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The Hot Seat: Jay Baruchel

The fresh-faced, foulmouthed actor-writer toasts the art of the hockey brawl.

Jay Baruchel

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Your character in Goon has a pretty wicked Massachusetts accent. Who influenced it?

Every fucking kid from Massachusetts who got drunk in Montreal [when I was] growing up. Especially in summer months, every bar, club and anything in downtown Montreal is filled with every Sully, Pat and Ryan from Massachusetts. So I grew up hearing all these fucking guys being like, “Hey, Sully, I’m up in Montreal for the weekend! Wicked fuckin’ pissa!” [Laughs]

The movie mostly takes place in Canada. As a Canuck and the film’s cowriter, were you very involved with choosing shooting locations?
Sort of. We all tried our best to make it real. When it came time to go out to Winnipeg and [director Michael] Dowse was going around scouting, we just wanted everything to be able to be mentioned in a Pogues song. Everything had to be “Dirty Old Town.” And in my experience, who the fuck cares about yuppie bars? I don’t think anyone wants to see a scene in a movie at a fucking yuppie bar unless everyone’s getting the shit kicked out of them. The real world is in dive bars with regulars. It’s food courts, it’s fucking locker rooms, it’s buses.

It’s interesting that Goon’s main character (played by Seann William Scott) beats up so many people but is also the sweetest guy onscreen.
Exactly. He’s the biggest dork ever and the nicest guy in the world. Who the hell wants to root for a cool guy? You don’t want an establishing shot of your hero to be him doing, like, a crazy fucking 360 on a Jet Ski or some shit. Fuck that. You want people to like the guy. The hardest and toughest guys are usually the nicest and most humble. Anyway, I was sick of this very over-represented douche bag, fratboy, alpha-male casting. I really hate who a lot of shit’s catered to.

I read that your father was a goon on the ice. Is that true?
Yeah, I remember being at Passover about a decade ago and I got to meet this couple. The wife had dated my dad when they were 15 and her husband had played hockey alongside him. And I said, “How was my dad?” And he’s like, “How do I put this?” And I’m thinking, Okay, great, so he was shit. All those years he made me feel like crap for not skating, and he was a crappy skater. And he goes, “Your father liked to finish his checks.” Which means Dad put some mustard on it—Dad dropped motherfuckers. [Laughs] So I couldn’t write this movie without including some of that shit. My dad passed away in ’04, and we had a fairly complex relationship. But [for me] the one lasting legacy of my dad is that at the end of the day, all you have are your balls, so don’t take shit from anybody. So yeah, there’s a good bit of him in the movie.

What was it like writing the movie with Superbad cowriter Evan Goldberg?
You know, piecemeal. We just kept punching away. That was for four and a half, five years. I literally couldn’t even count how many drafts we did. And that’s not to say that it’s a completely different movie. Like, it wasn’t a black-and-white thing about migrant workers on Mars or something when we started. It’s always been this story. But as something evolves, you start to get a better idea of what’s important. We’d just kinda fuck around and try different things out until we had everyone’s voices.

As a boyish-looking actor who’s almost 30, has it been difficult to shift into adult roles?
Um, I hope I’ve shifted. [Laughs] I never know, man. It’s rare for me to notice huge milestones or paradigm shifts. It’s like Dustin Hoffman said: Every time he finishes a job, he thinks that’s his last one ever. I did face a ton of difficulty and I still do. There are a million reasons why you’re not the right guy for the job and, you know, usually just one reason why you are the right guy. I’ve been doing this since I was 12, so that’ll be 18 years I’ve done this crazy job. And that’s 18 years of me being too small, too ethnic, too this, too that. Ideally, by the end of it, [I hope] I’ve left behind a resume that more or less reflects what kind of stuff I like.

Goon opens Fri 30.

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