Jemaine Clement in Gentlemen BroncosTalking to Jemaine Clement the man is a whole lot like talking to the character -- named, not surprisingly, Jemaine -- he's best known for playing on HBO's 'Flight of the Conchords.' The New Zealand-born actor-comedian-musician is deadpan funny, completely unself-conscious and refreshingly modest. So it's nice to see such a genuine guy nabbing some meaty big-screen roles, as Jemaine has done with his turn in 'Gentleman Broncos,' the bizarre new comedy (now in theaters) from 'Napoleon Dynamite' director Jared Hess.

Clement plays Dr. Ronald Chevalier, a legendary science fiction novelist with a hilarious accent -- we think it's half French and half, well, we don't know what the hell the other half is -- and a serious case of writer's block. Desperate for a hit, he pilfers the work of one of his biggest fans, a home-schooled teenager played by Michael Angarano. Hilarity -- as well as explosive snake pooping and Sam Rockwell as a transvestite space explorer -- ensues.

On the eve of his biggest big-screen role to date, Clement chats with us about the evolution of his accent, the possibility of a 'Conchords' movie, his apparent Milla Jovovich crush ... and his early days as a pitchman for Outback Steakhouse. Jemaine Clement in Gentlemen BroncosTalking to Jemaine Clement the man is a whole lot like talking to the character -- named, not surprisingly, Jemaine -- he's best known for playing on HBO's 'Flight of the Conchords.' The New Zealand-born actor-comedian-musician is deadpan funny, completely unself-conscious and refreshingly modest. So it's nice to see such a genuine guy nabbing some meaty big-screen roles, as Jemaine has done with his turn in 'Gentleman Broncos,' the bizarre new comedy (now in theaters) from 'Napoleon Dynamite' director Jared Hess.

Clement plays Dr. Ronald Chevalier, a legendary science fiction novelist with a hilarious accent -- we think it's half French and half, well, we don't know what the hell the other half is -- and a serious case of writer's block. Desperate for a hit, he pilfers the work of one of his biggest fans, a home-schooled teenager played by Michael Angarano. Hilarity -- as well as explosive snake pooping and Sam Rockwell as a transvestite space explorer -- ensues.

On the eve of his biggest big-screen role to date, Clement chats with us about the evolution of his accent, the possibility of a 'Conchords' movie, his apparent Milla Jovovich crush ... and his early days as a pitchman for Outback Steakhouse.

'Broncos' is entertaining but also definitely extremely weird. What was the first thing you thought when you read the script?
I thought exactly what you said ... just then. Yeah, it stood out from other stuff, I agree. I really liked the Hesses' other movies, so I was really hoping to do it.

How'd you come up with Chevalier's accent, which was quite distinguished, by the way?
Thank you! Well, Jared got me to watch 'Logan's Run,' which was one of my favorite films anyway, and watch Michael York. I suspect that perhaps they wanted Michael York to do the part and they couldn't afford him. Because the character, I think, is described as being in his 60s in the original script, the one that I read. They could only afford me, I suppose. I also had a lecturer at university who was a science fiction author, coincidentally. But he's a guy I think about often when I think about these kinds of characters. He's got quite a resonant, distinguished, as you say, voice.

Did you practice the voice at home?

Yeah, I did a little. I don't think my family really enjoyed that.

What was your favorite part of playing the character? Getting to wear those sweet leather jackets and dad jeans had to be a real bonus.
I did think that lent sort of an alpha-male form to my body, those tapered leather jackets. The jeans -- that was something that came up a lot because, it's like, Jared just couldn't get those things high enough [laughs]. [Mimicking Jared's voice] "Can we get those jeans -- can we get those jeans a little higher?" They were pulled up definitely above my navel.

'Gentlemen Broncos' Trailer


'Gentlemen Broncos' showtimes and tickets
'Gentlemen Broncos' reviews


What's your favorite sci-fi movie?
'Logan's Run' is quite a classic. I quite like 'Gattaca,' with Uma Thurman. 'Fifth Element' -- that's good. With Milla Jovovich. [Laughs] I can't say that that's not a part of my enjoyment. I even liked 'Resident Evil,' and I've learned that I shouldn't say that. A lot of people are down on that film.

What does the future hold for 'Flight of the Conchords'? Any chance we'll ever see a 'Conchords' movie?
Well, we're going to talk about it anyway. We've got to make a big judgment call about whether we've got it in us, whether we've got enough ideas that will motivate us to do it well. Every time for about the last five years, I'm like, "This is the last time I'm ever going to do this." [Laughs] Whether it's a show in a pub or it's a show in a big theater or a TV show or we're visiting a radio show, I'm like, "I'm not going to do this anymore. This is it." And then it's like, "Do you guys want a TV show?" "Alright, I'll do the TV show -- but for one season." And then they say, "Do you want another season?" "OK, I'll do one more." [Laughs] So I can't say that we'll definitely not do anything. I've started to think of song ideas ... so maybe. It's just you get sick of doing it when you're doing it. I think there are always ideas. But you have to be in love with what you're doing to get you through it. If you do too much of anything, your relationship changes with that thing. I've often compared it to a relationship. And a bit of time away is good ... sometimes.

What's your favorite 'Conchords' song?
Not a fan! Not a fan! [Laughs]

One of the recurring themes of 'Conchords' is the bad blood between Aussies and Kiwis -- is that something you've experienced frequently?
We used to be on this TV show in Australia, and they were actually pretty good to us. Actually we did better there than in New Zealand, as far as TV goes. They were far more accepting than New Zealand was. But [when we played shows] they always had to give us hassles about our accent. [Laughs] It's in a friendly way. But we were definitely getting some payback.

You've got the animated comedy 'Despicable Me' in the can already, but I hear you're currently filming a new movie. Which movie are you filming, and what's it about?
I don't know if I'm allowed to say. [Laughs]. I might be. I didn't ask them. They always have these announcements, and I'm new to this world so I don't know what the protocol is. I know I've definitely got in trouble for things I've said before. [Laughs]

Well, what can you tell me about 'Despicable Me'?
Steve Carell is the evil character -- the bad guy. It's all from his viewpoint. I don't think there really is a good guy. If there is, he's a small part of it. The script's always developing, especially in animation. I'm just one of him minions, but it's pretty funny. The idea is funny.

It's that the supervillain defeats his rival and then gets bored so creates a new one, right?
Well, I'm not sure about that. [Laughs] I can say that my part's quite unusual. And when I went to record my first audio, there wasn't a script at all. It was very different. You'll see when it comes out.

Do people ever recognize you from the Outback Steakhouse commercials you did way back when? Personally, I think they're brilliant.
[Laughs] Not very often -- maybe a couple of times. But I must say that when I first did that, we'd done one special for HBO and we were in New Zealand, living in New Zealand, and didn't ever think we'd be going to America. So to me it was going to be like one of things when Sean Connery does an ad in Japan. [Laughs] He doesn't care! He's never going to be in Japan. I thought I'd never be here and people would never mention it. [Laughs] Turns out I'm here all the time. I was like, "Who goes to America? No one's there!"

Jemaine's Tasty Outback Gig