Aptly enough for a sports comedy, our interviewees today are a ragtag collection of lovable underdogs. Unavoidably geeky, Jay Baruchel’s starring roles in “She’s Out of My League,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and “How to Train Your Dragon” have left him short of the A-list; he’s still perhaps best known as the lead alum of Judd Apatow’s beloved, quickly cancelled 2001 sitcom, “Undeclared.” Leading man Seann William Scott has worked in numerous films in a pretty wide variety of genres, yet to almost everyone he’s still obnoxious Steve Stifler of the “American Pie” series; he’ll be reprising the character for a fourth go-round in the upcoming “American Reunion.” Director Michael Dowse has some indie successes on his CV, but his last attempt to break into the mainstream, “Take Me Home Tonight,” was an unmitigated commercial disaster and, for the most part, a critical flop. (We, however, liked it a lot; so much for the Bullz-Eye bump.)
Already available on VOD, “Goon” is one underdog movie we’re definitely rooting for. Loosely inspired by minor league hockey star Doug Smith’s memoir and co-written by Canadian hockey fan Baruchel and veteran Apatow-scribe Evan Goldberg, the film focuses on Doug Glatt (Scott), a goodhearted bouncer of no great intellect who finds himself promoted to full-time hockey thug.
Featuring an outstanding supporting cast comprised of Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Kim Coates (“Sons of Anarchy“) and Alison Pill as the dysfunctional love of Doug Glatt’s life, “Goon” doesn’t gloss over the ugliness of sports violence even as it humorously celebrates it. For that, it took some punches from the traditionally violence-averse British press on its earlier UK release. The Yankee press, however, has been kinder, and there may be some hope of a wide release if enough of you hit the initial U.S. screenings starting this Friday.
Low-key Minnesota native Seann William Scott, intense Montrealite Jay Baruchel, and matter-of-fact Canadian filmmaker Michael Dowse were still high on the afterglow of a successful industry screening the night before when a bunch of us journos met with the trio at the Beverly Hilton. Some amusing and informative highlights are below.
Jay Baruchel on creating Doug Glatt, the not-so-bright but incredibly decent hero of “Goon.”
My dad used to have this expression, which was “Don’t complicate a ham sandwich.” In my experience, a lot of the hardest guys I know are also the kindest and most mild-mannered and gentlest. This in no way means that [their kindness] should be mistaken for weakness. He’s a man who knows what he wants, or finds out what he wants and where he’s supposed to be. He’s fulfilled.
Seann William Scott on playing Doug Glatt.
He’s written to be such a lovable guy and so good to his core. It was written with that specificity and I consider myself to be a good guy, so it’s not hard for me to play that… I was always aware of wanting to make sure there were different colors. Anything that I could bring, but it was already written with that kind of code of honor that he has. He’s self aware of the kind of guy he is and where he is in the world, but it is kind of black and white.
Jay Baruchel on the casting of Seann William Scott.
There’s no movie without him and there’s virtually no alternative… We had no #2. With anything, it’s in your best interest to cover your ass and have your sort of top list of who you’d want. Literally, for Doug it was [a list of] one. It was that or maybe find an unknown, because there’s not a lot of boys in movies who look like they could kick the shit out of somebody that you’d find sympathetic, who would embody everything the guy has to embody. As slow as he is, he’s not simple in the least. I don’t know who can take credit for [first] mentioning Seann but it was a light bulb moment. When we all met him, within five seconds of meeting him we were like, “This is clearly our fuckin’ guy.”
Michael Dowse on why Doug Glatt — unlike real-life player and Goon author Doug Smith — is Jewish.
That was something that Jay and Evan [Goldberg] brought in there. It came out of Jay’s personal history. His dad is Jewish and played hockey. He had to negotiate that. It’s not a pretty picture, being a Jewish hockey player in Quebec.
Seann William Scott on how playing Doug Glatt fits into his (so far) Steve Stifler-dominated filmography.
[“Goon”] would have been a movie that I would have loved to have done when I started off my career… I’ve been typecast for sure, but I still appreciate every job I get and you just have to make the best of it. [With “Goon”] I didn’t have to make the best of it. This was already great and I got this opportunity to work with filmmakers who believed in me as an actor…Then I got to go back and do “American Pie 4” and I had an absolute awesome time. Would I love to go play a character like Eric Bana in “Chopper” or [Tom Hardy in] “Bronson”? That would be great, but I’m pretty psyched that I was in this.
Jay Baruchel on the “Goon” approach to depicting hockey, fights and hockey fights.
Everyone got a bit dinged up. Everyone tagged each other at some point. Not on purpose but I don’t even know how many fights we have in our movie. When you have as much fighting as we had with as many big boys together on skates, somebody’s bound to tag somebody.
… I don’t want anybody to smell bullshit because I think that hockey has, for the most part, been very poorly photographed in movies. I think it’s the lack of space and the speed and the size. For whatever combination of reasons, people have never shot hockey the way it should be shot in a movie, for the most part. We needed to nail that.
