Danny McBride on His Dark Comedy ‘Arizona’ and His HBO Pilot ‘The Righteous Gemstones’

     August 23, 2018

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From director Jonathan Watson, the wild action comedy Arizona follows Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt), a real estate agent and single mom who’s struggling to keep her home and work life together, during the housing crisis of 2009. When she encounters disgruntled client Sonny (Danny McBride), on a day where he’s violently confronting her boss, Cassie soon finds herself kidnapped and things completely spiral out of control, in any and every way that you could imagine. The film also stars Kaitlin Olson, Luke Wilson, Elizabeth Gillies, David Alan Grier and Seth Rogen.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Danny McBride talked about the fun of getting to cause absolute mayhem and destruction, how nice it is not to have to worry about the audience rooting for your character, whether he sees Sonny as a bad guy, the most challenging scene to shoot, what he enjoys about working with Seth Rogen, and feeling bad about what he had to put Rosemarie DeWitt and Kaitlin Olson through. He also talked about finishing up the pilot for his potential new HBO series, The Righteous Gemstones, and what made him want to tell the story of a televangelist family, as well as how he unexpectedly came to be the writer/producer of the Halloween franchise reboot.

arizona-posterCollider:  You were so much crazy fun in this movie!

DANNY McBRIDE:  Oh, good!

What was it about this character that you most enjoyed, and what did you find most challenging about him?

McBRIDE:  What did I most enjoy? It is funny to be able to just go through and cause absolute mayhem and destruction. That’s awesome! I think what was interesting about this script, in general, when I got it was that I had no idea what the script was about, what happened, or what the character was gonna be. When I was reading it the first time, the idea that this guy could be funny and charismatic, and then kill people, I was just constantly wanting to know if he could be redeemed. I like the idea that he becomes a straight villain. It was fun to play that, and to be able to not have to do that type of tightrope walk of still having the audience root for this person, who’s out there doing these vile things. It was nice to be able to present a character you think might take that route, but then just falls off the fucking deep end.

Did you think of this guy as somebody who was just having a very bad day, or is he just a really bad guy?

McBRIDE:  I think that he’s someone who just makes very poor decisions, from his wife’s invention of wine ice cubes to doubling down on the house that he can’t afford. He’s a guy who has made bad decisions, and then wanted someone to blame. I think that there are a lot of factors to blame, but ultimately, he was responsible for his own choices that he was making. And with each bad choice, the situation just gets worse and worse.

When you do a role like this, that’s also very physical, is it cathartic to just get to go crazy without consequences because you can just leave the set when you’re all done, or is it totally exhausting to do something like this?

McBRIDE:  It’s pretty exhausting. I’m not one of those actors who finds pleasure in getting to be mean to people. I really just like to be making people laugh, but whether I’m doing that or I’m killing people, all of it is exhausting. This stuff is exhausting, especially because it’s a pretty low-budget film, and we were burning houses down and shooting people, and stuff. Then, you’re doing all of these sequences, pedal to the metal. You’ll chase somebody through a neighborhood and do all of this action, and then you’ve got six more scenes to shoot, during the course of the day.

Was there a scene that was most difficult or challenging to shoot?

(SPOILER)

McBRIDE:  Yeah, shooting that dog, definitely. I’m a dog person. I love dogs. I wouldn’t think about doing that. I was wrestling with a giant fake dog with weird hair on it. It was laying on top of me and I had to move its head around like it was trying to fight me, and then I’d get his weird fake hairs in my mouth and on my face. And then, in between takes, I was covered in blood and dog hair and trying to have a serious conversation with Luke Wilson or Rosemarie [DeWitt]. I’d forget that I had blood caked on my whole face, and I was trying to talk about serious stuff.

You and Seth Rogen really get into it with each other in this. Did you have any particularly funny moments with him, while working on this film?

McBRIDE:  Every time I get a chance to see Seth, I’m always happy. That’s one of the problems with the fact that hardly anything shoots in L.A. You work with somebody and have a great time with them, and then everyone stays working and gets shipped all over the country and the world, to go work on the next thing. And then, you have these projects where you finally get to see each other again. I met Jonathan Watson, who directed this, through Seth and Evan [Goldberg]. Those guys used him on a lot of their projects. We used him, based on their recommendation, on our second season of Eastbound & Down, and we’ve used him on everything since then – the rest of Eastbound and Vice Principals. He’s just a wonderful dude. It was cool to be able to show up for work for Watson, and have Seth be there, as well. We’ve both known him for so long, so it was cool to be able to go from Watson being an A.D. on both of our stuff to being directed by him on his first feature.

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