/Film Interview: Jay Baruchel Talks ‘This Is the End,’ Opening Against ‘Man of Steel,’ and ‘RoboCop’
Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
By his own admission, Jay Baruchel is the least well-known of the six main stars in This Is The End. He’s been acting for decades, appearing in Oscar-winning films from Almost Famous to Million Dollar Baby and blockbusters like How To Train Your Dragon and Tropic Thunder. Yet, when compared to some of his co-stars, he simply isn’t as famous. That might not be the case once people see This Is The End.
Along with co-director Seth Rogen, Baruchel is arguably the film’s lead character and the “in” for the audience. He plays the pseudo-outsider who finds himself at a star-studded Hollywood party just as the world is about to end. It’s a role he’s been playing for some time, starring in the original Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse short film the feature is based on, and having worked with seeming every other actor in the film at one time or another.
We spoke to Baruchel, a film junkie, about his outsider role in This Is The End, and some of the film’s more controversial elements as well as aspirations to write more movies, opening against Man of Steel, working with first time directors, odd career choices, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and the RoboCop remake.
/Film: So, you starred in the original short film and for a long time people were talking about this movie coming out and it just sort of didn’t happen. When did you finally hear this was being made and that you’d essentially be the main character?
Jay Baruchel: Umm, probably like two/two-and-a- half years ago, somewhere around there. The talk of it had been floating around for a while and finally they told me it was coming together to the point where they started writing a script. I got sent the first draft shortly thereafter and it was just a question of getting everyone together at one place at the same time. And I was very, very happy to see that I was still one of the leads, if not the lead.
It’s obvious from your body of work that you prepare a lot for your roles. How do you prepare to play yourself since your character, as opposed to everybody else’s, seems to be the closest to you?
First off, thank you for assuming I prepare for all my roles, I appreciate that. To be perfectly honest, the only preparation I really had to do was sort of therapy, man. I just had to be prepared to take ownership of my feelings or my perceived feelings, but also make light of them and be able to note them for jokes and all that stuff. I had to abandon any semblance of shame or self-awareness at the door and accept that they would plug me in the right direction.
What I was focused on the most was serving the plot. Because out of all the crazy actors I am probably the least actorish in the movie, therefore I am the audience’s way in; I wanted to, as hokey as it sounds, serve the plot as best I could. I looked for spots to be funny where I could find them, but my biggest concern was making sure that the story was tracking, and the arc was tracking and there was something to build all the jokes on.
A lot of the humor, especially early on, focuses on Hollywood inside jokes. Although you do get a little bit of ribbing, compared to Franco and Rogen you get off scott-free. What is some stuff that you mentally prepared for that you knew might be right for parody?
No one has a resume that they are 100% comfortable with, nor does anyone have a life that they are 100% comfortable with [chuckles]. It was like preparing for a debate. I had to outline in my mind the things that I thought would be better for jokes, and again try to be as selfless as I could about the whole thing. As long as the movie is better for it, then they can say and do whatever they want. (Laughs)
The problem is, I’m easily the least famous of anyone in that cast, so when it came time to everyone riffing on each other about Flyboys and Moneyball there weren’t a lot of She’s Out of My League jokes spun around. I love and respect these movies, I have a big affinity for them, you owe a lot to a lot of people, but they’re all on another planet – they’re on planet movie star. So when James started making fun digging the piss out of everyone’s resume, I think there might have been one How to Train Your Dragon joke, but besides from that… I also don’t know that any of them have seen any of the movies I’ve ever been in.
You’ve worked with some of the best directors in the world. Were you trepidatious even though you’re very familiar Seth and Evan, who were making their directorial debuts?
Oh yeah, definitely. There was a shit ton of question marks regardless of who was directing it. If somehow Fritz Lang returned from the dead to direct this movie it would still be filled with just as many questions because of the subject matter and given what it is about thematically. What instilled me with confidence was that Seth and Evan went really hard and just owned up to it. And when I say “went really hard” I don’t mean the obvious, like all the gore and the profanity, they went hard on the story, on the arcs and they had pretty huge balls for two guys who never directed before. They clearly saw a movie in their head, and, that’s all you can really ask from your director is that they see a movie.
Speaking of that, one of the things that I found really interesting in the movie that you totally don’t get from the trailers, besides the jokes and the action and the violence, it really does has strict rules about religion – there is a heaven, there is a hell, there is God.
Yeah, I know.
Did you guys talk at all about making such a statement, which could be polarizing in this comedy?
