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Jay Baruchel on AWOL actors, the Nordiques, and making the definitive hockey film

You’ve heard the one about the guy with a Maple Leaf tattooed over his heart – the enthused poster boy for “Canadianness”? Far from being a myth, this modest fellow has built a career playing an array of offbeat wallflowers, endearing losers, and kooky, foul-mouthed introverts. If you’re familiar with this Montrealer, you probably know he flaunts CH paraphernalia and assorted Canadiens bling wherever he goes… That’s because a) homeland pride clearly courses through his veins, and b) hockey was his religion growing up. “There was no such thing as any other hockey team in the family I grew up in,” Jay Baruchel tells NIGHTLIFE.CA.

So it would make sense that if anyone could finally pen the quintessential Canadian hockey film (Score: A Hockey Musical sure didn’t lay that concern to rest), it would be him. “All the hockey films I’ve seen nail certain elements of the story, but the hockey itself is always so precious  and anemic. Hockey is truly a hard-nosed sport – a wonderful combination of elegance, speed, and utmost brutality, and I’ve never seen that reflected on screen."


Sean William Scott as Doug Glatt in Goon

Baruchel and fellow Canuck buddy Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express) took on the challenge of penning a script for an extravagantly violent yet hilarious – in an un-PC, expletive-ridden sort of way – hockey satire based on a book about a late bloomer to the hockey world (Doug Smith’s Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey). The result, directed by fellow Montrealer Michael Dowse, is a rollicking anthem to the enforcers who put it all on the line, yet are seldom the ones basking in the spotlight.

Goon deftly puck-handles the story of an affable pub bouncer, Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott), the black sheep in a family of academic overachievers, who draws the attention of a minor league hockey coach and suddenly finds his calling as an on-ice enforcer. The (naïve) heart of the film and a superhero of sorts on the rink, Doug pummels the competition while protecting his team’s tantrum-throwing hot shot (Marc-André Grondin).

“I guess I had it in my mind that Doug would be, in certain ways, superhuman,” recalls Baruchel. “When anybody is truly brilliant at something, it comes from a place you can’t quantify. Doug’s skill – his fighting – comes from that place that no one quite understands. But then Evan and I also wondered: what if he was superhumanly simple? (laughs) That kind of became his thing, and it’s impossible when writing a character like that not to have [Peter Sellers’ character] Chauncey Gardiner, from Being There, or Forrest Gump, or any of those guy in your mind, but we tried our best to do our own thing.”


Jay Baruchel and Sean William Scott in Goon

As much as the aw-shucks, average guy humility Baruchel projects in interviews doesn’t come off as phony in the slightest, it eclipses just how smart, well read and articulate the guy really is. In conversation, Baruchel is a far cry from all the reserved characters he’s played. Ask him to weigh in on his craft, hockey, or the Canadian film milieu, and you’ll get a guy who doesn’t walk on eggshells, who’s both strongly opinionated and passionate. For instance, when asked about his commitment to making films in Canada, there’s no beating around the bush. “I think it’s incumbent upon me and any other Canadian with a career in the States to keep working here, because my generation grew up with celebrities who got famous here but only ever came home when they couldn’t get hired down there. That was a terrible truth for Canadian kids to grow up with – that their celebrities would only want to perform for them when they can’t get hired elsewhere. Screw that.”

And although his busy shooting schedule might make it difficult to keep up with the local news beat, Baruchel feels right at home discussing the looming possibility that Quebec City could experience a hockey rink rebirth. “I think it’s awesome. Quebec City is a big enough town, and Quebec is a big enough province to support two teams. I also know that growing up, there was no team my dad hated more as a Habs fan than the Nordiques. That was one of the greatest rivalries in all of hockey.” Not that the Nordiques’ resurrection would even come close to quenching the city’s other deep-rooted, neighbourly tug-of-war…with our buddies down the 401. “I wouldn’t say that! (laughs) That’s never going to change. But at the very least, it’ll give us somewhere else to channel our frustrations.”


In theatres February 24 |