Splitsider

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Talking to Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel About their Violent New Hockey Comedy Goon

The title of this piece should really be “Watching Other People Talk to Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel.” Let me explain.

Last month, I was summoned to the swanky Beverly Hills Hilton to attend a press day for the new movie Goon, starring Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel. Baruchel also wrote the movie with Seth Rogen’s writing partner Evan Goldberg. The PR team promoting Goon set up a string of conference rooms at the hotel for Scott and Baruchel to drop by and record TV and radio spots, plus participate in a roundtable interview with about 15 web and print journalists, including myself.

I sat down at the round table that we’d be using for the roundtable interview, along with a slew of movie journalists, many of whom have been writing for major newspapers for decades and probably resented some plucky kid working for a blog that’s been around for a year and a half. It was like a clash between New Media and Old Media. A really, really boring, low-key, almost-nonexistent clash.

When Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel made a charming entrance and sat down for their joint roundtable interview, all the journos and myself slid our near-identical recording devices across the table towards the movie stars, and the interview began. How these roundtable interviews work is that whichever journalist starts talking first gets to ask their question. It’s often pretty competitive, and everyone’s kind of waiting for the interviewee to wrap up their answer so that they can get their question in during the split second of silence after the actor stops talking and before the inevitable rapid-fire question from somebody else. Occasionally, two journalists will start speaking at the same time until one of them backs down and the other one continues with his or her question.

It’s a pretty aggressive environment for something as trivial as chatting with actors about their new movie, and sadly, in the below interview, I was unable to get a single question in. In my defense, there were multiple other writers who also couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I tried. I really tried for you guys. I had questions prepared. Good, solid questions that could have taken the interview to fascinating, unimaginable places. Oh, what could have been. If I was just willing to cut people off or shout over them. I started to speak a couple times but lost out to more confident and experienced journalists.

Enjoy this conversation that I was present for but didn’t participate in! It’s like being a fly on a wall. Or like being a person at a round table, sitting in complete silence while other journalists talked to movie stars.

JOURNALIST: This script and performance they both show so much heart.

JAY BARUCHEL: Thanks.

JOURNALIST: And an extreme love and appreciation for hockey. (to Scott): Now, did you have a great love of hockey coming into this to match Jay's? Not that I think that's even possible. (laugh)

SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT: It is not possible. I don't think it's possible to have a love for a sport, any sport, as much as he has for hockey, which I think is awesome. Genuinely, I really do. I knew baseball, basketball and football, so I'm still kind of new to the game. But I love it now; I just can't play it. I'm terrible. (laugh)

JOURNALIST: Were you one of the actors who lied about your skating ability?

SCOTT: No, I was pretty honest about it. (laugh)

BARUCHEL: There was no lying from day one.

SCOTT: Yeah, I may have fibbed a little bit in that first meeting. “Yeah, I could skate. I'm pretty good.” But after that, after they saw me on skates.

BARUCHEL: It was all so obvious. It was obvious.

JOURNALIST: Any of your real blood mixed in with that great big blood?

SCOTT: No, no, we were lucky. There was some bruises for sure and we, we tagged each other. A lot of landed punches, but we were pretty lucky for the amount of stuff that we did.

BARUCHEL: And no one opened each other up.

JOURNALIST: Jay, you always wanted to write about a Canadian ice hockey story, but you didn't play a hockey player in this film…

BARUCHEL: 'Cause I'm terrible at hockey. (laugh) And why would I want to show people how shitty I am at skating.  And, who would buy me as a fucking hockey player? …Fandom doesn't necessarily mean that like I love playing the game. I do. I quite like skating and I like being out there with my friends a little bit. I don't do it very often, but I just love the game.

I’m a Montrealer. I was you know that's where I was raised. That's where I still live. It's where I'll be for the rest of my life and, and when you grow up there, it's just like there's some things that are just taken for granted. And, it's just like one of the few things that like my mother and my friends have in common is they'll both ask me about the game last night. “Did you see that?  Did you see what fucking happened blah, blah, blah?”

You know and it's just like, it's this thing that's just part of like when you're there you drink the kool-aid. And it just is like your favorite thing and, and you know for me to make movies in Canada is just my life's dream and my life's ambition. So, to get to make a movie in Canada about fucking hockey, specifically… it's like I could retire tomorrow.

JOURNALIST (to Baruchel): You get to play, for lack of a better word, the more Stiffler-esque character in the film.

SCOTT: The much funnier, unlikeable guy. Yeah.

