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Jay Baruchel on His Hockey Comedy, Goon, Meeting James Franco, and Writing for Women

Jay Baruchel. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Jay Baruchel is in hockey heaven right now. As the co-writer of Goon (in theaters Friday), the actor got to be on set more days than his supporting role would have normally allotted, and the extra time allowed him to meet and woo fellow supporting actor Alison Pill, now his fiancée. Goon stars Sean William Scott and Liev Schreiber as hockey “enforcers,” who hit the ice mainly to fight and protect the players on their respective teams. Baruchel plays a hockey enthusiast who follows the sport both professionally on a cablecast and from the sidelines when his best friend Doug (Scott’s character) starts moving up the ranks. Baruchel, who is rising up the ranks himself, chatted with Vulture about his love of the sport, waiting out the apocalypse in James Franco’s house, and writing for women.

How did you react to the movie’s posters being taken down in Toronto and Montreal (owing to a controversial gesture)?
It’s really just kind of lame and annoying, more than anything. Listen, people are free to be offended, and if they’re really bugged that one of those posters was on a bus stop, they have every right to complain to their local councilman or mayor or whatever. At the same time, I kind of think it’s ridiculous. I would assume people have bigger fish to fry than my frigging poster. I would think there’s a myriad of issues that would come first on the triage list before my supposedly offensive gesture. But there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Since you had the privilege of writing your own character, you got to decide how raunchy or vulgar you wanted him to be.
He’s sort of my trippy version of Adam Frattasio, who wrote the book [Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League], who was actually Doug Smith’s best friend and videotaped all his fights. I knew he’d be a character before I knew I’d play him. That being said, I clearly wrote him for me, even if I wasn’t prepared to admit it. I think the first draft of the script I handed in, they said, “So clearly you’re supposed to be Pat.” And I went, “Really? Oh, okay: skinny, coarse language, overly-energetic, awkward best friend? Yeah, I guess it is me.”

Does it change your process when you’re writing a character you know you’ll play?
Only one of the things we’re writing right now is something where I know I’ll play something in it. My writing partner Jesse [Chabot] and I have been hired since Goon on three different gigs, one of which is adapting a comic book, Random Acts of Violence

Would you be Slasherman?
I wish! We have our dream scenario of who that would be, though if I wore a welder’s mask, I could be Slasherman — who cares? But no, there are two comic-book writers in the story, Todd and Ezra, and I’d be Todd. I get more of a kick writing guys I couldn’t play. And girls, which obviously I couldn’t play.

Men playing women is actually a long-standing tradition in the acting world. No shame in that …
It is, back to the Globe Theatre. That’s exactly right. No shame whatsoever. Moderately embarrassing, but no real shame. And to be honest, I like girls a lot more than I like guys. [Laughs.]

Do you prefer writing for women?
I do, just because I’m a mama’s boy. I was raised by my mom, I have a little sister, and I’m constantly annoyed [by] how terribly written most females are in most everything — and especially in comedy. Their anatomy seems to be the only defining aspect of their character, and I just find that untruthful and it straight-up offends me. A lot of the strongest people I know are chicks. And as a viewer, I get a kick out of watching real characters. So I take it upon myself to clean that shit up and write actual women. And I like writing strong women, because as a straight male, there’s nothing more attractive to me than a strong girl.

When you were writing the part of Eva, did you have any idea that Alison Pill would play her or that you would fall in love with her?
No. I had no idea. She was sort of one of the best-case scenarios for the part, and I wanted to give her character more balls than any of the boys in the movie. Throughout the developmental process, we would get flack for two things: (A) we need to make Ray, Liev’s character, more of a villain, and (B) what does Eva see in Doug? And my response to that is she sees Doug. I’ve seen plenty of couples who are madly in love, who conventional wisdom would dictate that they have nothing in common, and having shit in common is really nothing. The connection is the connection. I was just like, “I guarantee you, if we get the right guy and the right girl, it’ll work.” She sees him, he sees her, and that’s all there is to it. That’s how it happened with Alison. Once we started talking, it felt like we had known each other for years.  

What’s it like when you watch a game together?
It’s what Alison and I do four nights a week, watch hockey together. There’s 82 season games a year, we probably watch 76 of them, honest to God.  I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Montrealer, that’s where I live, that’s my life, and when you grow up in Montreal, you have no choice: You become a Montreal Canadiens fan. The advent of the digital video recorder has really revolutionized the game for me, because now I can account for piss breaks.

Seth Rogen is directing you in The Apocalypse. Why is James Franco’s house the perfect place to ride out the apocalypse?
[Laughs.] Because he’s the wealthiest? I don’t know. I know there’s a lot of humor derived in the script from his beautiful mansion. I have no idea what his house actually looks like. People have always sort of locked me into this sort of [Judd Apatow–based] stable, but the truth is, Evan Goldberg? One of my best friends. Seth Rogen? One of my oldest friends, since I was 18. Danny McBride? I got to live alongside him for six months on Tropic Thunder. That’s pretty much it. I have met Franco a grand total of twice in my life, and it was literally just a handshake, “Nice to meet you,” kind of thing. We shot the trailer, just me and Seth, in a shitty apartment. But this is going to be that tenfold, a thousand fold, in a gorgeous Hollywood mansion, with all sorts of demons and monsters and crazy bullshit. There will be a ton of comic-book references, religious references, movie references; it’s going to be something.  

And you finally got to work with David Cronenberg for Cosmopolis.
Three weeks to a month before, they were like, “Hey, do you want to do two days on the Cronen-” and I was like, “Yup, yup!” I didn’t even let them get to the “berg.” They said, “We’ll send you the script so you can see what the character is.” “It doesn’t even fucking matter! It’s David Cronenberg!” I mean, he’s my inspiration. He’s a patriot. He makes the type of movies I am interested in, and he stayed true to where he’s from. He’s literally been one of my heroes and idols since I was 12 years old. Videodrome is gospel to me. And so I said, “I’ll pick up the man’s dry cleaning. I don’t care what I’m playing!”

Jay Baruchel on His Hockey Comedy, Goon, Meeting James Franco, and Writing for Women