Jay Baruchel Interview – TROPIC THUNDER

     August 11, 2008

As most of you know, opening this week is the new Ben Stiller directed comedy “Tropic Thunder.” Since we’ve already run a bunch of reviews (here, here and here) and I’ve already written how much I loved the movie…let me keep the intro brief.

For those that haven’t yet heard of the film….

Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. lead an ensemble cast in “Tropic Thunder,” an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the biggest war film ever. After ballooning costs (and the out of control egos of the pampered cast) threaten to shut down the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia for “increased realism,” where they inadvertently encounter real bad guys.

Trust me…that synopsis doesn’t do the film justice. There are many, many scenes that had the entire theater laughing out loud and parts of the film are so filthy that you won’t believe what is said. Again, I loved the movie and completely recommend it.

Anyway, I recently sat down with most of the cast…and below is the roundtable interview Jay Baruchel. During our time he talked about making “Tropic” and we of course cover all his upcoming projects. As always, you can either read the transcript or listen to the audio by clicking here. Finally, if you’d like to watch some movie clips from “Tropic Thunder,” click here.

Q: How weird is it to be kind of a straight guy to all these crazy actors?

Jay: Yeah, it’s so strange. As a fan of all of them, it made that job so much easier. Some difficult parts were ruining hours of usable film because I was laughing at what they were saying. I basically had to be the audience essentially and the voice of reason. I just tired my best to just not step on them and maybe, if there was a moment, try to be a bit funny myself.

Q: Did you do gun training for this and how heavy were they?

Jay. Yeah, a little and they were real ‘16’s’. It wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. I was a little boy once so I played cops and robbers and G.I. Joe.

Q: So this must have had fun playing soldier then?

Jay: Oh yeah. It literally was like I could pay my rent by playing cops and robbers. That stuff was the easiest. The weapons stuff was the most fun.

Q: Are you like your character Sandusky? When you go into a film project, you are the most prepared guy around?

Jay: [laughs] Not even close. The similarity, for me, is I am a wealth of useless information like the Blu-Ray riff. There is a scene where I just talk about the battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. That’s literally in there because Ben heard me talking about that one day. There’s other versions of that scene where I went on a riff about how underrated Renny Harlan is and stuff like that. That’s the stuff that’s me. I am just a film nerd. That’s all I do with my time.

Q: You have a line where you say, your character is still a virgin so do you think your character gets in this movie then goes to some club in L.A. and gets laid?

Jay: No one knows who the hell he is. I don’t imagine he does. I don’t imagine anyone gives a shit. He waits in line and doesn’t get in then goes to Carl’s Junior.

Q: How much stuff do you have in the fake mockumentary that will be online and on the DVD?

Jay: A fair bit. It’s not like I even shot a whole lot. In one of the scenes that didn’t make it into the cut there’s a big old party scene where I tell Coogan how grateful I am that he hired me. I’m still living off the residuals from an anti-herpes medication commercial I did years ago. So, the documentary contains said commercial, my herpes commercial and shows a bit of Sandusky’s boot camp experiences, getting beaten in the face with a bamboo stick and being tied up in the bushes. So, yes. I’ll be in there.

Q: Who was your favorite person to work with on this film?

Jay: No matter what, I’ll sound like a cliché but I did make so many good friends. It was weird. There were days on end where I’d spend countless hours in Jack’s trailer watching TV with him or playing video games or just chillin’ or go over to his house and watch “Road Warrior” or something. Then Brandon Jackson, his trailer was literally right next to mine and we spent the bulk of our free time together. Then, I became pretty close with Ben as well. He knew, clearly, what a film nerd I was so when he was setting up shots, he would constantly bring me over to video village or on the little mini-monitor he had so he could set up shots that he was in, he would let me stand over his shoulder and show me, just because he knew how cool I thought everything was. So, he would constantly let me know what the shots were and show me stuff that had nothing to do with my job just because he knew that I got a kick out of it. So, I got along with all of them really well.

Q: Did anything funny happen on set between scenes or anything?

Jay: The water buffalo figures prominently in the movie. She’s a great animal, Bertha, her name was. Somehow the trainers didn’t know that Bertha was nine months pregnant and she gave birth during the filming and they named it Baby Jack. There is a scene, I imagine it was before she gave birth, that would explain why she was in a bad mood, but they had Jack tied to her and one of the rules was just ‘don’t run behind her. She’ll get scared and start running’. And I had to walk her. I’m pulling her on the rope there and someone ran behind her real quick. She got spooked and threw Jack off her shoulders. Jack went flying into a generator. His stunt double went and threw himself in between Jack and the generator and, in the same split second, she wheels over and just head butts me with her horns [he says antlers but folks.. it’s horns on a buffalo] and I end up in the bushes.

Q: Don’t mess with the pregnant women!

Jay: Oh yeah. Oh my God. Hell hath no fury like a water buffalo scorned.