JOURNALIST (to Scott): And you get to be the earnest guy that we're all rooting for. How much fun was it for you to be able to kind of take on parts that weren't who the average Hollywood casting director might have said when envisioning this movie.

SCOTT: Wow, it was everything for me. You know, but it was just the whole character that's beyond him. Just be as sweet, a good quiet guy. The character is rich with qualities that I loved. It was easier in ways where the character… was funny without trying to be funny at times.

You know it was written that way and, but I remember going home often feeling like I'd been bullied… There was a scene where they were making fun of him. And you do that all day. I went home, I was like, “I want to call my mom.” (laugh) What's going on here? Why am I so sad? But, I guess that's what real acting is like? (laugh) But, it was, it was a ball for me.

JOURNALIST: How did you hit on the elements of like the Jewish family and the gay brother? Those were such nice touches.

BARUCHEL: Oh, thanks I'm glad you liked it. The three contributing factors for writing the movie was [hockey player Doug] Smith, this documentary called Les Chiefs, which is an amazing sports documentary about this minor league hockey team in Quebec, and my father… Because, I'm half Jewish on Dad's side. He was an immigrant to Canada, and I can't separate my understanding of hockey and hockey fighting specifically from my dad and this first generation Jewish immigrant experience.  'Cause he played hockey in an all Jewish hockey team. He finished his checks, man. He was there to look out for his boys.  He was part of the pendulum shift generation of Jews where his last generation wanted to hide your Jewishness, Anglicize your name.  Dad couldn't find a Magen David fucking big enough. (laugh) He wanted everyone to know, and the best thing that would happen in that week is if someone gave him shit for it.

And, then, making [the protagonist’s] brother gay… that's my reaction to… I'm fed up with a certain type of movie. There's a philosophy, there's a place that movies have been coming from for awhile that is this kind of alpha male douche bag frat boy bullshit thing that I just have no fucking connection to. And where I'm from and in my experience… the hardest guys I know are the nicest guys I know.

They’re not fucking mutually inclusive. In fact, I go so far as to say most of those frat boy douchebags would get their asses kicked by my friends. And, my friends where I grew up nobody, we couldn't care less what race you were. Some kids are fat, some kids are short, some kids are black, some kids are gay… Who fucking cares? Are you nice? Are we getting on? Then we're friends. That's that, and I just wanted to be able to make a movie that had a positive outlook on life and be more hard-nosed than anything… studios put out in a fucking decade.

Our fights are harder. We’ve got more coarse language, but it's a way nicer, more positive/// There's heart to our movie. It's about nice people being nice to each other.

JOURNALIST: How much of your film was I guess the bar for hockey comedies was set three-plus decades ago by Slap Shot. So, did you want to kind of achieve what it achieved and also maybe do go a different way?

BARUCHEL: To be a hockey fan, you can never disconnect from Slap Shot. And, then to go one further, to write a hockey movie, you can never disconnect from Slap Shot. That being said, it's a nightmare to try to recreate something. And, it's also just untruthful. So, we always knew in the best case scenario this would end up being to our generation what that was to that one. But, we had no interest in making the next one.

But it was a reaction to how shitty hockey's been photographed since then, in movies anyway. Not on television, not on broadcasts.  The lack of space, the speed that the boys are going at, the size of the boys themselves, how small the puck is for whatever combination of reasons hockey's been photographed terribly in movies. It's always been too precious, too staid, too slow, too fucking stagy and fake. And that was like one of these things. We had our list of things that we needed to nail and if we didn't nail we should just pack up and go home 'cause there's no point to make this bloody movie.

And those things were we needed the hockey to be the best that it's ever been in a movie. We needed our fights to be as strong as fuck just hockey fights, any fight. We wanted to go toe to toe with any… movie fight in the past 20 years it wanted it to be truthful.  And we just wanted it to be as exhilarating, as horrifying, as awe-inspiring, as beautiful… This combination of things. Hockey's nothing if not a confluence of phenomenon and emotions, and we just tried our best to show that.

See Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel in the hockey movie Goon, which opens in select theaters today and is also available On Demand if you don't feel like doing that whole "leaving the house" thing.

Bradford Evans will try to be more assertive and forceful with his questions the next time he gets to interview the stars of a new hockey comedy.

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  • Agent M

    great piece. looking forward to this one. one thing: it's "staid" (restrained and stiff,) not "stayed."

    • http://twitter.com/bradfordevans Bradford Evans

      @Agent M Thanks! And nice catch on the typo. It has been fixed.

  • Bee

    Baruchel is 1/4 Jewish. He just lies and says he's half.

    For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Andrew Garfield, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Ansel Elgort.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.