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Q&A: Danny McBride, Nick Swardson flame-fight in '30 Minutes or Less'
Choking homeless people and 'Valentine's Day' in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari are featured on the “30 Minutes or Less” poster in a state of terror, posed and ready for some bank-heisting, and it was Danny McBride and Nick Swardson who made them that way.
The two comedians play Dwayne and Travis, two good-for-nothings who indulge in home-made pyrotechnic weaponry and amateur criminal acts. Kidnapping Eisenberg’s Nick, a pizza delivery guy, they strap a bomb to him, instructing him to rob a bank in 10 hours or the vest goes off.
But there’s some father issues there. And some nods to older crime movies. And monkey masks, as seen in the trailer (above).
On the Grand Rapids, Mich. set of “30 Minutes or Less,” McBride and Swardson appeared in workman’s jumpsuits standing in the middle of a junk yard, smudged with ash and Swardson bravely preparing to be set on fire. This was late into shooting, in the summer, as McBride was prepping the second season of HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” and Swardson was about to kick-off “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time” on Comedy Central. It was late at night. Eisenberg was about to become a hero. And Swardson was tired of holding the flamethrower.
[Full Q&A after the jump…]
Can you guys tell us how you become involved in the movie? Did it start with a phone call or did you hear about it and want to be on it?
Danny McBride: Yeah, I got a phone call from Ruben [Fleischer] that he had this script and he had been reading a lot of scripts for his follow-up to “Zombieland” and he said he had been passing on everything and this script caught his eye and he was curious what I thought about it. I read it and really responded to it, I thought it was funny. It’s a pretty wicked dark comedy. It’s crazy, I mean, a comedy based around a dude who has a suicide bomb vest seems… timely
Nick Swardson: It’s not “Valentine’s Day.”
D: Yeah so it just seemed cool. I was a big fan of “Zombieland” and I was excited to see what Ruben would do with something of this tone, and kind of see the elements that were in this, it just seemed like it could be a good time.
How did you get on it, Nick?
N: Red Hour Films called me to do a table read on the script, they just acquired it, and so me and Jonah Hill did a table read for it… And then they called me up and said, “Hey, we’re doing that movie, would you want to be the bad guy?” And so I was like, “Yeah, sure!” I’ve never been a bad guy ever, so, I was really excited to do it. And then I found out Danny was doing it. I never worked with him so I was just fired up. And I knew Ruben, so all those elements were just really exciting.
Did you originally do the reading for Jesse’s part?
N: Yeah, me and Jonah read the good guys, yeah.
But being a criminal, you’re just like, F*** yeah.
D: You don’t get to wear the monkey masks as the good guys.
N: You don’t get a flamethrower. You don’t get any perks. You just get anxiety.
Are you bad-guys-that-you-root-for in a way?
D: I don’t know, we’re motherf***ers in this thing.
N: But we’re like, it’s almost like “Dumb and Dumber” bad guys, we’re not like pure evil, we’re just guys who are bored and don’t know what to do with their lives.
D: So we’re making some bad choices. You know we have goals and ambitions, so, you know. Maybe people will root for us for that? We wanna really change the world, we want to create the first tanning salon where guys can get handjobs and blowjobs.
N: There’ll be a lot of states were we’re the good guys, [like in] North Dakota...You know what I mean? Utah will be like, “These are our guys.”
Tell us about the stunts, the car chase, and all that stuff… are you guys actually involved in that stuff at all?
D: We watch a lot of it. [We] spend lot of the movie is sitting in a van, watching all the sh*t go down that we’re kind of manipulating.
N: That’s another perk.
D: We don’t have to do any heavy lifting. Like, I think with the whole car chase, we literally [come] just to where there was a flipped-over car and it was already done and there were paramedics cleaning it up. That was our involvement in the car chase.
Danny, the tone in the movie seems similar to “Pineapple Express,” and sort of the comedy and action blended together. Were you sort of concerned about that?
