COVER STORY: Canadian Film 2012 preview w/ Jay BaruchelCanada’s actors, writers and directors fare well enough in the court of public perception, but too often our films are dismissed as either too highbrow, too dull, too weird or, simply, too Canadian. What does that mean? Well, in 2012, it means a potential Academy Award winner (David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method), a Variety magazine “one to watch” screenwriter (actor/writer Jay Baruchel’s debut, Goon) and an indie darling on the festival circuit (Carl Bessai’s Sisters&Brothers). Get thee to a movie theatre!
There is no man in Hollywood who is more proudly, staunchly, defiantly Canadian than Jay Baruchel. So what better subject matter for the young actor’s screenwriting debut than hockey? And better yet, a feminist hockey movie free of “alpha male douchebags.” Baruchel spoke with WE at the Whistler Film Festival in December about his dream project, Goon, which hits the big screen Feb. 24.
Full disclosure: I actually interviewed you for The Trotsky a while ago, and we talked about goat sacrifices in Victoria and how my dream is for you, Nicholas Cage and Crispin Glover to star in a movie together.
I told Cage that! Crispin was his best friend when they were teenagers.
I enjoyed the trailer for Goon, and I’m excited: you speak well, so I feel you probably write well, that the two correlate. Is this the first film you’ve written?
No, I’ve written a bunch, but it’s the first one that got made into something.
What was that process like for you?
It was combining all the fun I get out of writing, with all the fun I have as a hockey fan. It was trying to find what is most exciting and interesting to watch as a hockey fan and put those into a movie. And then just try to make myself laugh, and as much heart, for lack of a better term, into it. I had no interest in just making a movie about an alpha male, frat-boy douchebag.
Really, you don’t say?
(Laughs) I was convinced I could make a sports movie that was humble and honest and pure and not offensive. When I say offensive, I mean people will be offended by Goon, but not offensive — I wanted absolutely no mysogyny. I’m a momma’s boy who grew up with a little sister. I hate that shit. It’s embarrassing.
Who are some of the screenwriters you’re inspired by?
I don’t know how much I’d be able to pinpoint. Any movie I watch is indelibly marked in my head. Good ones and bad ones. Everything I like is in this movie. I tried to economize as much as I can. I tried to do that Clint [Eastwood] thing in Unforgiven or Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby, incredibly simple stories that are incredibly involving as well. As I started writing, I won’t lie, there’s a fair bit of Gladiator or Braveheart in there too. Evan Goldberg and I had one or two phone conversations of about an hour a piece and mapped out, more or less, almost the entire movie. It came really easy to us. And I banged out my first draft in a month and a half, or two months. When Stauss got involved, he instituted this writer’s room type thing, where it would be just me and him and a few other people in a room and just — I hate using words like this — spitballing, talking shit and comin’ up with different ways, like “How does this work? Is this going to be funny enough?” All that stuff.
Being funny in your head and being funny on the page are two different things, and then to sustain going from the page to being said out loud ...
It’s a long, long, long process. I think people can say funny shit, but what’s also far funnier is a strange back and forth. Believe it or not, the script for Goon is incredibly dialogue-heavy. There are monologues, too, so I probably went a bit Mamet on that. (Laughs) But basically if I find it funny and one or two other people find it funny, it’s probably not too shitty.