Baruchel's not-so-sudden popularity is no surprise to anyone who saw 'Tropic Thunder,' where he held his own with such comic heavyweights as Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller. Many remember him fondly from Judd Apatow's 2001-2002 FOX series 'Undeclared.' He's also appeared in 'Million Dollar Baby,' 'Knocked Up' and 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,' among other films. This is shaping up to be a stellar year for Canadian actor Jay Baruchel. Aside from starring in rom-com 'She's Out of My League' (out on Friday) as a regular Joe whose romance with the woman of his dreams (Alice Eve) shocks their families and friends, he's also the lead voice in upcoming 3D animation 'How to Train Your Dragon.' And in June, there's Disney's 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' with Baruchel in the title role opposite Nicolas Cage.
Baruchel's not-so-sudden popularity is no surprise to anyone who saw 'Tropic Thunder,' where he held his own with such comic heavyweights as Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller. Many remember him fondly from Judd Apatow's 2001-2002 FOX series 'Undeclared.' He's also appeared in 'Million Dollar Baby,' 'Knocked Up' and 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,' among other films.
In 2002, the multi-faceted Baruchel wrote and directed 'Edgar and Jane,' a romantic horror short, and he recently co-wrote the hockey comedy 'Goon' with fellow Canadian Evan Goldberg ('Pineapple Express,' 'Superbad'). The actor, who lives in Montreal, is a rabid fan of the NHL's Canadiens. Moviefone chatted with him in New York City a few hours before the final U.S.-Canada Olympic match-up, for which he was clearly psyched.
Are you tired of talking about hockey?
Oh God, I could never tire of talking about hockey. I get tired of talking about myself, but I never tire of talking about hockey.
'Cos you know, it's a big hockey day...
(Loudly) What are you talking about? I have no idea what you're referring to!
Are you emotionally invested in the game?
Yeah, I have to be. I have a maple leaf tattooed over my heart.
That's what I read, but then I didn't see it in the movie, so I thought maybe it was a rumor.
No, not a rumor, I'm a real old-fashioned patriot. I've had it since I was 21 ... They covered a couple of tats.
You were very convincing as a Pittsburgh Penguins fan in 'She's Out of My League.' Was that hard?
If Sidney Crosby didn't play for that team, it would have been very hard. If the movie took place in Toronto, I wouldn't have been able to do it, or Boston. I wouldn't have been able to put on a Bruins jersey, no matter what ... I like to think I was a convincing Pens fan; it's hard not to respect that team. For me the biggest deal was that I got to meet Sid the Kid afterward. My sister [Taylor] has never been more impressed with me. She couldn't care less when I go off and work with movie stars, but when I called her and told her that I met Sidney Crosby, I had to pull the phone away from my ear because she and her friend were screaming so loud.
Congratulations on your leading man status. How were you approached for 'League'?
I was in Hawaii making 'Tropic Thunder' for Dreamworks and it was the second or third week we were shooting and they were like, "You know, you haven't screwed up too bad; we have a script that you might be right for." When I read it, it was a mix of flattery and depression because I was like, "Well, thanks, guys, but do you really think I'm that ugly?" Believe you me, [the character] was even worse in the original draft. If I'm a 5 in this one, I was like a 0 or a 1 in that one, so I had to work very hard to get it up 3 or 4 points. I was like, "Can't he be more of a regular guy? Does he have to be an ugly guy?"
A regular guy's much more realistic.
Exactly, so I worked with Jim (Field Smith, director) to make it more realistic and closer to me, I guess. There are myriad things that Jim is good at, not the least of which is casting. He put together a helluva team on this movie. I keep using hockey analogies. To me, I was wearing the "C" (captain) and Jim was the head coach. Alice was sort of the hotshit European import that got to play on the wing with me. Then, to continue the sports analogy, we go really deep on this movie. We have four lines that we can roll that will all score (Baruchel plus co-stars T.J. Miller, Nate Torrence, Mike Vogel). And we're one of the teams that no one's looking at because none of us are really famous. And I knew that was to our advantage because if people had any ideas about us they would be misconceptions. But we're not even blipping on most people's radar.
There are a lot of funny performances.
To me, this is like '16 Candles.' If you watch that movie, there's a bunch of people who are bona fide movie stars now who had one or two lines. And that's what this movie is to me, there are like 10 breakout performances, future movie stars galore. Everyone from Nate, T.J., Vogel, Lindsay Sloane, Krysten Ritter, Alice Eve, Kyle Bornheimer, Hays MacArthur. There's a bunch of people who are stars in their own right and they're all in my movie, it's really cool!
How was it working with Nicolas Cage on 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice'?
So cool, so very cool. I'm just a huge movie nerd and he has such a distinct way of speaking, such a distinct cadence and charisma. I snuck into 'Con Air' when I was 15. To be on set with him every day, the movie nerd in me was so psyched. He's given the world so many awesome performances, so be able to show up for work and be alongside of him and watch him do his thing was such a thrill. And the fact I got to be in New York for six months. I live in Montreal and it's only an hour flight, so I got to go home a fair bit, plus I love this town. If I had to live anywhere in the states, this is where I'd live. Not to take anything away from L.A., but it's not my kind of town. I have more friends there than anywhere else, but it's just not for me. To me, the coolest thing about 'Sorcerer's is that we got to make it here.
What's going on with 'Goon,' the hockey comedy you co-wrote with Evan Goldberg?
We're trying to figure it out. This is my first experience as a producer and it's a lot more complicated than writing a good script and getting a good director. There's a lot of stuff to be figured out, so we'll know very shortly. We're ready to go, but best-case scenario, we'll start shooting in August in Montreal.
So you're a writer as well as an actor.
Well, that's all I ever wanted. Even though ['Goon'] marks the first time I've been paid for writing, it's a bit of a departure, because I usually write horror. That's what I want to do eventually: stop the acting and write and direct horror movies in Montreal for the rest of my life. So to write something where people weren't getting hacked apart was kind of a neat thing for me. Hockey's a violent sport, though, so it's going to be a pretty violent movie.
I've heard great things about 'The Trotsky' [in which he plays a teen who believes he's the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky]. Is it being released in the States?
I have no idea what they'll do in this country. I know it comes out in wide release in Canada in May. That is one of things I'm most proud of; I really feel that I was in one of the best movies to be made last year. To me, 'She's Out of My League' is my 'Say Anything'; 'Trotsky' is my 'Ferris Bueller.'
Speaking of 'Say Anything,' your sister Taylor is in 'The Trotsky'; are you two going to be like the Cusacks? The John and Joan of Canada?
(Laughs) Could very well be! My sister's really, really funny and I'm just a fan. I love to see her do anything 'cos she's a tough chick. She plays rugby and has a black belt in Tae Kwondo, so when I get to see her on camera being funny, it makes me laugh.