TORONTO — Jay Baruchel bounds into a downtown hotel room all vim and vigour.
The long-awaited sequel to his 2011 cult classic Goon — a hockey fight flick with a heart and more than its share of offside one-liners — will premiere in a few hours and open nationwide on March 17.
Goon: Last of the Enforcers is Baruchel’s flailing, raunchy, screaming baby. After writing, producing and co-starring in the original, Baruchel stepped up to direct the second chapter of the life of Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), the affable puncher on skates who reflects the struggles of the real-life enforcer.
We sat down for a 20-minute conversation with an animated and cuss-happy Baruchel about his violent comedy, its many NHL cameos, a hilarious turn by Dion Phaneuf’s say-anything wife, and the latest drama surrounding his beloved Montreal Canadiens.
Spoiler alert: Read this on March 18 if you don't want to know anything about the new Goon.
SPORTSNET.CA: So was it a plan of yours to release a rowdy, fight-filled flick on St. Patrick's Day?
JAY BARUCHEL: That’s so cool. The distributor, eOne, looks at the calendar and sees what else is out. We had a window, and it just so happened that St. Patty’s is on a Friday this year, so… y’know, there’s going to be some people watching with a buzz on anyways. It’s one of those flicks.
The gore and splatter in this one really struck me. I turned my head at a couple points. How worried were you about going too far with the hockey violence?
Too far or not far enough, that’s all chemistry after the fact. I definitely wanted to elicit a very profound reaction from the audience. Not every fight is that harsh. We were very particular about—no pun intended—picking our punches. If every punch lands and creates Strawberry Quik, you get bored of that. Plus, each fight happens at a different point in the story. They’re not just fights for fight's sake. Every fight propels the story forward, so each one should have a different vibe to it. That’s why there are some goofy ones, some standard goon ones, and some that are hard as s---. We needed to do that, dramatically. We knew going in that this movie starts with our superhero being beaten terribly. We did a good job in the first one of mythologizing Doug and establishing that he’s slightly superhuman and never lost a fight, and in the first five minutes of [the sequel], he doesn’t just lose, he loses in f-----' heavy-duty way.
Hockey fans want to see toughness but they never want to see that stretcher make an appearance. I’m guessing you purposely saved the stretcher for a cheap shot.
In my experience as a hockey fan, most times the stretcher comes out, it’s for that nonsense. We like to think the whole movie exists somewhere in a grey area of reality and judgment. It would be hypocritical of us to make a movie that says hockey players shouldn’t fight—incredibly hypocritical. But it would be incredibly dishonest and morally repugnant of us to not show how the sausage is made. What our goal was with this movie was to make Doug this melancholy, bittersweet emblem of a way of life that’s kinda gone. When he hangs up his skates, it should time with hockey fighting pretty much going the way of the dinosaurs. Ideally, if you watch this movie and you’re Adam Proteau and you hate fighting and you think it should be gone, you should say, “Well, this is why.” Ideally, if you’re on the Don Cherry side of things—which I think most hockey fans in this country still are in terms of, [fighting] does something to you—we want to show that you can’t say these boys shouldn’t do it. Their team needs them to do it, and it has an effect on the game and it elicits a reaction from the crowd. But! We can’t say it’s all sweetness and light, either. So, if you’re going to agree that this is what [enforcers] should do, at least get a glimpse of what it looks like in the locker-room after.
"I’d love to see someone try to jack the set. Ten of the hardest men on Earth on one ice rink."
How important was it for you to get Colton Orr, George Parros, Georges Laraque and Brandon Prust—literally some of the NHL's last enforcers—in this film?
Very, very, very. The thing people don’t realize is, to a man, every hockey fighter I’ve met has been incredibly humble and polite and accommodating. They all have that bit of Doug in them. Chips are up, chips are down: 100 per cent loyalty every f-----' time. They were all so free with their time. There was this one day where we were shooting the battle royale sequence with the 10-fighter melee on ice—we shot that in one day, which is f-----' crazy—and they were all there.
I look to my left, and there’s George Parros holding court with Colton Orr, and the two of them are bosom buddies the whole day. So f-----' cool. Then there’s Chatty Cathy Laraque talkin’ to everybody. Then we had this guy, Mel the Mangler Angelstad, who was a pro. This Angelstad emailed our producer and said, “I think the first Goon is based on my life.” Well, no, it’s based on a guy named Doug Smith, who’s in the battle royale. That’s the guy Doug Glatt fights! Real Doug versus fake Doug. Anyways.
So Angelstad says, “My fight against Darcy Hordichuk is still genuinely regarded as the greatest fight of all time.” I Googled that fight. Holy s---! It’s like the final fight from Goon. It’s just these two behemoths grabbing on with their left and just pounding. Nobody stops. It’s just f------ epic. So we’re like, “Yeah, bud, come out and be in it.” What was so cool, when they showed up, they’d all fought each other at some time or another. There was 20 years’ worth of history in all these men. So when Doug Smith saw Mel, he was like, “Ah, f---, buddy, I saw you before.’ I see Parros talking to Orr, then he sees Angelstad and does a double take: “Is that Swell Mel? J---- C-----, I haven’t seen him since I fought him 10 years ago!” They were all in such an awesome mood and so psyched to see each other. They have more in common than people realize: a shared way of life, shared experiences. It was the coolest. The whole time we’re shooting, I really hoped today was the day some idiot tries to rob the Barrie Molson Centre. I’d love to see someone try to jack this particular set on this day. [laughs] Ten of the hardest men on Earth on one ice rink.
The Bruised & Battered hockey fight circus you feature in the film, there’s an actual contest like that.
Black & Blue. That’s what we based it on.
Did you go watch for research?