D: No, you know I think it’s similar to “Pineapple Express” in the fact that it’s like humorous and it kind of has a violent tone, but there’s nothing really similar as far as that. These characters are totally different. This movie is much more of like a sort of ticking clock. I think “Pineapple Express” is pulling from 80s action films and stuff and you know, a lot of the points of reference that Ruben has are thing like “Dog Day Afternoon,” it’s kind of this 70s bank-robber-heist films what this is kind of pulling from. So I think in that regard it’s a totally different beast. I’m always up for people mixing genres and doing things a little more f***ed-up than they should with a comedy or an action film, so they have that in common for sure.
What are the inspiration films that you kind of like? We heard “Point Break” being bounced around.
D: Well Point Break was being bounced around, I mean “Lethal Weapon.” I know that [writers Michael] Diliberti and [Matthew] Sullivan are huge Shane Black fans so they like, they’re obviously influenced and inspired by him. I can see that too, there’s a lot at the core of this that’s all about, it’s about buddies on the good guys side and the bad guys side.
N: Yeah, there’s elements of that. I mean, there’s a little bit of “Precious” in this movie [laughs]...There’s elements of everything. They really incorporated a lot of stuff.
Were you given any direction on how much improvisation you could do? Was it a scene-by-scene thing or were you given the script and be like, “Uh, do what you will.”
N: Well, one thing is they brought me and Danny so we could improvise a lot. We definitely got the script as much as I can, but we’ve been given pretty free reign to add stuff and whatever.
D: Yeah, that’s the cool thing I like about working with Nick, too, is he’s not like one of the improvisers who is… just doing stand-up comedy in the scene. I kind of feel like the stuff that we’re doing is just always… we never take it too far off the page, the scene is always what it’s about and we’ll just try to come up with different ways to spit the jokes out.
N: Yeah, you don’t want to be self-indulgent. You want to make sure that you stay in character and it’s a part of the whole machine, you know, it’s not just us doing fart jokes in the middle of a drive-by shooting.
D: That’s not to say that there aren’t...
N: There are. But, it’s in the context [laughs].
You crack up at a lot of your own improv.
N: It’s bad. It’s bad because when I look at Danny and when I look at Jesse, and Jesse will crack, I’m way more susceptible to it, but yeah.
D: And it’s a bank shoot too, I mean, sh*t gets a little loopy.
N: Yeah it’s hard. I do have to check myself a little bit.
How long do you tout that flamethrower around, is it just this scene or is it like an ongoing thing?
N: It’s this scene but [the flamethrower] is really, really heavy. I mean a lot of my laughing was just because it was so heavy that I just was like, it was really, really heavy. And I’m not gonna lie, I just was like, there were moments when I was like, “I can’t do this. I can’t hold this thing, man.”
Did your characters actually make the flamethrower? It was looking a little make-shift.
D: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We make the bombs, the flamethrowers. We’re just little renegade bored guys who’ve seen too many movies.
Had you guys worked with each other before on anything? Have you met before?
N: Never actually.
D: We met at the table read and shared a beer downstairs, and then we knew it was on.
Did you do any bonding activities, go out after a few nights?
D: We’ve torn Grand Rapids a new one, right?
N: Yeah. We found all their alcohol. You know, we’ve choked out several homeless people, just to kind of feel better.
D: Never forget that feeling, you know, and the people you share that with.
N: Yeah it’s been good, I mean Danny and I have a lot of mutual friends and stuff like that but we’ve never worked together. So I was psyched to kind of work with people that I respected but had never worked with. That was definitely a big draw.
This was kind of a bit of an “Observe and Report” mini reunion, although Aziz didn’t get to do a scene with you [Danny]. He said he was really looking forward to working with you, are you going to throw in a scene for him somewhere?
D: Yeah we all, yeah Aziz [Ansari] and [Michael] Peña, we all, we never got, none of us shared any screen time in that movie so this is nice to be able to finally see each other on set. Yeah and Peña just worked with, he’s on the next season of “Eastbound [and Down],” so it’s good to see him out here too. Yeah it was fun, a little reunion.
