Even if you’re not a hockey fan, you have to be impressed by Goon, a hockey comedy co-written and produced by Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up), starring Seann William Scott as Doug “The Thug” Glatt, a simple-minded bar bouncer from Massachusetts who is recruited onto the minor league Canadian team as an enforcer, a guy who is just there to fight against players who diss his teammates. As Doug’s success and popularity in the league grows, it leads him to an inevitable face-off with the legendary fighter Ross Rhea, played by Liev Schreiber, while he also falls for a hockey groupie named Eva (Alison Pill), who is enamored by Doug’s naivety, helping her to forget her many problems.
Directed by Michael Dowse (of the “Fubar” movies), Goon has the daunting task of following in the footsteps of the great 1977 hockey movie Slapshot, starring Paul Newman, but it’s just as raunchy and funny as one might expect coming from an Apatow regular like Baruchel, while featuring one of Scott’s best performances, as he not only delivers on the skating and fighting but also has some truly touching moments with Pill as he tries to woo the damaged young woman. Already a hit in Canada, the movie has been playing On Demand in the States for the last month but will get a theatrical release starting on Friday, March 30.
ComingSoon.net sat down with Baruchel and Scott a few weeks back to talk about Goon, although as sometimes happens when you’re interviewing two people at once, they sometimes would rather talk to each other than answer questions, so we lost a bit of our time, but the enthusiastic (and R-rated) Baruchel had a lot to say about the project he’d been working on for five years. (In that sense, it has that in common with Baruchel pal Jonah Hill’s own time spent developing 21 Jump Street into the comedy hit it became this past weekend.)
ComingSoon.net: We spoke about this last night (at the premiere), but when we spoke for “She’s Out of My League” you mentioned this movie and that was literally a month after I heard Kevin Smith tell me he wanted Seann to star in his hockey comedy “Hit Somebody.” So when you told me about this movie, I thought, “Does he know someone else is doing a hockey comedy?” I guess it’s a good thing you got your movie out first, but you said this took about five or six years to get made. Can you talk about how you first found out about it?
Jay Baruchel: Sure, sure, yeah. Well my friend Evan Goldberg, who is one of my best friends on earth, called me up five and a half, six years ago, I was home in Montreal and said, “I met with these awesome producers and they want me to write a Canadian hockey flick, but I don’t know anything about hockey.” He had read one of my crazy f*cked up horror scripts and so was like, “My boy Jay knows his hockey and he’s not a terrible writer, maybe we can do this together.” And then Goldberg and I came up with what we thought would be a cool flick and I just f*cked off to Montreal and banged the first draft out in a month and a half, two months, and then we just rewrote it and had writers’ rooms and evolved it and got rid of stuff, put it back in, just kind of trying to zero in on what the movie should be. I think about two years into that, someone had mentioned Seann. I forget who it was who had the “eureka lightbulb” moment but we were all like, “Oh f*ck of course, that’s exactly who it is.” Because it’s an insanely difficult part to cast. We needed somebody that is a physical presence that is of the right age who you’re going to like, and as (director Michael) Dowse said perfectly, “You have to be smart enough to be able to play this character.” The minute someone said “Seann,” we were like, “Oh, that’s exactly who it should be” and then we flew down to Los Angeles and met him, we all met up on the set of “The Green Hornet” in Seth’s trailer. And then within 30 seconds of meeting him, we had found our boy. Then of course, a lot of things have to go right to get a movie made. It is not as simple as “awesome script, good director, let’s make a movie!” We have to get all the right people in the right places at the right time, we have to secure all our funding. And the movie, I’ll be perfectly frank with you, and I can say this now, it died, full-on f*cking died.
CS: Was this the first movie you were a producer on as well?
Baruchel: Yeah, it was, so aside from my little short thing.
Seann William Scott: But a legitimate producer. I have to say a lot of people get producer credits but this guy was beyond the writer, hands on, dealing with everything. It’s important because some people get a title of producer and then do sh*t.
Baruchel: Well, thanks. But then we found Seann and then in that period, he went off and did “Cop Out” .
Scott: One of your favorites.
Baruchel: One of my favorites and then on the internet I read one morning Kevin Smith saying that he’s writing a hockey movie for Seann William Scott where he’ll play a fighter, and I was like, “Well, that’s awfully curious.”