No, I couldn’t. But I was very well aware of it when it was happening. When we were making the first Goon we watched it. I think the actual competition itself is grody and sad. The real telltale is if you watch the documentary of the making of it. It follows the two promoters going coast to coast, and every city council says, “We don’t want this here,” except for Prince George [B.C. in 2005]. You see behind the scenes, the boys arguing with the promoters that the cheque bounced. These aren’t weighty cheques, either. As an artist, that’s compelling and heartbreaking, plus it's where we thought Rhea would end up.
"Dad turned to Mom and said, 'We’ll never win the Stanley Cup again.' "
You put a lot of emphasis on the captaincy in this film. You wrote this when the Canadiens’ captaincy was in limbo, right?
It had to have been. That C is so important. For a guy like Dougie to get it, what a beautiful thing. And then to have it ripped from him five minutes later. Doug would earn that C, and it does carry weight in that room. He says to Eva: “He took my C. He has my C.” And then she’s like, “Are you f-----' kidding me? We’re talking about a piece of cloth sewn onto another piece of cloth?” It does have a great deal of import, and Xavier keeps getting f----- over at every step. We knew we wanted Xavier to evolve. It can’t be the same Doug arc or the same Laflamme arc as in the first one. Doug doesn’t have an arc in the first one. He’s an anti–Joseph Campbell hero in that the traditional Joseph Campbell hero is a different guy at A than he is at Z. He learns a lesson. The other guy is the exact same guy all the way through, like Ferris Bueller. He goes about his business and affects change. That’s Doug in the first one, but we knew we had to get him somewhere this time. Laflamme is in his 30s; he had to become a sandpaper guy. That’s the point we’re trying to make: Doesn’t matter how good you are, you lose your wheels. Guys that keep going are guys that find ways to be meaningful to his team. Change your game and evolve. Dougie hangs his skates up and it’s bittersweet, but it’s not a defeat because he’s evolving into a dad and husband. Rhea doesn’t evolve. He gets stuck and pays a price for it.
Let's talk some hockey. What did you make of P.K. Subban’s return?
Every bit as emotional as I assumed it would be, man. A lot of us are f-----' very pissed, still. I will make peace with it at some point, but I will never forgive that team for it. That is, for me, what Patrick Roy is for my dad. My mom still talks about that night, where Dad turned to her and said, “We’ll never win the Stanley Cup again.” Pat Roy’s last shift. You’ll never root against your team, but goddamnit, you get a bigger and bigger chip on your shoulder every year. There are times when I wish I was a fan of a normal team that didn’t have to suffer all they myriad things. Any other team needs a coach and it’s, “Who’s the best guy we can get?” All these different f----‘ caveats that go into being a Habs fan. I adore it, it’s my life, there’s nothing better than the Habs, but [expletive] that head office doesn’t make it easy.
Take me back to the moment you heard of the P.K. trade.
I was in my house here in the Beach and I had to go to Montreal the next morning to do post-production on Goon. I went crazy. I did my Donald Trump four-tweet storm that ended with, “Call me old fashioned, but I enjoy P.K. Subban play hockey much more than I enjoy Michel Therrien coach hockey.” I land in Montreal [and] I’m venting my frustration on Montreal sports radio the next morning.
"We get tremendous offence and then we’re the Smurfs and everyone gives us [crap] for being too small."
Your reaction to the Habs' making a coaching change while in first place?
Huge. The Therrien thing is a hard one. You can’t dispute that record. His results are his results, and that’s f-----' something. But, in practice, it’s the least exciting hockey I’ve ever seen, and I was a season ticket holder during the first Therrien era. So when it was wide open and anybody [could’ve coached], for my money Patrick Roy should’ve come home.
You don’t like Claude Julien?
We got rid of him the first time for a reason. But, he is an incredible coach and one of the more successful coaches in the league in recent years. The minute the Bruins got rid of him, everyone I knew was like, “So, does that mean we can fire Michel Therrien?” No matter what, it’s a drastic improvement, and we got way bigger last Wednesday [at the trade deadline], which is a real improvement.
No scorer, though.
F---. We’ve been one scorer away for the bulk of my adult life. Is Richer our last 50-goal guy? Not that there are many 50-goal guys period, but f--- yeah, man. We get tremendous offence and then we’re the Smurfs and everyone gives us s--- for being too small. They we try to get bigger and everyone says we can’t score. You’re kinda damned if you do, damned if you don’t. For my money, Michael Cammalleri should still be in a Habs jersey. We left so much money on the table and what did we gain?
So, I love T.J. Miller as the sportscaster in this. He steals every scene. How many of his lines were improv’d?
It’s both. He and I have a shorthand. We’ve known each other for quite some time. I wrote some stuff I thought was funny, knew he’d kill, and I was pitching him s--- as he was doing it. But with T.J., you just make sure you press record and let him do his thing. He’s one of the most fiercely intelligent people I’ve ever known. He’s the son of two physicians. He was born with a superior intellect, and that’s why he’s as quick as he is.
Your best T.J. Miller story?
I don’t know how many of them are appropriate. There were one or two lean moments in Pittsburgh, Pa., where T.J. had my back in a big way. People don’t realize how f-----' huge he is. He’s 6-foot-3, well over 200 [pounds]. Just a presence. When it’s time to show people the business end, it’s a real thing.
Elisha Cuthbert is hilarious but she says some foul things. Did she resist any of her raunchy lines?
No. For my money, she’s the breakout of our movie. People should f------‘ know what a cool chick this is. We’ve known each other since we were 15, so there’s a comfort level there. She was so brave and selfless. I would just yell god-awful things at her. I’d be at the monitor saying, “Tell her you would [commit an R-rated act].” “What? All right.” Then she would do it. She never said no. She destroys in this movie. I am so proud of her.