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TORONTO - Let's just call it as it is: Jay Baruchel is a freakin' cool dude. The self-described movie nerd took the train into Toronto Tuesday to help promote "The Art of the Steal," a new heist comedy that premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. And, thankfully, the 31-year-old Montreal resident is still as blunt and friendly as ever when talking to the press.
Written and directed by Jonathan Sobol ("A Beginner's Guide to Endings"), "Steal" features an impressive cast including Baruchel, Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon, underrated comedy chameleon Chris Diamantopoulos, Jason Jones ("The Daily Show"), Katheryn Winnick and the legendary Terrence Stamp. It's familiar territory, but Sobol has a quick wit as a screenwriter and knows how to put together a Hollywood studio-looking production. RADiUS-TWC has rights to the picture in the United States and it's a film you'll likely catch on a plane or on cable over the next year or two and go, "Hey, that was actually pretty good."
Baruchel, on the other hand, has been quite busy on his own. "This is the End" turned out to be one of the surprise smash hits of the summer, he appears alongside another group of well-respected actors in the new "Robocop" remake, he'll voice Hiccup once more in "How To Train Your Dragon 2" (he says it doesn't disappoint) and, speaking of sequels, he revealed in our interview that he's just turned in the script for the highly anticipated follow-up to "Goon." Wait, you don't know about "Goon?" Well, prepare to become informed during this highly entertaining chat with Baruchel that even touches on the always-sensitive topic of the City of Angels and much, much more.
Q: So, I actually just finished watching the movie on a screener and it was very fun.
Jay Baruchel: Oh, cool.
Q: I'm assuming Jonathan sent you the script to try and get you on board?
Yeah. I mean I got sent the script and then I was in Italy with my ex and she was working and I did a Skype call with Jonathan. I was miserable in Rome. I actually fucking hate it there. I was like so happy to hear a Canadian voice and was just happy to be able to talk hockey in the middle of fucking 40°C Roman heat. And so yeah, I just kind of dug him, man. He's really a lovely guy and I just loved his ideas and kind of what he was interested in and, you know, what types of movies he wanted to make and then this one. It was a fun part and it was in Toronto. It was a five-hour train ride away from where I live and I would get to be with some pretty fucking cool people. It was very, very easy; I was never on the fence.
Q: So, really quickly, you don't like Italy? You don't like Rome?
Well, I shouldn't say I don't like Italy. I don't like Rome. At least I don't like Rome in August.
Q: Okay. Have you been to France and Spain?
I've been to Spain and France yeah.
Q: Which do you like better?
Well, Barcelona is one of the world's great towns.
I could be there for months. I love that. See, I've been there in the summer and had no problem. I fucking love it there.
Q: I love Barcelona. I love Spain. I could move there in a second.
Yeah, they're good people.
Q: You'd have to pay me to move to France.
Yeah. You and me both, bud. I'm with you. No, I'm with you.
Q: So, back to the movie. The cast is pretty great.
Q: Any improv on this or is the script just so tight that you guys couldn't do it?
Well, the script is incredibly mathematic, right? There's a lot of moving parts and so it's a very, very specific, measured thing. That being said, within that context, Jonathan was always like, if we have a sexier, more interesting, more direct way of doing anything, he gave us the freedom to kind of play around. And I think a large part of that, why he was okay with us doing that, was all of Kurt's input throughout that movie. All the questions he asks Jonathan were about the script and the story and the movie as a work. It was not about really, "How should I play this?" or "How much of me are you seeing?" It was always like, "OK, but Jonathan, we established this three scenes ago. So that means we need to track this, this and that." Kurt was reading the script I think almost every night.
And so it's kind of like systemic. So when a guy like that gives that much of a shit, it's incredibly inspirational. And so like there was a lot of eyes on the script to make sure that it all made sense. And so Jonathan was like, "All right, cool boys. You can try to, like, mess around a bit, too."
Q: And what was it like working with Kurt? Had you met him before?
Oh, never. He's been one of my favorite actors since I was a kid. And he's been in so many of my literally favorite top 10 all-time movies. I never know when I work with guys that established, and who have been around as long as he has, if they're going to be interested and cool with me picking their brain and asking them shit. He couldn't have been any more like a making-of documentary in a DVD if he tried. It was the fucking coolest. Like I got super interesting [stuff]. Everything from like candid gossip to super technical [details] to "how we did that shot" or "who was supposed to be there that day and wasn't." So I just got film journal anecdotes about "Tombstone," about "John Carpenter's The Thing," about "Big Trouble in Little China," "Tango and Cash." Oh my God, man, it was like really the fucking coolest.
I think, you know, the more he talked to me the more he saw that I wasn't bullshitting. Like I have seen "The Thing" and "Big Trouble" and "Tombstone" easily a dozen times apiece. And so I would be able to ask, "What about this moment, this line of dialogue?" And it was just like I got to nerd out and pick the brain of one of the great actors of my life, of my time.