Director Jay Baruchel On The Long Road To 'Goon: Last Of The Enforcers' [Interview]

With Goon: Last of the Enforcers, actor and writer Jay Baruchel makes his feature directorial debut. He previously directed an episode of Trailer Park Boys and a short film, Edgar and Jane, but the very first Jay Baruchel film is the sequel to a beloved sports comedy he co-wrote. In the Goon sequel, which arrives five years after the first movie, the fights are bloodier, the fighters are more tired, and the future is less bright.

Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott) finally found his calling in Goon. In the sequel, his days are numbered on the ice, so the lovable goon with a massive fist finds himself lost again. Baruchel doesn't forget the laughs, of course, but as he pointed out in our interview, hockey is changing for the enforcers, with fights dropping in the NHL. That sea change is a part of Goon: Last of the Enforcers, which Baruchel was happy to discuss along with how the sequel evolved and died twice, writing the legendary Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), and all the well-deserved love for the first Goon.

Below, check out our Jay Baruchel interview.

When did you first notice the passion people have for Goon? Was it right when it came out or later?

It depends, because the movie had different lives depending on what country it was in. Like in Canada, we first premiered at TIFF and we got a big ass standing ovation. And then we opened up across the country theatrically at number one, which just doesn't f***ing happen for a Canadian film in Canada. It never happens, but we were number one that weekend. In Canada, we're sort of a big hit. In the States, we became this kind of cult film, like Donnie Darko or Boondock Saints or something, and that just happened over time.

More and more, it's a movie that people have found down there and keep finding, and that's kind of a neat thing. It means a lot to us and it tells us that we did our jobs because five years after the fact, people are watching and in love with it and then falling in love with the culture and fandom around it. I have theories about why it became what it became in the States. But I try not to overthink it. I'm just psyched the movie means what it means to people. We were proud of it, but we're also a bunch of very pragmatic Canadian, so we never assume the best case scenario in any situation.

[Laughs] I know you said you don't like to overthink why the movie was received the way it was in the States, but I wouldn't mind hearing your theories.

Well, number one, I think that the people in the States that found the movie were hockey fans, and I think that American hockey fans are used to being...There's a degree of punk rock and black sheep in being a hockey fan in the States. Just the fact that it's not number 1, not number 2, not number 3, but I think it's the fourth most popular sport. It could be fifth or something after NASCAR, basketball, football, and baseball. So there's already that degree of kind of underdog-ness in being just a hockey fan in the States. And so here comes this movie that feels handmade and dirty and real and it's for you.

I think that it became something of a badge of honor to a very rich, proud community in American hockey fans. And then I think the next group of people to find it were film nerd-type people. It's that rare movie that gets love from, for lack of a better term, average people, regular people as it does their kind of critics intelligentsia, you know, and I think that the two things eventually kind of connected and then it just kept growing. And it's really, really nice because it's a lot of people's f***ing favorite film [Laughs]. That's like, man, that's special. It's really, really special.

I think a part of it is you feel love for hockey in both movies. You know it's not just a work for hire director making a hockey movie; it's made by hockey fans for hockey fans.

All right, thank you so much. That's what we hope. I think that the movie wears its heart and its origins on its sleeve. I think people have very good bullshit meters, and that's not to say some really good movies don't come from a work for hire director or that sort of his situation, but that's not what this was. It was born of passion and respect and love and admiration for a game and a culture that means a lot to all of us. You do feel that. We're never disrespectful, as edgy or dirty as we might get. We're never disrespectful to our characters to the world that it takes place in art or to our fans.

Was it during the making of the first film or afterward that talk began of making a sequel? 

One day one of shooting in Winnipeg, on the first one, I remember... Jesse [Chabot], my writing partner, and I were in an apartment with our friend Ricky, who played Stevenson in the first film. The three of us got back to the apartment after the first day and went, "Holy f***, I think we might be onto something here." There's just something that happens, and you can't always find a word for it, but it's rare for you to be on a set full of people that the vast majority of whom seem to see the same movie and seem to care about it as much as you do. That doesn't happen very often. It was a combination of the fact that we all enjoy each other's company and made each other better and respected each other as artists. There was such a selfless, awesome team vibe to our ensemble in the first film. I've been in ensembles where it's just sort of something of a pissing contest, and that can yield great, funny results but it's very Darwinistic and very competitive. With Goon and Goon 2, no, every single actor wanted the person next to them to look better than they did. We all set each other up.

It's hard not to be inspired [by that experience], and then by the time the film ended, we were like, "F***, I think we've got to do this again. We feel like we're just scratching the surface." A testament to that is we made a whole other movie, and there's still like three other massive, whole stories we've fleshed out. In addition to at least half a dozen other characters and then about a dozen different jokes and potential arcs for all of the team. We still have way more story than we were able to fit in two movies.

