Actor Jay Baruchel Plays More than Mickey Mouse
Jay Baruchel is just an ordinary “slacker” from Montreal who happens to find himself starring alongside Hollywood A-listers like Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League), and Nicolas Cage (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) in big budget movies. But when he’s not on set, Baruchel can be found at home playing videogames with his roommates, living out the dreams of many guys. After all, he has the fame and everything that ensures --- chicks, money, etc. -- but he also can live relatively unnoticed in Montreal and he has the free time to dedicate as he wishes. The actor talks about his first movie with Jerry Bruckheimer, which is now out on Disney Blu-ray and DVD, as well as his videogame habits in this exclusive interview.
What was it like working on the big special-effects laden Jerry Bruckheimer Sorcerer’s Apprentice?
Oh, that stuff was the best, man. I’m a genre film nerd and also quite a bit of a special effects nerd, so getting to pick John Nelson’s brain – he is our visual effects supervisor and he did the effects in Iron Man and he won an Oscar for Gladiator. He’s done some pretty magical things before, and so I just got to pick his brain constantly about what he thought of this, what’s the best practical effects, who is your favorite miniature guy from back in the day. I was able to just geek out and see what they were trying to do and how they went about doing it was amazing. When I was a kid I was an avid watcher of any sort of behind-the-scene special effects stuff about movies, and so to be there first-hand, it was almost like getting to go to a really, really cool film school.
These big movies tend to give you plenty of time to ask questions because of the pace, right?
Yeah. In practice, it gets a bit boring because that shit takes forever and basically every time you do a scene that is going to have CG in it later, once the acting is finished they then lock off the camera and do what’s called the ball pass. That’s where they walk in with this mirrored sphere on a stick to get all the light and different angles and to absorb light in different ways, just so that the effects when they put them in later look right. So every single take that there would be computer effects involved in, we’d finish and we’d hear somebody yell “ball pass, balls, balls, ball pass.” So “ball pass” would keep on happening, but aside from that, it was pretty cool.
Was there a particular “ball pass” sequence that was really stood out for you?
Yeah, there are a bunch. I’d have to say my personal favorites would be -- and they’re both kind of difficult in their own right to make -- but I think that you know the famous, iconic Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence from Fantasia that we do. That was pretty special getting to do my version and putting my stamp on something that’s so iconic and timeless, but yet kind of Barachulize it a little bit, if that’s not sacrilegious. There’s also a shootout between the good sorcerers and the bad sorcerers, but instead of it being bullets, it’s plasma that we’re shooting from our hands. It was lame to shoot it because it’s just basically thrusting your arms and grunting a lot. You look like an idiot, but aside from how humiliating it is, it was pretty sweet to do because I knew it would end up being cool and I was just having fun because I was getting to do stuff that I’ve done since I was a kid anyway. Every kid as nerdy as I am envisions them doing the kind of stuff like Ryu in Street Fighter 2 and going “Iooga” and so we had quite a few “Iooga” moments.
That tied in nicely with your first videogame work with Activison for How to Train Your Dragon.
That’s the thing. I was in a recording booth for that game saying, “Look over there. Keep trying. You don’t have it yet.” And all that stuff. That was pretty weird.
What videogames are you playing these days?
I’m a big FIFA 10 fan. I always play either Liverpool or Celtics and I’m playing Liverpool right now and I’m a diehard 4-3 tree formation kind of guy. My first order of business when I started this career on FIFA is I just went about getting my favorite players like Aden Mageny, who plays on the Celtics, and I play an aggressive open forward attacking game. I take a lot of penalties. I get a lot of yellow cards, but as they say, them’s the breaks, because I create a lot of turnovers and I score a lot of goals.
Do you play any other sports games?
I’m a big hockey fan.
So do you play the EA Sports NHL franchise?
No, I actually play a sim on my Mac called East Side Hockey Manger. My personal issue with the NHL games from EA, because I was a huge fan of those games, as well. My favorite thing to do would be to create the team and have the computer play both sides. I would do a manager mode in career mode, and I’d make my team, set all my strategies, and pick my lines and all that stuff, and then I would have the computer select both sides, and I basically get to watch on the big screen the team I put together make decisions based on how I technically programmed them, which is basically NHL East Side Hockey manager, just on the big screen with better graphics. The problem with NHL now, because I also like playing it as well, is in controlling the characters. They got rid of speed bursts and so I’m useless without speed bursts. Since they’ve robbed me of that, I’ve really sucked ass at it. It’s been about three or four years since they got rid of that R1 and I miss it.
They try to make it more realistic these days.
That’s what they say, but they have speed bursts in FIFA and in Winning 11 and every other sports game.
Do you build the teams around your hometown Montreal Canadiens?
Yeah. I mean I liked our team a lot this year, but what I’ve done is I’ve kind of made a few adjustments being the hockey fan and the Jewish nerd that I am. Every Habs fan dreams of the day of winning another Cup. You put on the blue and rouge, put on your jersey, and so I make damn sure that that happens or something close to that can happen in the videogame.
As a Double Dragon fan and you had your ‘90s videogame adaptation for that on the big screen.
Yes, I did. Mark Decasgrose. I was always predisposed to love that movie because I loved Double Dragon 2 and I always loved the movie Only the Strong, so when I saw the two combined, I was like, “Oh my God, this is perfect.”
Videogame movies have come a long way since then outside of what Uwe Boll has done.
Yeah, I think so. I think you’re totally right, and I think some of the best videogames lend themselves to cinematic adaptations. A good videogame hinges on a good story and high stakes and interesting characters and compelling environments. And those are all the things that make good movies, so to me turning videogames into movies makes sense. I get it.
What are your thoughts on stereo 3D going from Hollywood to now videogames with PlayStation 3?
Oh, wow. Yeah. I mean, whatever PS3 can do to sell more machines, I guess it can’t hurt. I mean the Blu-ray thing isn’t enough. Blu-ray alone isn’t all that big. Any time there is any technological advancement in any kind of art form it can work to make things better, but the same old rules apply. I think whether or not it’s in 3D or not, a good videogame is a good videogame. And if at its core it doesn’t have a great story and the characters are infinitely playable, then it’s irrelevant. I think it’s the same as the advent of 3D in movies. The rules as to what makes a good one are still the same regardless of the advent of 3D.
Nintendo is jumping on the 3D bandwagon with the Nintendo 3DS.
Really? Wow. That’s crazy. It can’t be good for people’s collective attention span. That’s all.
It’s coming out in Japan first, which is where there’s that whole videogame girlfriend craze going on.
I mean, I wish I could say I’m surprised. Can’t you buy girl’s panties in vending machines in Japan?
That’s what I’ve read.
Yeah. It’s like a strange animated version of the future. I still get the feeling that if I get off the plane in Japan I’ll see robots and humans living in co-existence and every time someone gets upset a giant tear will appear above their head.