CS: I remember that was the big talk at the junket for “Cop Out.” He was talking about it a lot, and we asked you about it.
Baruchel: And I called him up and I was like “Hey, Bud, no offense, but what the f*ck?!?!” And he goes, like, “No I’m Doug! I’m Doug!” And he stuck to his f*cking guns and he stuck it out and to his credit, he had to tell his friend, “Don’t write this part for me because I’m doing this other movie and they’re close. I’m going off to do this.” He’s a man of his f*cking word, this kid, and we made our movie.
CS: Seann, I know you’re not Canadian, but I imagine you were already a hockey fan?
Scott: (laughs) No, it’s f*cking embarrassing because I played baseball, basketball and football and I have a pretty decent knowledge about those sports. I loved watching hockey when I got a chance to go to games. I didn’t know sh*t beyond any natural enjoyment.
CS: The puck goes in the goal basically
Scott: Well, that was growing up, yeah, but I loved the game, just didn’t know how to play it, but then all of a sudden I get this opportunity to be a part of this thing, this amazing film and then to be able to really get introduced to the world. My appreciation and respect for the sport just grew tremendously but I still suck.
CS: The movie’s based on this book about Doug Smith, so as prep, did you want to meet Doug Smith or did you want to meet some of the players who were just fighters?
Scott: The thing is, to be honest
Baruchel: You were trying to do your own thing.
Scott: Yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t think it maybe I just felt like the script was so specific and I just had an idea what I thought it should be, or at least a good start, because of what he wrote. Any questions I had, it was all answered right there, and any little questions, I could just go to the guy because he knew who wrote it, it was his vision.
Baruchel: Doug Smith is the nucleus, we distilled his life and career down to a single sentence. That being said, Doug Glatt is not Doug Smith, and so that’s why I understand that Seann actively wanted to cocoon himself in this character, because as good as he is, he’s never had a chance to do something like this before. I know because I saw it in his eyes, he just worked his f*cking arse off, and I know between us and the script, his ideas and Dowse’s direction, we were kind of trying to do our own thing.
CS: I know you’re a hockey fan but are you a fan to the point where you could have your blog or show and you’re that fanatic about it?
Baruchel: I started a second Twitter just to tweet Habs* games. (*Habs is the nickname French-Canadians use for the Montreal hockey team, short for “Les Habitants.”)
CS: What about the physical part of the role? Skating is tough and it looks like you bulked up.
Scott: They had already decided before the movie happened that I was going to take a little break from working out so it was pretty easy for me to bulk up. I started bulking up, but it was a decision I just didn’t think if I was in the gym working out with weights every day and trying to stay lean, there was no way that people would buy that I could even take on those guys. So it was a decision that I wanted to be bigger, I wanted to be even bulkier.
Baruchel: That’s what real guys f*cking look like. No hard guy that I know actually looks like f*cking Taylor Lautner, man. No, honestly, and that’s not to take anything away from that kid, but there’s this f*cking cult of abs, and you watch all the toughest guys I know look far closer to what Seann looks like in “Goon” then the kid with his f*cking shirt off in “Twilight.”
CS: Although hockey players are always wearing padding so it’s not like you can see them.
Baruchel: That’s right, but yeah, he packed a bit of weight on, but he was still f*cking mostly muscle, man. He’s still a big f*cking kid.
Scott: Thanks, dude.
CS: Otherwise, were those real hockey players out there with you on the ice pretty much?
Scott: Yeah, well who wasn’t a hockey player really? Right? I mean, the guys out there playing.
Baruchel: He gets to fight with Georges Laraque in the movie, who will everybody will tell you hands down is the single greatest hockey fighter in the history of the game. Our hockey coordinator’s a guy called Billy Keane, his brother Mike Keane used to be a captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Billy Keane and he runs a hockey school in Winnipeg and all the boys that populate our teams, these are all the guys that aren’t good enough to go pro. These are the kids that aren’t f*cking good enough and these f*cking kids could skate circles around everybody. It was insane ’cause pro hockey players don’t skate for 12 hours a night. Our f*cking kids skated and fought for 12 hours a f*cking night, man, and then they go and work their 9 to 5s! Bartenders, firemen, waiters, literally, and they would sleep for an hour or two, work their 9 to 5s, sleep for an hour or two, come and skate their arses off.