I was going to ask if you all see this as a trilogy, but it sounds like you might want to go beyond a trilogy. 

It has to be organic, but I will say this, we have a very deep world we're very proud of. If the world wants us to, we'd do it again in a heartbeat. We know exactly what we would do. Given a chance, we could do this for a while, or just hold off for 15 years and come back and do the third one, which if we got to, would be about Doug and Eva's daughter. It'd be a f***ed up cross between Heathers and The Mighty Ducks. It's a teen high school comedy about how hard it is to come of age, how hard it is to be a girl in high school, especially when you're six-foot-two, and you're the hardest hockey player on the team for the boys. I think that could be something awesome. There are about four other arcs between number two and that one we'd like to tell.

Goon 2 Trailer

I'd like to see that happen. As you said, you have a big world you're proud of. What new parts of the world did you want to explore with Last of the Enforcers?

We knew that the first movie is very much the beginning of a love story of boy meets girl, boy meets hockey, and boy finds his calling. And at the start of anything, it's puppy love, and it's all sweetness and light, and it's very shiny. When you're years into something – boy sort of married to girl and married to hockey – it's not worse, it's not better, but it's different. It's more of a gray area, and the answers are a bit more complicated and two people can be right on either side of our philosophical divide. We also thought that combined with this particular job – it's lovely to find your calling. Most people don't. What if your calling is a finite thing, but it's not always a finite thing because it's also f***ing you up? What do you do?

That seemed to dovetail with the enforcer kind of being retired in hockey, period. Like last year in the NHL, fights were down 50% from the season prior. That's a 50% in one season. So the era is drawn to a close; it's not really a debate anymore. That seemed time pretty well with Doug having to walk away from his job. There's a kind of romanticism of like last gunslinger-type thing that we saw that was very appealing. It created a melancholy that informs the whole story.

Speaking of the last gunslinger, I love Ross Rhea. There are so many Rhea lines I think only Liev Schreiber could deliver. What's it like writing for him and that character?

It's the best. It's the easiest, most colorful, and fun bit. We all love Rhea because Rhea is from a different era. He's the type hero in the movies that our dad loves [Laughs]. There's something fun about writing that guy. He's very, very funny, especially when it gets kind of a bit more contradictory. You are writing a guy that is, at the same time, a hero and a tragic cautionary tale as well.

And that's when you feel that you're doing something kind of good because it's one thing to just make someone the crowd-pleaser. That's a cool thing to do, but to write a crowd-pleaser that also makes people second-guess whether or not they should be pleased, it's a much more interesting thing to do. The story needed to show what it looks like if you don't evolve and stay stuck in the past. You grow extinct and pay the price for not being able to evolve into the next part of your life. So it seemed the right fit, and also because he was never a bad guy. He's the antagonist to Doug in the first one, but we purposely from the very first draft, we didn't want a villain, and we had to fight for that.

A lot of people wanted us to make him a bad guy, and we were like, "No, it's a much more interesting place to put the audience if they like and respect both of them. Obviously, they're going to root for Doug more because it's Doug's story, but I want them to like Ray as well. And that's going to put them in an interesting position." I knew that if we ever got to continue the story, Doug and Ray on the other side of that fight would like each other and are able to be friends.

Am I wrong or did it take four years to finish the script for the sequel?

I mean, we weren't typing four years straight [Laughs]. From the first draft to shooting the movie, it was about four or five years. And that's down to different things, that's evolving in different incarnations of the script and also just improving. Also, small movies – this is still a relatively small movie – take a long f***ing time. A lot of time. Every single one of them is a miracle, and most die. By the way, this one died like twice before we got to shoot it, and the same with the first one. We all loved it and wanted it and fought for it. So yeah, it takes some time. But yeah, all told from the first movie to this one coming out, for me, is close to 10 years.

How did the sequel evolve or change after the first draft?

We sort of think...  Last of the Enforcers is a sweeping movie anyway, with a lot of moving parts, a lot of story, and a lot of characters to cover. This is the narrowed version [Laughs]. We narrowed in scope down to the story we were able to tell. There were way more moving parts. We gave everyone their version of Anders Kane (Wyatt Russell), so there was sort of a devil on Xavier LaFlamme's back, a sort of younger version of him making him look bad. We were a bit more literal with all that stuff.

I get confused, too, because like I said, we couldn't help but come up with so many stories. There's a whole other movie that we wrote, but more than anything, it was about finding the voice of this one specifically, and not biting off more than we can chew and zeroing in, zeroing in again. It's a process that continues pretty much until the week before the movie comes out [Laughs].

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Goon: Last of the Enforcers is now in theaters and available to rent on iTunes.