I know you’re doing another movie with Jody Hill, it’s like a kind of Noir detective movie, what’s the forward motion on that?
D: Uh, you know Diliberti and Sullivan, the same guys who wrote this wrote L.A.P.I., it’s kind of a throwback to movies like “The Long Goodbye” and “Chinatown,” yeah it’s like a noir/comedy, but Jody and I are both very tired. We’ve had long years. So I don’t know what the booking is, we’ll get to it, but it probably won’t be until next year.
Where do these roles and where does this production sit with where you’re at in your career right now? What other projects are you working on and why this project now?
D: For me it just seemed like a cool project and I liked everyone involved so you just kind of make time, I guess, for the things that you want to do. So that was kind of what the deal was with me.
Nick, how about you?
N: Mine was perfect timing. I just finished a film, a romantic comedy [“Just Go With It”] in June and this was like, kind of perfect timing to kind of jump into something completely different. And I’ve got a show coming out in October [“Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time”] and so, it was like, right. It was like the perfect window to before I have to do press for that… Thinking about a slide show, definitely a Cirque du Soleil version of it, but with urine instead of water.
How about, in this scene we’ve been watching today, you have a culmination of all these different storylines coming together, I get the impression that you guys have a lot of your own storyline? Can you talk about that a little bit? Because we know you try killing your father. What happens between that and…
D: Yeah, you know, my father is played by Fred Ward in the film and yeah he’s a motherf***er to my character and so I really despise him. There’s definitely, you get the back story of what our motivation is to put a bomb on young Jesse Eisenberg here, that’s fully explored, you know. I mean it is, you get the good guys’ angle, and you totally get the bad guys setup, and you follow them along the journey too, for sure.
N: Yeah, I like movies where everything’s kind of spread apart, the storylines, and they kind of come to a head at the end, so that’s kind of cool. Like I’m psyched to see the movie just to see what Jesse and Aziz are doing. Really, Danny and I, there’s a whole half of the movie that we have yet to see anything of. So it’s kind of cool.
So what has it been like working with Ruben?
N: Oh, it’s been a dream.
D: Ruben’s been great. I mean, you know, he’s a good dude, he keeps things really mellow, he’s passionate about what he does. Anytime I get to kind of like peek at the monitor or anything while he’s shooting I mean, yeah, he’s just got a good visual sense too so I’m just stoked to see how this all comes together.
N: Yeah, and he’s such a normal guy too. He doesn’t, like, flip out at moments that are stressful. He really did a lot of work, and the crew’s great, and they collaborated really well. Also it’s been a really casual set for all this craziness, like, Ruben’s like, “All right, so we’re gonna light you on fire…and then we’ll do that…”
Have you had any part of you set on fire yet?
N: Yeah, I had to do a fire rehearsal, which I had to do hungover on a Sunday morning. So, I don’t recommend being hungover and lit on fire. Those two things do not go well together. It was my legs and back. I’m trying to push for them to do a re-write where Danny gets his genitals lit on fire. Rubens’ kind of 50/50 on that.
Have you had a chance to blast the flamethrower yourself at all?
N: I have not yet, no, that’s coming up soon. And this will probably be my last interview before I die, so, you can tell my mom I love her.
This is a pretty hard R-rated movie right?
N: Yeah. It’s very hard-R.
Do you ever have to do PG versions of your movies for, like, airlines?
D: I don’t show up to the days where we have to dub the TV lines, there’s just too many of them. I just ace out of it.
N: I don’t know how they would dub this, it would be a short film. Like ten minutes.
D: Yeah I think, I remember when we had to do TV for the first episode of “Eastbound and Down,” and we went in there and it was a thirty minute show, there was ninety things that were not TV safe. I guess the guys had just done “The Transporter” and there was only sixty things, that was an hour and a half movie. We had ninety in thirty minutes.