Danny McBride is the next big thing in comedy, and we got to talk to him.
Danny McBride is sneaking up on unsuspecting filmgoers like a panther ready to pounce on fresh meat. He earned copious praise this summer when he appeared as a ramp builder in Hot Rod, damn near stealing the entire show right out from underneath his capable co-stars with the line, "I've been drinking Green Tea all day!" Now, in his second major motion picture role, the guy has managed to do it again. Upon exiting the Thursday night premier of The Heartbreak Kid, one name was on everybody's lips. And that name was Danny McBride.
In the latest Farrelly Brothers movie, McBride shows up unexpectedly with an overprotective eye for his on-screen cousin, played by Michelle Monaghan. He turns what could have been a stereotypical redneck character into one of the funniest scene-stealers seen on screen this year. And he gets to take a bat to Ben Stiller. When audiences should have been falling in love with Stiller's adorable female co-stars, it was Danny that they fell in love with instead.
Where did this guy suddenly come from? Well, he recently took time out of his packed schedule to tell us. McBride is currently finishing up his role in the Ben Stiller directed film Tropic Thunder. Moments after riding around in a helicopter, he gave us a call.
Here is our conversation:
Danny McBride: Hey, how you doin', buddy?
Not too bad. So, I guess I'll just jump right into this since I don't know how much time we have. You've pretty much come out of nowhere to dominate in both Hot Rod and The Heartbreak Kid. Can you give me a little bit of your background and tell me how you got hooked up with the Farrelly Brothers?
Danny McBride: Let's see. I went to film school. I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts and attended the film program there. I was studying to be a director. It was there that I met Jody Hill, who I made The Foot Fist Way with. I also met David Gordon Green there. I worked with him on All The Real Girls. I came from a small southern school, and that was a tight knit group of kids. The film school there was just getting started. We just all kind of stuck together through that program. I came out to Los Angeles in 1999, and I got a bunch of bullshit work. My first job out here was working for this show called Battle Dome. I would be in the Battle Dome, in the middle of the matches. I also waited tables, and was down here for a few years before we decided to go make our own movie. Jody Hill and I made The Foot Fist Way. We didn't really know any actors. So we just put ourselves in it. We shot it in North Carolina, and it got into Sundance. That's when the acting jobs started to sprout up. I felt really lucky, because the right people enjoyed what we'd done. It fell into Judd Apatow's hands, and he loved it. It fell into Will Ferrell's hands, and he's whom we are getting our distribution deal through. The Farrelly Brothers happened upon it the same way. And they were looking for an asshole southern gentleman. So they came to me.
Your over protectiveness is so authentic in this film, did you get to know Michelle Monaghan before you went and shot this or does that just come naturally to you?
Danny McBride: No, I didn't. I met Michelle on the set, when I went to do the film. I guess the character did kind of come naturally to me. Growing up, I did see a lot of people that were this guy. I saw people that were this family. I grew up in a small town in Virginia. I just took the things I had learned as a kid growing up. I focused on a lot of the country club southern gentlemen I remembered. I tried to emulate that.
Now, why did you decide to make this guy Michelle's cousin, rather than her brother?
Danny McBride: That really wasn't on me. That was always in the script. It was written that way. That was one of the ways that they reinvented the original Neil Simon movie. That worked out good for me, because I think it would be weird for me to play Michelle's father. My character, Martin, was the dad in the original. So, that would have been a little strange.
It almost comes across a little more creepy that this guy is her cousin, and he's acting this way.
Danny McBride: It is. There is that sort of unspoken thing about cousins when you come from the south. But I can assure you that Martin has never slept with his cousin in this movie. There is no back-story as far as that goes.
I would hope not. Now, what was it like getting to beat Ben Stiller down with that bat?
Danny McBride: It was very intimidating. That was one of the very first things I had to do on the movie. Everything had happened so quickly with getting these roles. This was like the first humongous set I'd ever been on before. And I'm a huge fan of Ben's. I have been ever since I was a kid. I was just then meeting him. I was star struck. I didn't really know what I was doing. And the next thing I know, they are putting this baseball bat in my hands and telling me to storm in there. And they told me to just wail on him. I didn't want to hurt this guy. I didn't want to be kicked out of Hollywood after having just gotten in the front door.
Where did you come up with the term "The Devil's Lettuce"? I know a couple of guys that work in a medicinal pot store here in Los Angeles and ever since they saw this film, that's what they've turned to calling it.
Danny McBride: (Laughs) I love that. There is a bar in Charlotte. On their back porch it says, "No smoking tobacco or the devil's lettuce." I saw that a couple of years ago, and always thought that was a pretty amazing name.
Did your on-screen family all come together and actually congeal like a real family?
Danny McBride: Yeah. It was pretty cool. None of us knew each other beforehand. I think Roy Jenkins and I had met each other before. No one else had ever met before. Of course I knew Polly Holiday as Flo from Alice when I was a kid. That was pretty insane to meet her. Everyone just kind of fell in line, and knew what to do. As a whole family, we all went out to dinner one night in Cabo. There were all of us, and we were all from different generations there. It just came naturally, I guess.
I didn't even realize that Polly Holiday was in the movie. I didn't recognize her.
Danny McBride: Yeah, "Kiss my grits!" That's her.
Now, when you guys were in Mexico, they told you not to drink the ice. Is that correct? So you guys ended up drinking tequila shots the entire time you were there?
Danny McBride: Yes. That was really the reason we drank the tequila. We thought our stomachs would be too upset from the water. We had to find sustenance somewhere. It was Patron. It was Don Julio.
