Maybe you’ve already heard, but Jay Baruchel is on the cusp of stardom. The lanky comedy actor, best known for small-yet-memorable roles in movies like Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder, has four new films—in many of which his name appears above the title—coming out in the span of just four months, ensuring total Jay Baruchel saturation. The first, She’s Out of My League, which opens nationwide today, is a romantic comedy in the Judd Apatow vein of lovable-underdogs-and-the-hot-underwritten-ladies-who-love-them. After that, he stars in the 3-D animated epic How To Train Your Dragon (opening March 26th), the Toronto Film Fest standout The Trotsky (May 14th), and the Disney live-action adaptation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (July 16th). In anticipation of his painfully obvious career trajectory, the media is in full Baruchel star-watch. Journalists have filed breathless predictions like “This is Jay Baruchel’s big moment!” and “O.K., so it’s practically official: Jay Baruchel is a movie star now.” And who can blame them? There hasn’t been a stuttering, underweight, self-effacing everyman so perfectly poised to become comedy’s next Great White Hope since Michael Cera. Which means, of course, that in exactly a year from now, we’ll all be talking about how much we hate Jay Baruchel. What a sell-out prick! Am I right or what? Who’s with me?
I called Baruchel as he was finishing a seven-day press tour, which he described as “daunting.” When I asked if the experience had taught him to hate all journalists (a thinly-veiled way of asking, “Should we even bother doing this interview?”), he insisted that it hadn’t. “I’m smart enough to know that my stress is just a function of being a hermit,” he said, with his patented nervous staccato laugh. “With the exception of going to Burger King or the gas station for smokes, pretty much everything is out of my comfort zone.”
Eric Spitznagel: Are you ready for comedy superstardom, followed closely by the inevitable backlash and outright hostility from the same fans who claimed to love you unconditionally just yesterday?
Jay Baruchel: (Laughs.) No and yes, respectively. I’m prepared for the insults and people crapping on me. But if there’s any semblance of stardom to go along with it, I won’t be able to deal.
Allow me to be the first to say, “You’re not nearly as funny as you were five minutes ago when you were doing more or less the same shtick.”
I appreciate your honesty, confusing as it is.
Do you read everything that’s written about you?
I’m slowly conditioning myself to read less and less of it. There’s a bunch of nice, positive stuff written about me, but there’s also a shitload of people who just despise me, and most of them are anti-Semites.
Really? What does your ethnicity have to do with the quality of your movies?
I don’t know. But whenever somebody’s writing something negative about me, more often than not they drop the J-bomb. And it’s always said negatively, never positively. I don’t see how calling somebody a Jew could be meant as an insult. But it’s always like “He’s a stupid Jew.”
You’re talking about your reviews in the New York Times, right?
(Laughs.) Yeah, exactly.
It’s so tiresome. Every Times review, it’s always like, “It was an O.K. movie… except for all the goddamn Jews.”
(Laughs.) That would be on the kinder end of the spectrum. But actually, no, I’m talking about the Internet.
There are anti-Semites on the Web? Where?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Internet is the last refuge of bigots and morons. I guess I get what I ask for if I waste my time reading blogs.
From what I know about the plot of She’s Out Of My League, it’s a risky formula. It’s basically about a lovable underdog who beds a hot chick. Are movie audiences ready for that?
(Laughs.) I don’t know. We’re definitely taking some chances. We’re pushing the boundaries. Have you seen the NC-17 trailer yet? I’m fucking goat corpses. Yeah, it’s a real Dogme 95 kind of movie. But I have faith that people are willing to take a chance on us, if for no other reason than that they’ll be able to watch [co-star] Alice [Eve] for two hours.
Seth Rogen did it for chubby dudes, and now you’re proving that skinny dorky guys can be romantic leads. What’s the next genre of unattractive-yet-comedically-charming men who’ll prove us all wrong by winning the heart of an attractive blonde?
Uh… sarcastic lepers.
Nice! My guess is quadruple amputees.
That’s good. (Long pause.) There’s a myriad of jokes that I want to say, but if there’s one thing the past week of doing press has taught me, it’s that I need to remember to keep my fucking mouth shut.
Why? What happened?
I mentioned to some reporter that my friend Teresa [Palmer] is in the new Mad Max movie, and I guess that wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge yet or something. Within 48 hours, it’d been reprinted all over the world, in fucking Hungarian newspapers and all this different shit. I was just psyched for her and I thought it was fucking awesome and I wanted to brag about a friend. Thank god she wasn’t mad at me.
Let’s start some new rumors in this interview. Seth Rogen lost weight for The Green Hornet. Are you gonna do the reverse and gain weight for a role?
(Laughs.) Yeah, absolutely. Fingers crossed, I’m attached to do the Hermann Göring story.
It’s a comedy, right? The Luftwaffe slapstick farce we’ve all been waiting for?
Obviously. We are talking about Göring, after all. He was the jolliest of the Nazi high command.
I know you’re joking, but that would be a fantastic movie. Just consider it, that’s all I’m asking.
(Laughs.) Duly noted.
What would it take to get you and Michael Cera into a cage match to decide once and for all who’s the most adorably unthreatening man-child that makes all the emo girls swoon?