CS: Is that typical for guys who aren’t pro hockey players to have other jobs but still stay in training?
Baruchel: Yeah, that’s exactly right, and these are the guys like the guy who doubles Marc-André for example, this kid, he’s got wheels like a motherf*cker, but for whatever reason, he just didn’t go pro. He’s a waiter, so that’s something that has to be said. The Province of Manitoba has an incredibly deep pool of f*cking hockey talent, man. Even the guys who say nothing in our movie, were just skating circles around everybody.
CS: What about getting Liev Schreiber for this? And Alison Pill is also amazing. I didn’t look at the notes before the movie as sometimes happens and I literally spent the entire movie going, “Who is that girl playing Eva?” I assume you knew Alison before making this movie since you’re engaged now.
Baruchel: (smiles and shakes his head) We met on the movie.
Scott: That’s pretty cool.
CS: So you cast her as Seann’s girlfriend and now she’s your fiancé? How did that work? But more seriously, how did you go about casting the more serious actors among the hockey players?
Baruchel: Also, it kind of classed up the joint ’cause no offense to Seann or myself, but up until then, every little mention in the trades of whoever joined on, I remember one British blogger in particular when we got Eugene said, “The showbiz headline equivalent of a squirrel on water skis, Eugene Levy, is joining Jay Baruchel’s Canadian hockey flick with Seann William Scott.” No one took us serious, and then we got Liev and Alison, and everyone’s like, “Oh! It’s a movie movie! Actual actors are in it now.” That’s our shuffle, man. We got awesome fans and people like our sh*t but precious few of them take us f*cking serious so when you have Liev and Alison in there, at least one f*cking Tony nod in between the two of them.
CS: I liked seeing Eugene in there, that was really exciting for me. What about doing some of these more dramatic scenes? Doug seems very simple, very naïve, but there are moments when he’s brilliant, so how do you get into that head?
Scott: Well, I mean I had such a great guide with what Jay had written and with Mike’s direction. I don’t know what the process was like but at a certain point, maybe after we’d shot for a week, I think I felt like I had a pretty good handle on how to bring off or interpret what I was reading in the script.
Baruchel: He’s underselling, because the fact is that this kid’s a f*cking dyed in the wool natural actor. You can learn to be a better actor but you can’t learn to be an actor, and there are some guys who are just huge theory guys and there are guys that are just raw natural talent, and that’s f*cking Seann. He just had to show up and we just had to put the camera on him, and yes, we would have discussions and we would try to get to the same spot, but make no mistake, from the first time he read it, he had an intrinsic connection and he knew exactly what he was doing. At a certain point, he becomes the f*cking resource. For me as a writer, I actually get to have Doug come to life and that helps me.
CS: You were on set the whole time?
Baruchel: The whole time. Me and my writing partner Jesse (Chabot), we were just there writing alts, coming up with different versions of sh*t to say.
Scott: Even if I could add to that, the “E.T.” line I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a film by the way, where literally the camera’s on and he’s throwing out lines like “E.T.”
Baruchel: The “E.T.” speech that he gives? We wrote that on the day there.
Scott: Literally as the camera is rolling, he would give me ideas and it came together and it was f*cking genius.
Baruchel: Couldn’t have worked better.
CS: Before we wrap up, what’s going on with your writing? You’re still working on some horror movies? Some pretty cool things, and I imagine “Pig” is still happening?
Baruchel: Thanks, man. Oh, no, it’s happening. It’s just a really classy problem to have that Jesse and I have been hired on three different gigs, two in the States and one back home, so we haven’t gotten a chance to get to “Pig,” but we just handed in the first draft of a script called “Baseballisimo,” an adaptation of my friend Dave Bidini’s book about his six months spent in this baseball fanatic town in Italy called Nettuno – it’s a true story. We wrote a fiction but it’s based on his reminiscence. Then we’re doing this thing called “Exorcism Diaries” for Summit, we have to hand it in in about a month and a half, and then we’re adapting this comic book called “Random Acts of Violence.”
CS: So you like working on horror stuff?
Baruchel: That’s all I want to do. Horror and shoot em ups, those are my favorite sh*t.