Back in March when Observe & Report debuted at the SXSW Film Festival, director Jody Hill spent most of his time fending off journalists eager to draw connections between his second feature and the film that has so far turned out to be the surprise multiplex hit of this young year, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But now that he’s out on the publicity trail promoting the film in advance of its wide release this Friday, it seems that inquiring minds everywhere are less interested in how Seth Rogen is the anti-Blart and more interested in how Hill and his fellow University of North Carolina School of the Arts alumnus Danny McBride managed to conquer Hollywood. And while the story of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay discovering The Foot Fist Way after the 2006 Sundance Film Festival has been told umpteen times by now, the New York Times got Hill to open up about one of the major motivating factors that propelled him to success: his jealousy over the early-career success of David Gordon Green.
As you may know, Hill was college buddies not only with Danny McBride, but also with the director Green and Ben Best (a co-writer of Foot Fist). After getting his degree, Hill moved out to Los Angeles and worked on crappy reality shows like The Mole while trying to make a name in town. Along the way, his old buddy Green started garnering critical acclaim for films like George Washington and All the Real Girls, fueling Hill’s healthy competitive spirit:
“You would read about David, he’s off in France showing his film, and it’s like, what am I doing?” Mr. Hill said. “I would literally wake up in the middle of the night in these panics. Any of the girls I dated, I apologize.”
However, this (temporary) chasm between their levels of success didn’t drive the two apart; rather, it inspired Hill, McBride, and Best to head back to North Carolina and shoot The Foot Fist Way with the $30,000 Hill had saved up since college. Green helped explain Hill’s motivations to make it in Hollywood thusly: “I think that [competitive drive] comes from a kid that wants to punch something. It’s great to bring that hunger and anger and put it in a healthy place.”
And while we’re not sure we’d describe any of Hill’s work as necessarily coming from a “healthy place,” we’re certainly excited to see how America reacts this weekend when they go to the movies expecting to see a Blart redux and instead come out of the theater seeing something that Variety has famously described as being “downright transgressive.”