That was one of my biggest, never a criticism, but question mark and that sort of speaks for them going hard. I must have said “You guys are really gonna do this?” about 10 different times. Clearly, it could be quite polarizing and raise a lot of eyebrows. A lot of people talk shit, but the movie takes precedence and so whatever fears you have about potential backlash you kind of got to put them at the back of your head because if you try to make a movie for everyone, you make a movie for no one. The definitiveness and the specificity of it is part of what made me confident and gave me faith. I had faith in them already, and I was proud of what they had done, Seth and Evan, but I was also quite confident again by how definitive their vision was.
Your relationships with all the characters are pretty specific, but the one I latched on to and enjoyed was your interplay with Jonah Hill. You are almost the object of his affections.
Yeah, he kept touching me, and hugging me and rubbing my shoulders and touching my face and shit. There are very few people in the world I like to touch me, so that took some getting used to (Laughs). It was really quite fun, because for as touchy-feely and lovey-dovey as he got, I was allowed to be just as equally reviled and grossed out by the whole thing. It was very easy to come to set and have someone poke at my face, and pretend, well not pretend, and then be grossed out by it.
Once you see that this movie has this summer release date, against a new Superman movie, does part of you gulp?
Not in the least. If I wasn’t in this movie, I’d go see both. That’s the thing – I’ll definitely see Superman, but I will definitely see this thing on opening day as well. Not only do I think that different types of people like different types of movies, but I think a lot of the same people will like both these movies. And I think there is a spot for both of them. They scratch different itches.
I also believe in our work. I think we made a tremendous flick, and I know finding an audience will be a huge battle for us, but all the same we will find one. And that’s good, and people will see good stuff. Especially when you do a movie for a studio, you have the means to make sure that people see it. I’d be much more afraid if this was like the independent movies I make in Canada. It’s never a fear about the quality, it’s always the fear of whether people will even get a chance to see it or know it’s out there to be seen. I have every confidence that people will see our flick. I’m not the least bit worried. And that’s not me taking a potshot at “Superman,” like I just said I’m gonna go see it. But I also believe that people will go see our movie as well.
Have you recorded your voice part yet for How To Train Your Dragon 2?
It took us three bloody years to do the first one so it’s a piecemeal process. I’ve been working on Dragon 2, on and off, for the past year and a half now. And boy is it ever something special. I truly adore the first one. I think it’s one of the greatest flicks ever. Period. And one of my proudest moments. So it’s no hyperbole when I say we smoke the first one with number two. It’s going to be pretty incredible in every way. The emotional content, the action sequences, it’s everything it’s supposed to be and then some. It’s really going to be a pretty incredible, beautiful flick. People will go buy tickets, see this movie, and be taken on a journey like they’ve never been on.
You’re also doing a RoboCop remake. Do you think fans will be pleased it? And, being a film fan, what is your thought being in a “Robocop” remake?
Oh shoot. Well, the film fan in me bent over backwards to get a chance to work with Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton, especially as it was in Toronto, which is only an hour flight from where I live, so it was a pretty quick, easy “Yes” to make. I have no idea how most movies I work on turn out until I see them, so I can’t speak to what this is going to be.
All I can say is that I got to work with a director who I was a fan of. I went and sought out the Elite Squad movies under my own steam, on my own time, about two years before there was a RoboCop remake. So after already being a fan of Jose’s [Padilha]… when they said it was him and mentioned Oldman and Michael Keaton it was just, clearly, go pick the brains of people who I really, really respect. The film nerd that I am was a pig in shit. I got anecdotes from Beetlejuice for God’s sakes. I mean I have Commissioner Gordon on one side of me and Batman on the other, it was a wet dream, man.
I know you are working on a sequel to Goon, and you’re supposed to be adapting a baseball book Baseballissimo. Is writing where you want your career to be going right now? Or do you like to move back and forth between that and acting?
Believe it or not, it’s all I ever wanted to do. It’s a new thing by circumstance, but my desire to write and hopefully direct horror movies and action movies predates my start as an actor at 12. Even when I started at 12, my mom said to me “You want to be a director, this is the best film school to go to.” If I’m being perfectly honest, I do get a lot more happiness out of pulling my hoodie up over my head and typing on a computer.
I’m a massive movie nerd. That being said, I could retire tomorrow because I wrote this movie Goon and it came out, and it connected and it’s a wonderful flick that I think is beautiful and then it had this wonderful life and it means a lot to a lot of people. A lot of people will tell you in their whole careers they never had anything that comes close to that. So, ideally it’s something I do more and more, and hopefully there will come a time where that’s just what I do. I enjoy acting, and it’s given me a ton of happiness and it’s affected my life and my family’s lives in ways that we just can’t imagine. I grew up poor and it’s given us a life we would not of otherwise had. That being said, acting has never been my raison d’etre and I would like to think writing is.
This Is The End is now in theaters. Read our review here, and check back Monday for one final question about the film’s biggest spoiler.