(Laughs.) I don’t know. What sort of battle would it be? Presumably a movie-music trivia contest of some sort?
Something like that. Cera is a master of hiding in his oversized hoodies, so I guess his main tactic would be evading capture. Do you have a signature defensive move?
I’d just run back to Montreal [Baruchel’s hometown]. That’s worked for me thus far. Whenever stuff gets hairy, I just retreat back to Canada. I have to say, I take issue with you using the term “unthreatening” to describe me. I don’t mind being called a man-child, but I’m not unthreatening.
Really? You consider yourself threatening?
I know where I grew up. That’s all I’ll say. Just cause I get hired to play characters who seem a certain way, that doesn’t mean it represents who I am. I’m an actor.
So you’re telling me if I don’t shut my word-hole, you have the skills to come down here and kick my pasty-white journalist ass?
You would at least know that I was there. Listen, you may or may not know this about me, but I have a fascination with weapons from all over the world. There’s a pretty severe sword and battle axe collection in my house in Montreal.
Real swords made out of metal, with sharp blades that can inflict actual damage?
They’re not always the most practical weapons, but some of them, yeah, for sure.
What kind of sword would you use to intimidate an enemy?
Like Michael Cera?
(Laughs.) Yeah, okay. Specifically Michael Cera.
Probably my Clan MacLeod sword from Highlander.
Wow. If it doesn’t scare him, it’ll drive him crazy with nerd envy.
Listen, psychotic and nerdy don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
I’ve now got this very creepy mental image of you alone in your house, doing a “You talkin’ to me?” Taxi Driver pose in front of your mirror.
That, my friend, I would say is fairly accurate. It gets pretty Travis Bickle-like around my house. Complete with army jacket and weird-looking, self-done mohawk.
As long as we’re talking about swords, we might as well bring up The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
(Laughs.) It’s a natural segue.
How did you prepare for a role like that? Did you just watch the old Fantasia cartoon a bunch of times? Really study Mickey’s mannerisms?
For certain moments, definitely. But… oh man, I’m going to get so much shit for saying what I’m about to say, but I… (long pause.) I had a lifetime of preparation for this.
Don’t be ashamed! Put it out there! Own your nerddom!
I’m never the guy they want to play movie parts like this. It’s always some debonair, Milo Ventimiglia type of actor. The fact that they hired me to be the guy who makes force fields and shoots energy out of his hands, I’m just fucking psyched as hell. It’s the coolest thing ever. When you read as many comics as I do, it’s a very, very big deal.
You’ve got four movies coming out back to back. Are you worried about overexposure?
I am. But it wasn’t by design. This is literally the last three years of work coming to fruition within four months of each other. There were huge chunks of time when I was doing fuck-all between movies.
And it’s not like these movies are all intended for the same audience. How To Train Your Dragon probably won’t have nearly as much pubic manscaping in the red-band trailer.
No, you’re not going to see the red-band trailer for How To Train Your Dragon. I have one for personal use.
Speaking of the manscaping scene in She’s Out Of Your League, could this be your fucking a pie moment? No matter what you do from here, even if you win an Oscar, you’ll still be the actor that people walk up to and say, “Hey, you’re the guy who got his pubes shaved by another dude in that movie, right?”
Here’s the thing, man. And I say this with my tongue nowhere near my cheek. I grew up fairly working class, so the fact that I’ve been working consistently since I was 18, in movies that more or less reflect my taste and I’m really proud of, that’s huge. Less than a quarter of us can feed ourselves. In a time where a shitload of the population has to choose between feeding themselves and paying their electric bills, and I can do both and buy a really sweet TV, I’ve got nothing to worry about. If the worst thing that happens to me is typecasting, or people remember me for getting my pubes shaved by a male friend, god, there are so many worse fates than that.
And even if your career ends tomorrow, you’ve still got the swords. You could live on the streets and fight for your food, Highlander-style.
(Laughs.) If and when the apocalypse comes, I’m the guy you want to be with. That’s all I’ll say.
I’m sorry to keep bringing up the sword collection, but I find it fascinating. When friends come to visit, do they ever look nervously at your swords and think, “Oh Jesus, Jay is gonna lock the door and kill us all?”
(Laughs.) I hope so, yeah. “I’ve assembled you all here for a reason. To kill you in the nerdiest way ever! With replica weapons!”
That’s actually a pretty good title for your next movie: Killing You Nerdily.
Yeah, yeah. I will slit their arteries and their mana will spew across the room! (Laughs, long pause.) I don’t know if you realize what just happened, but I just dropped a magic card reference.
If you used that line in your epic nerd battle with Michael Cera, I guarantee you he’d be curling on the floor in pain right now.
(Laughs.) “I am immortal, I have inside me blood of kings!” That’s from the Queen theme song for Highlander.
This interview is like a snake eating itself; a snake made up entirely of nerd factoids.
I was just about to say, you mean like on the front cover of the book for The Neverending Story?
If nothing else, I think this Q&A is going to completely change your public image.
Exactly! You got an exclusive: Jay Baruchel knows a bunch of stupid bullshit!
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com)