Q: You did “Undeclared” and “Freaks and Geeks” and both have a big cult following. Since they never really had any resolutions, is there any chance in the future Judd [Apatow] film to have a couple of cameos of any of the characters?

Jay: Nothing would make me happier. Personally, I’ve been wanting to do the “Undeclared” movie since it ended. Clearly we’re too old to be in university anymore but I think it could be interesting to see what we’re all up to in our 20-somethings. But that’s a Judd question. I would assume that, no matter what, the same people keep appearing in all of his stuff so I think inevitably, that will happen. But, he’ll have to answer that. Nothing would make me happier.

Q: He’s doing the “Stand Up” movie too. Do you have a bit part in that?

Jay: No. I’m not involved with that one.

Q: Speaking of “Freaks and Geeks”, what were you like in high school?

Jay: I went to a fine arts school so there are neither freaks nor geeks there. Everybody is both. The things I liked I excelled at. I was real good at English and Drama and everything else I was terrible at. I had barely 60 percent in everything just so I wouldn’t fail. I did the old sailing through Math and Science and all that. I was kind of a big mouth so I guess I was something of the clown or whatever. This was in Montreal.

Q: Let’s talk “Fanboys” actually coming out.

Jay: Yeah. Let’s see what happens. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Q: What have you been told about this. They screened it at Comic Con.

Jay: Yeah and people seemed to like it. Wow! I’m going to get myself in trouble. Look, it’s been almost three years and a myriad of directors and versions. I’m not the authority on it. I’ve been saying it’s like the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head for the better part of three years.

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Q: They did re-shoots. How much did they actually re-shoot?

Jay: Yeah, we did re-shoot a fair bit actually and I don’t think they ended up using a lot of what we re-shot. I think they ended up going back to the original story which is awesome that we went through all of that a year after, two years after the fact on two different occasions. I have not seen the latest version so I can’t actually tell you how much of the re-shoots made it in but I know there was a time when they were trying to remove a pretty important, sizeable part of the plot out of it and finding a way to re-shoot their way through that.

Q: Was it a few days or weeks that you guys re-shot?

Jay: It was two different four-day weeks so of a year apart.

Q: It’s the project that will never end.

Jay: No, never.

Q: Can you talk about who you play in “She’s Out of My League”?

Jay: I am the “My”, basically. She is a girl called Alice Eve, an English actress. I play a TSA guy. I work in the X-Ray machine at the airport in Pittsburgh and through happenstance, she leaves her I-Phone by accident and I come to bring it to her and the romantic comedy develops. She’s infinitely better looking and more attractive than I am. I think it’s going to be a really funny movie. Pittsburgh’s never looked this beautiful. Everybody is laughing. I’m trying to be serious. It’s an amazing town. I didn’t understand when I got there, the reputation that it has, and my tongue in nowhere near my cheek when I say this, it’s a beautiful, beautiful, amazing town and the people are lovely. Gorgeous hills. It’s got the most bridges of any city in the world. It has the prettiest ballpark in America. There’s a million different wonderful things about it.

Q: Nice airport.

Jay: [laughing] The airport, yeah. Well, I was there for weeks on end. There is nothing more fun than going through all those security checkpoints and not getting to fly anywhere.

Q: Did you have to research with real TSA guys?

Jay: Well, I mean, come one, honestly? No offense to TSA but really, it’s not the Navy Seals.

Q: How does your career look to you right now?

Jay: It beats a poke in the face. Look, I’ve been at it since I was twelve years old; six years in Canadian children’s television, essentially, relative obscurity as far as America is concerned. Then, I’ve been acting out here basically since I was eighteen. I’ve ebbed and flowed and had heat and momentum and still don’t actually understand what those entail. The only thing one can do is try to be consistent. I just try to do things that I would like to see. Do stuff that I would enjoy doing. Is it going to be a worthwhile way to spend my time? Am I going to enjoy showing up for work every day for four months or whatever. My family is taken care of. The rent’s paid. I can buy catfood and I still have money to have a nice TV and I get to live at home in Montreal. I got no complaints.

Q: And you can pursue a career from a Montreal base.

Jay: That’s it. I have been stubborn about it and it’s worked out so that’s real nice.

Q: What kind of music are you into and do you play an instrument?

Jay: Yeah. I’ve played drums since I was fourteen. I’ve played synthesizer for the better part of the last five or six years. I play drums in a band. I play synthesizer, I guess it’s a band. Well, it’s me. I just make music that I listen to when I play videogames or make heavy stuff to listen to while I’m lifting weights or playing videogames. I know it’s hard to believe that I lift weights but sometimes I do or so push-ups or something.

Q: Who do you listen to when you are just kicking back?

Jay: I really like Joy Division and New Order and my favorite band of all time is a band from Montreal called God Speed You Black Emperor and I like My Bloody Valentine a fair bit Around right now, I quite like a guy from France called M-83 and his new album is really, really nice. It depends what mood I’m in or how pissed off I am.

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