you can tell me?
Baruchel: Well, without giving too much away I’ll just say that it’s a 21st century re-imagining of the slasher film with a lot of socio-racial commentary. That’s all I’ll say.
CS: Well listen, thanks a lot. I really appreciate it and good luck with this movie.
Baruchel: Thanks for having me man, it was my pleasure.
CS: It was a very cool movie and I’m bummed you got to make out with Alice Eve and not me, but one of these days…
Baruchel: Yeah, I’m sure. Sometimes it sucks to be me, man. (Laughs)
CS: You give hope to all these dorky guys everywhere that they have a chance with someone like her.
Baruchel: Yeah, that’s why I made the movie.
She’s Out of My League opens on March 12.