Coming to theaters this weekend is Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes or Less. The film, which reunites Fleischer with his Zombieland star Jesse Eisenberg, tells the story of a pizza delivery boy (Eisenberg) who is strapped to a bomb and forced to rob a bank as part of a harebrained scheme hatched by two hapless criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) looking to inherent a fortune. Along the way, Eisenberg enlists his best friend, (Aziz Ansari) to help with the heist.
Recently, I got on the phone to talk to McBride about the film. Unlike his boarish characters on screen, McBride comes off as a thoughtful and well-spoken man who is far more dedicated to creating real characters than many of his detractors would like to admit. During our interview we discussed how he has refined his on-screen persona, his admiration of Nick Swardson, acting like a monkey on screen, the future of Eastbound and Down as well as several other HBO projects he has in the offing, how he would rob a bank and much more. Hit the jump for the interview:
Question: You’ve established quite a distinct brand of comedy in a very short amount of time. 30 Minutes or Less is perhaps the most focused version I’ve seen yet. Did you rework your character heavily?
DANNY MCBRIDE: You know, when I was given the script I was told that the writers had written this character for me and usually when you get a script like that it’s like they’ve written for you and they’ve written it exactly like everything you’ve ever done before. And with this script what kind of pulled me to it and separated it from most of the scripts I get like that was I felt that underneath it all there was a very interesting concept in exploring this buddy comedy dynamic the fact that you have these two sets of friends that, you know, good and bad, but you’re kind of exploring the limits that each of these friends would go do to support each other. So that concept I thought elevated the material and was interesting. And so from there, the trick was, okay so this is playing off of things I’ve done before but how can I do this differently so that it’s not just boring for me as an actor and boring for the audience like they’ve seen it a million times and I think a lot of that came from the casting of Nick [Swardson]. Nick is super funny, he cracks me up and a lot of our improv on set became not just about jokes but kind of about exploring the sort of chemistry between these two friends and I feel like that was the way we were able to find a sort of refinement in that character.
Which one of you guys came up with the idea to act like you were in Planet of the Apes when you put on those monkey masks?
MCBRIDE: I think that was just something that magically happened as soon as we put those masks on, it was just a full transformation.
MCBRIDE: He’s so funny. I had such a good, good time working with Nick. He’s such a funny dude. I didn’t know Nick before we started working on this film. I met him the day of the table read and then we went down to the bar and had a few beers for a couple of hours and just started chatting. I was familiar with his work and always thought he was a really funny guy, but when you’re working on a film like this with people who really, genuinely make you laugh, it just makes every single day a breeze.
What do you think your character would have done if he actually got the money?
MCBRIDE: I think he would have gone through with his plan to get the tanning salon. It seems like a very brilliant, genius idea and I think he would have invested wisely.
How do you think you’d do in a bank robbery?
MCBRIDE: I think that I might be able to push myself into pulling it off but I think that the guilt would destroy me. I would be so afraid of being captured and going to jail that I would make a huge error and end up getting busted.”
There was a very strange case a couple of years ago when a man was strapped with a bomb and forced to rob a bank. Was that part of the inspiration for this film?
MCBRIDE: You know, I can’t really speak on behalf of the writers and what really influenced them or not. But I don’t think they were setting out to tell that story or anything. I think that the concept of the crime might have been a point of inspiration, but I don’t really know what inspired them. But reading the script and in the movie I don’t think it really reflects what that story was.
Were you aware of the case when you signed on to the movie?
MCBRIDE: Honestly, I had kind of forgotten about that case. And then when I signed up and started reading it, someone asked me if it was inspired by that case. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I do remember something about a pizza guy and a bomb.’ But it wasn’t something I was aware of when I signed on.
This is a very tight 85-87 minute long movie. Was there any really good improv that got left out that we might see on the DVD?
MCBRIDE: There is a ton of improv that doesn’t make it in. and honestly for me, that’s a relief. Because, you know, on Eastbound and Down I oversee every element of that with Jody Hill and then in the editing room we have the hard decision of which jokes are good and which jokes aren’t. So it was really kind of a relief to just show up somewhere, throw out as much improv as you can and then leave the hard decisions up to the capable hands of [director] Ruben [Fleischer] and [the producers] Stuart Cornfeld and Ben Stiller to figure out what works and what doesn’t. But really, with the improv, none of that stuff is premeditated. All of it just happens in the moment. It’s not like those are things that I carry around with me. Those are things that are born out of the moment and when I watch the final film, oftentimes I will forget which parts were scripted and which parts weren’t. I can only imagine how much stuff is going to be on the DVD.
Is this really the final season of Eastbound and Down?
MCBRIDE: For us, Jody [Hill] and I had a very specific plan when we set the series up and we just kind of feel like we owe it to ourselves to complete what we thought the life expectancy of the show was and to us it has always been a story with a very specific ending and we’re definitely writing to that ending this season. We have a blast working on the show and have a blast coming up with material for this character so who knows if down the road this character will have a life outside of this show or who knows if maybe the character will exist in another chapter of the show somewhere down the line. But for now, we’re definitely approaching this, concluding it the way we imagined.
So it’s like a mumblecore version of Lost almost?
MCBRIDE: Yeah, exactly. I like that.
Do you have any other plans for shows with HBO?
MCBRIDE: We do, you know, our company Rough House has two other shows set up at HBO right now that are, one of them is based on the Sundance documentary Knuckle, the pilot episode is being written by Irving Welsh and it’s about these Irish Gypsy travelers who indulge in bare knuckle fist fighting to settle their disputes. We also have a show called The Magician, that’s a show about a hit man that we’re developing right now. And neither of these are projects I would be involved in as an actor, just as a producer. Jody and I have also talked about, we love working with HBO, they give us lot of creative freedom. On the set it feels very much the same vibe like when we were doing All the Real Girls or The Foot Fist Way. I mean, you’re given a lot of creative freedom. Even the pace of it is kind of reflective of some of our independent endeavors. So, I think we would love to find more things to work on with them and I think Jody and I would love to put our attention into maybe a follow up to Eastbound or some other type of show.