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One of the highlights of 2010’s Fantasia Film Festival was
getting to meet actor Jay Baruchel, star of comedic Hollywood blockbusters like
KNOCKED UP and TROPIC THUNDER, as well as the animated hit HOW TO TRAIN YOUR
DRAGON. At the Montreal fest’s world premiere of THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE,
Baruchel revealed that not only did he attend Fantasia as a kid, but he’s a
huge horror fan and a childhood reader of FANGORIA! Those who love subversive
thrillers will flip for Baruchel’s current film GOOD NEIGHBORS, now in release
from Magnolia and available on demand (see details here).
Baruchel co-stars in GOOD NEIGHBORS with UNDERWORLD’s Scott
Speedman and THE TROTSKY’S Emily Hampshire. The trio play Montreal apartment
dwellers who get caught up a series of vicious serial killings. Could one of
them be the culprit? In part one of Fango’s exclusive interview, the
much-in-demand actor discusses GOOD NEIGHBORS, and on Monday he gives us the
scoop on horror projects he’s now writing, plus details on his new movie for
FANGORIA: We all missed you at Fantasia this year.
JAY BARUCHEL: I know, tell me about it. I wish I had been
there. One of these years, God will finally shine on me and give me a chance to
hang out there for once. I’ve been so all over the place, jumping back and
forth from New York to Los Angeles, and I’m about to jump on a plane to go to
Italy for three weeks. I’m just too pooped to pop. I’d much rather be at
Fantasia, to be perfectly honest.
FANG: So we’re here to talk about GOOD NEIGHBORS, a dark and
twisted little movie. The film was dumped in Canada by its distributor,
Alliance. Is it getting more respect in the U.S.?
BARUCHEL: A little bit more. I mean, this is still a
$5-million Canadian movie, so respect is a bit hard to come by. Alliance did
what they often do, which is release it to fulfill their minimum obligations,
and then that was that. But they put no effort into making sure kids got out to
see it, so it was a bit of a bummer. But I’ll say this: At the very least,
everyone who sees it in the States really, really digs it. And all the reviews
have been incredibly favorable for the most part. There were one or two
negative ones I read—there was a clear indication that they just kind of missed
the point of the whole thing. So I have to say that it’s nice having it get a
bit of respect and a life down here.
FANG: Do you think U.S. audiences might find GOOD NEIGHBORS
too Canadian, especially with the whole referendum on Quebec’s secession vote
brought up in the film?
BARUCHEL: Sure; it’s one of these things that’s always a
concern, but at the same time, I grew up in Canada and I watched movies that
took place in London, in Dublin, in New York City, all over the place. And they
were authentic because they were shot there and the dialogue and the references
spoke to that. And I wasn’t any the worse for wear. If anything, I dug watching
something that was authentically New York or authentically London. So I truly,
truly believe that the best way to make something universal is to make it
incredibly specific. The more authentic you go into a place’s culture, the sort
of way of life of wherever your thing is taking place, the truer you are to
that, the less the audience smells bullshit and the more they can connect to
what’s happening on screen. That’s my two cents.
FANG: What appealed to you about tackling the character of
Victor in the film?
BARUCHEL: Well, to be honest, I agreed to be in it before
really reading it or knowing what it was, just out of my blind allegiance and
loyalty to [writer/director] Jacob Tierney. I sort of took it for granted that
I would be in every movie he makes—but I’m not in the next one, which is a bone
of contention, but that’s another story for another time. I dug getting the
chance to play a character who sort of comes from where I come from, who’s an
English Montrealer from NDG [Notre Dame de Grace]. There’s not an abundance of
those parts in movies. And also, Jacob and I are both massive Hitchcock fans.
We split apart because I’m a Brian De Palma fan and he can’t stand him, and
he’s a Michael Haneke fan and I can’t stand him. But we met somewhere in the
middle on this one. We both love the first film we did together, THE TROTSKY,
but I think this movie is closer to both of our tastes. In Canada I’m an actor
and in the States I’m a comic, so it’s nice to do stuff that I wouldn’t get the
chance to do in California.
FANG: Did the script keep you guessing when you read it?
BARUCHEL: Yes and no. It sort of kept me guessing in terms
of the Machiavellian power play amongst the three characters. I wasn’t sure
exactly how it was going to turn out. “I better f**king win”—that’s all I was
thinking. The sort of term that [producer] Kevin Tierney was using when we were
making the movie was, it’s not a whodunit so much as who’s-going-to-get-it. We
know who the real killer among us is; in an overt sense, you know that fairly
soon into the movie, but you quickly realize that’s not the point. The point is
that all of us are predators in our own way, and watching us manipulate and use
each other in this weird power struggle amongst the three characters. It was
just this wonderful little contained, really, really bleak thriller, drawing
allusions between one’s own sovereignty and connections between each of the
characters’ own sovereignty and the [city’s] struggle for sovereignty and all
that was a genius little flourish on Jacob’s part.
FANG: GOOD NEIGHBORS reminded me a little of a Paul Bartel
film called PRIVATE PARTS. Have you seen that?
BARUCHEL: I’ve never seen that one.
FANG: It was a dark thriller set in an LA apartment
BARUCHEL: Oh, cool—well, that’s the thing. Anybody who has
ever spent any time in apartment living, it’s this weird sort of thing that’s
like a play between your parents’ house and a prison. Your apartment basically
becomes the next evolution of your room at your parents’ house, but you’re sort
of quartered off and locked in your little box and you know your neighbors are
at arm’s length, but you’re still not exactly sure what’s going on next door to
you. Some of the most creepy moments in my life have happened during apartment
FANG: You grew up in the neighborhood where GOOD NEIGHBORS
is set. Is it really that nasty, weird and scary?
BARUCHEL: It depends on what corner you’re on [laughs]. I’ve
lived here all my life and actually bought a house in this neighborhood two
years ago, and I’ve seen it evolve and get caught up in the gentrification
that’s been taking place, but there’s still some true NDG left and I’ll just
say that it used to be way more action-packed. The two worst Metro stops in the
city are both in our neighborhood, and it’s always voted best place to get
mugged and all this stuff. It’s a colorful, colorful way of life, and Jacob’s
wintertime depiction of it is pretty spot-on.
FANG: Even with his father as a producer, were there any
creative compromises that Jacob had to make?
BARUCHEL: I don’t think so, because, you know what? We don’t
make very many movies in Canada. We make an average of eight English-language
features a year. The difference is, when you get to make them, it’s more or
less a process free of compromise. There’s compromise within the movie itself,
but you don’t have to humor notes from unseen executives who are all cc’ed on
e-mails and stuff. You know, we just don’t have to fulfill a lot of the
obligations that we would if it were a more expensive studio movie. One of the
benefits of making a movie without a pot to piss in is that you get to make your
movie. So GOOD NEIGHBORS is every bit as heavy duty as Jacob envisioned.
TO BE CONTINUED
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