We [also] needed the audience to feel every punch. There are different types of fights in the movie. They run the gamut. Some are played more for fun; some are meant to be exhilarating. Some are meant to be straight unpleasant — as it is. We wanted people, when they sit down to watch our flick, that they’ll either experience on their inside kind of what it feels like to be out there or, at the very least, what it feels like to be in the stands. It’s a love letter to a very specific, strange job in professional sports.
Seann William Scott on learning to skate and fight like Doug Glatt, who initially doesn’t know how to skate at all but definitely knows how to fight.
I knew [how to skate] probably better than most non-skaters. I hadn’t put skates on since I was a little kid. I was able to move around a little bit. I did the best that I could before the shoot to practice. What you see in the movie — those are my highlights. That’s my A-game. The fights were pretty intense [and were harder to accomplish than the skating] but it was worth it. Watching the movie, the fights looked awesome… Surprisingly, there weren’t major injuries. There should have been.
Michael Dowse on improvising with Jay Baruchel.
Jay is a filthy improvisor. I knew he was talented but until you actually work with him on the day [you can’t tell]. I mean, he disgusted me with some of the stuff that came out of his mouth. That’s saying a lot. I’ve heard a lot of bad shit. I would turn to [the continuity person] and say, “What did he just say? ‘Colostomy bag’?”
Jay Baruchel on hockey movies.
The only hockey films that have any influence on me would be “Slap Shot” and then it’s pretty barren after that. I’d also put what I think is at least one of the best sports documentaries of all time, a very under seen movie called “Les Chiefs,” following a minor league team outside of Montreal for one season in a fight league. That doc centers around this guy who was born to a family of doctors. His brother’s a filmmaker, and he has no interest in doing [medicine] and they all shit on him constantly for it. That, plus the book itself, Goon, and my dad. Just a bunch of different ingredients came into it.
Michael Dowse, who plays hockey, on hockey movies.
I just thought there was a need to make a really good hockey movie again. It had been a while and there’d been a lot of really bad hockey films. I don’t know why they make such bad hockey films. There’s always chimpanzees and tooth fairies and weird shit going on.
Seann William Scott on his work out regimen for “Goon.”
You don’t see me with my shirt off in the movie. There’s a reason for that. To be absolutely honest, before the movie got its money, I’d been training my whole life as an athlete or just to stay in shape. I said, “I’m going to take some time off.”
I’m the kind of guy who, if I don’t work out, I will get a little bigger and look like a guy who used to play sports. Then, when it looked like we were going to do the movie, it was a combination of already changing how I used to train and to gain weight, which was easier. I thought the only way it would look legit for me to take on these guys was to look bigger… It wouldn’t make sense for me to be a gym rat.
The first couple of times I watched the movie, [I’d say] “Man, I’m pretty big there.” But it works so well for the character and makes him more lovable. Now, when I watch the movie, I don’t notice how many Twinkies I ate that day.
Michael Dowse on re-teaming “American Pie” costars Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy.
One of my bucket list things is to work with every single member of SCTV and see if I can get them in a film somehow. So, to work with Eugene was a dream come true. We wanted to do something different, and I think he responded to that idea. Because of the history of Seann and Eugene in a movie together, we definitely needed Eugene to play it seriously. I think he’s actually shown some really great dramatic chops in this film… He kind of surprises people because they expect his eyebrows and all that jazz. What they get is just a really concerned father.
Jay Baruchel on the sense of validation he’s getting from the good response to “Goon.”
We weren’t paid any heed for a very, very long time or taken seriously at all [in Hollywood]. To show it down here last night and to have this sort of jaded L.A. industry crowd — a lot of agents and execs and shit in there, they couldn’t care less about anything… So, when they see our movie and it connects the way that it did, I was like, “Yep, see. Toldja.”
Sean William Scott on the inevitable question: What’s “American Reunion” going to be like?
I’m pretty excited about it, I have to say. We set out to try to just make a great comedy with these characters. Obviously, if I was going to play this role for a fourth time, I didn’t want it to be cheap. I’ve already been typecast — it doesn’t bother me, but if I’m going to do it again, I want it to be a standalone great comedy. It exceeded my expectations. The guys are in their 30s now; they’re dealing with a little bit more real stuff… I think coming back for the high school reunion, it almost feels like a direct sequel to the first one. I was surprised, when I saw it, that it has a lot of heart and a lot of romance for that kind of movie.
Seann William Scott on whether Steve Stifler has married anyone by the start of “American Reunion.”
[Snorting] Oh, no! He’s lucky to get a date.
Tags: Alison Pill, American Pie, American Reunion, Bronson, Chopper, Doug Glatt, Doug Smith, Eric Bana, Eugene Levy, Evan Goldberg, Goon, Goon interviews, How to Train Your Dragon, Jay Baruchel, Jay Baruchel interview, Judd Apatow, Kim Coates, Les Chiefs, Liev Schreiber, Michael Dowse, Michael Dowse interview, SCTV, Seann William Scott, Seann William Scott interview, She's Out of My League, Slap Shot, Steve Stifler, Take Me Home Tonight, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Tom Hardy, Undeclared