There’s a scene in Goon: Last of the Enforcers where Jay Baruchel dry-humps Sean William Scott for a really long time. Yes, that Jay Baruchel. The awkward tween who stood beside Elisha Cuthbert on Popular Mechanics for Kids in the ‘90s. The spindly Canadian ectomorph who Hollywood routinely casts as an anxious half-wit (Knocked Up), lovesick loser (She’s Out of My League), or voice of an adolescent misfit (How to Train Your Dragon). Dweebus Maximus.
“It felt like such a release because I’ve had all this pent-up shit,” says Baruchel, nervous staccato laugh and all, about finally breaking his typecast as Pat, Goon’s loudmouth bro. Hunched over a table at a Toronto bar, bearded but still boyish, he speaks of his true desires — ones he’s repressed for far too long.
At 35, he’s chafing to get some satisfaction. “Throughout my twenties, I had time for my goals. Everything lasted forever. Then I hit fucking 30, and all of the sudden I heard the 60 Minutes: tick, tick, tick. I was like, ‘I have only X amount of days on this motherfucker. I better do something with it.’”
So far, he’s checked one item off the bucket list: the first Goon, a 2012 Canadian hockey comedy he co-wrote and co-produced with Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen’s usual writing partner. It’s become a cult hit, today’s Slap Shot. For Baruchel, it’s a dream come true: “Hockey is my heart, and so is Canada and so is cinema.” And those aren’t just platitudes. The Montreal-bred actor is an obnoxiously outspoken Canadiens fan (he often appears in Habs ads, essentially the Drake to their Raptors) and literally has a red maple leaf tattooed over his heart. As for his love of cinema? He speaks so fervidly about filming Last of the Enforcers, Goon’s sequel — “I’d rather make a movie that wins every Razzie than a movie people fall asleep to on the airplane!” — he practically spits all over me.
We’ll forgive his excessive enthusiasm. After all, Enforcers is his directorial debut. Making movies, he tells me, is his genuine passion. Always has been. Baruchel admits it wasn’t a stretch playing the LA-hating, anti-social outcast of Rogen’s crew in This is the End — or any of his shy nerd roles, really. He is, by nature, an introvert. A homebody allergic to Hollywood glitz. Behind the camera is where he actually wants to be. “I was never in TV or movies because I loved acting; I was in acting because I loved TV and movies,” he says. “My mom has this videotape of nine-year-old me saying, ‘I want to make stories that scare Stephen King out of his underpants.”
Baruchel’s rise to fame has been as unusual as his inordinately nasal voice. After spending the mid-’90s acting in Canadian children’s shows (My Hometown, anyone?), he broke into Hollywood at 18, playing a twitchy superfan in Almost Famous. From there, he snagged the lead in Fox’s college sitcom Undeclared, winning creator Judd Apatow over with his patented formula: the gawky, insecure dork with an undercurrent of emotional honesty: the O.G. Michael Cera. While the show was short-lived, it earned him entry into the Apatow Mafia. He’d get bit parts in the comedy don’s movies, eventually leading to more stoner fare (Tropic Thunder) and some summer blockbusters (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). By the late aughts, he seemed on the cusp of major stardom. Only, he’s remained there ever since.
And frankly, that’s just how Baruchel likes it. Rather than going big, he’s happy going home. Being a chronic cusper lets him do precisely that. Much to the chagrin of his actor buddies and management, he refuses to ever uproot to California, only flying there for movie roles (none upcoming besides How to Train Your Dragon 3, for which he’ll do voice-overs at home). The furthest he’ll move? Toronto, where he’s reluctantly relocated from Notre- Dame-de-Grâce, his beloved Montreal neighbourhood, to focus on the Goon sequel. Tolerating Leafs fans is a small price to pay for living his dream: making Canadian AF content. At his insistence, Enforcers was created entirely on home soil (right down to a rousing score by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra). Ditto Man Seeking Woman, the surrealist FXX comedy show he currently stars in. “I could never live outside of Canada,” he says. “As I’m getting closer to realizing my actual goals of writing, directing and creating, I want to create here. It means less if I go elsewhere. Why add culture to another country?”
Baruchel’s next CanCon-tribution: Random Acts of Violence, the horror flick he’s always wanted to helm, which he promises will be “gory as shit.” Fiercely patriotic, defiantly independent, shamelessly odd, the loser king looks primed to win these days. The Canadian film landscape is his great, big oyster — just waiting to get dry-humped.