Jay Baruchel may best be known as the tall, skinny dude in Judd Apatow’s posse (he starred in Undeclared and Knocked Up), but the majority of his career has actually taken place outside Apatow-dom. Baruchel, an Ottawa native who still lives in Montreal, started acting at 12, starring on Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark and Canadian series My Hometown; since then, he’s kept busy playing everything from a confused young actor in Tropic Thunder to a spectacularly obnoxious bully in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. None of that likely prepared him for his most recent role in She’s Out of My League, an American Pie–esque comedy in which he plays Kirk Kettner, an airport security man (considered a “5” on the looks scale) who somehow ends up with a hot blonde who loves him. Baruchel spoke to Vulture about hanging with Nicolas Cage and what it’s like to be labeled a “5” on posters around the country.
So, I’m curious as to how this movie was sold to you. “We need a slightly unattractive, but also kinda attractive guy, and you’re our man!”?
Yeah it was a, uh, a mix of flattery and depression. I fought a great battle to get him to go from a zero to a five — five is the great victory. In the first draft of the script there are even more references to how unattractive and unappealing my character is. I was like, could he just be more of a regular dude, does he have to be repulsive? Even someone that looks like me is not above vanity.
Were you aware your picture would be all over the country with a “5” stamped over your face?
No, no. I kinda had an idea that that’s what would be happening, but I didn’t know it would be “How could a ten go for a five?” all over the place, and it doesn’t help that it’s, like, the least flattering picture of me ever. I don’t look that weird! I was kinda scrunched up and I was also tired, and they doctored it a bit to get rid of some of the fatigue, but it’s just a disaster. I mean, look, it definitely helps the movie. It encompasses the movie in a nutshell.
This seems to really echo your role on Undeclared. Have you ever been afraid of always having to play the skinny, dorky guy?
Yeah, Kirk is kinda Steven Karp ten years later, I won’t lie. What can I say. I’m apparently the go-to guy for skinny underdogs. But, I mean, whatever, to complain about the potential of stereotyping is like complaining about boredom.
You do physical comedy so well, which I assume comes somewhat naturally. How long has it taken you to own your physicality?
Oh, I owned it my whole life — it was always my way out of things. My dad wanted nothing more than for me to play hockey, or at the very least to play baseball. So there were plenty of hours in the friggin’ backyard when we’d be playing pitch and catch, and I was just miserable and wanted to go inside and watch G.I. Joe, so I’d just use pratfalls to get out of it. I’d hold out the mitt as limp as I could, let the ball hit my mitt, and go, “Ow!” and throw myself to the ground and flail around and say, “See, dad, I’m just not cut out for this.”
We have you on a slideshow of great comedy male orgasm scenes. Please explain the art of performing one.
Oh no. Um, yeah. Ohhh boy. Well, rule No. 1 is abandon all semblance of dignity. Believe it or not, that’s not ever happened to me, so I did have to pretend. When you delve into the bodily, it’s a risky thing, a slippery slope. And you know, basically I just made the same expression as if I shat my pants. That’s all I was doing. They’re very similar activities. Ahhh, I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
Has your friend Seth Rogen seen this movie yet? I feel like he’s going to give you a lot of shit for it.
Oh, I’m almost certain. But he knows he’d be opening himself up to a verbal attack from me as well. It’s strange, whenever we hang out we keep our opinions about each other’s films to ourselves, just because, you know, there’s other stuff to talk about. I imagine I’ll get a lot of shit for some of the stuff I had to do in this one, but I can [cough] Zack and Miri [cough], I can say some stuff back to him pretty easy.
You’re such a mensch in this movie, but I actually really enjoyed you as a total ass in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Thank you very much! At the end of the day, I’m actually less of a comedian, I think, and more of an actor — I started acting long before I started doing anything funny. I was basing Tal on a bunch of dudes I knew. Montreal and New York are fairly analogous, believe it or not, which is why I like New York, but it’s also got a very similar swagger or chutzpah to Montreal. I grew up around swarthy douchebags, and they grow on trees in New York. I’ve gotten some shit for not being funnier in that movie, but I wasn’t supposed to be funny. I made a conscious effort to make Tal not jokey. Whenever I was on-camera, you were supposed to cringe and feel bad for Norah, and I didn’t want me trying to be funny to step on that. So I decided to focus on the douche aspect.
You’re starring in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so I assume you have some good Nicolas Cage stories …
Yeeeah. I would constantly do impressions of him. I called him Coppola for six months. I remember one night on set he was lying on the ground and said, [with Cage voice] “Whyyy do you insist on calling me Coppola?” Because of that frickin’ reaction right there! He’d always take me to smoke Cuban cigars outside his trailer, and there’s nothing not cool about that. Believe it or not, we’re kind of friggin’ kindred spirits. It was basically the two of us having long-ass nerd conversations about ancient history, the occult, and random religions, and punk-rock and industrial music. And I’m a lot more fuckin’ bat-shit crazy than most people realize. I live in Montreal still, so when I’m home and get out of work, shit gets crazy, kid.