That's funny. What was the overall experience of shooting in Mexico like?
Danny McBride: It was just an amazing time. To be down there, and be able to work with the Farrellys. Those guys are such good guys. They make sure the vibe on the set is just so positive and fun. To have that combination of work mentality, and to be in this amazing, tropical work location was great. We had the ocean there. We shot at this resort, and our hotel room was basically our trailer. We had the whole entire resort to ourselves. I doubt I will ever encounter anything like that ever again.
How much freedom did you have in creating this character? Did the Farrellys let you have free range, or was the character set in stone from the get go?
Danny McBride: They had a good idea of what they wanted to see with this. Then when I came to see what they'd picked out for costumes, it was pretty easy to see that we were all on the same page. We knew what we were going to do with this guy. Still, they had stuff written, but they were not afraid to let the cameras role and let you go with other stuff as well.
Now, the hair thing. I know you probably talked about that too much, right?
Danny McBride: I haven't talked about my hair in the film at all. I'd be glad to talk about my hair in the film.
It looked like you were wearing a rug. It looked like they had shaved the top of your head, and made you wear a toupee. Is that what they did with that?
Danny McBride: No, that hair? That was one hundred percent me. That was my real hair. They shaved it down and gave me a flat top, and then they pomaded it up. That was it. That's what happens to my hair, I guess.
It looks totally fake.
Danny McBride: It looks disgusting, I know. It was a look I was very happy to shed.
Right now you've got a mullet, with the sides shaved off?
Danny McBride: Yeah, that's for Tropic Thunder. Another incredible haircut.
Is that what you're working on this week?
Danny McBride: Yeah, I've been in Kauai all summer. We started in June, and I just got back. I left shooting in Kauai at the end of last week. Now I'm in Los Angeles, and I have a week left here. Then I'm done.
How has that shoot been going? Can you tell me anything about that film?
Danny McBride: Tropic Thunder s going to be incredible. Just to see a movie of this scope, that has this much talent behind it, and it's an R rated comedy on top of that. I don't think people have ever seen anything like this. Ben Stiller is directing it. And John Toll is the cinematographer on it. Everything I've seen is incredible. This is The Thin Red Line, but a comedy. It's just crazy.
Danny McBride: Judd saw The Foot Fist Way, and was a fan of it. He invited me to the set to meet him when he was filming Knocked Up. I'd been a fan of Judd's since The Cable Guy. I'd followed everything he'd done. I loved Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, so I was thrilled. He was interested in what I was doing. On the set of Knocked Up, I met Seth and all of those guys, and we clicked pretty instantly. So, yeah, I stayed in touch with them. Judd got the script for Drillbit Taylor and Judd asked me to check it out. He thought I would be okay for it. As far as The Pineapple Express, I guess I worked out well enough the first time that he was willing to do another movie with me. David Gordon Green, whom I went to film school with, was directing that. So, yeah, it was pretty awesome to be working on a Hollywood film with one of my really good friends. It was great.
The last couple of characters you played had a little bit of a redneck twinge to them. Is that okay to say? I don't know if that's offensive or not?
Danny McBride: It's not offensive to me. I don't care. I think what has happened so far is that was my character in The Foot Fist Way. I think that's what people have been looking for. Everything has happened so fast, I don't think I particularly sought out these characters that happened to be southern assholes. But all of this work has been generating at one time. That's what it's coming from. I don't think I am representing for the south, you know?
One thing I noticed about the characters is that they actually have some smarts about them. They are not dumb characters. Is that something you've tried to bring to them? That they are not complete idiots?
Danny McBride: Definitely. A lot of what you see in Hollywood, especially their portrayal of the south, is characters that are just one note. They are clearly just southern idiots. But in the actual south, that is something that is hardly ever the case. I mean, that is there. There are stupid people. But there are a lot more things about southern people to make fun of than being dumb. I like to exploit different things about those certain types of guys.
Can you tell me a little bit more about this film The Foot Fist Way?
Danny McBride: It was a film that we shot two years ago. It played at last year's Sundance festival, and Will Ferrell's company picked it up. It is going to be released through MTV Films and Paramount Vantage in March. Next year. Yup.
Now, isn't Will Ferrell and Adam McKay also producing your show for HBO called East Bound and Down?
Danny McBride: Yeah, exactly. We met them from The Foot Fist Way, and we became friends with them after that. We were out to dinner with them one night, and we were pitching different stuff that we wanted to do. And we pitched them this idea for a TV show. And they were really excited about it. We walked it to HBO with them, and we were able to get a deal going.
Can you tell me a little bit about the synopsis for that show? I know its about a baseball pitcher?
Danny McBride: It's about a baseball pitcher who is a jerk. His mouth gets in front of him a lot of the time. He doesn't like women, he doesn't like people of other races. He's just an overall asshole. That ends up catching up with him. He gets bounced out of the league, and several years later he is out of money. He is broke, and he has to turn back to the town where he came from. To get back on his feet. There, in that town, everyone hates his guts. He'd burnt every single bridge there before he left. So, the show follows this guy's quest. The one thing we tried to do, was make this one long movie that kind of unfolds. The comedy doesn't necessarily come from the situation of a guy being in a town. That just happens to be where the story picks up in the beginning.
I've heard a little rumor floating around that you may be developing a "redneck" super hero film. Is that true, or am I just hearing rumors on the internet again?
Danny McBride: I think you are just hearing rumors on the Internet. (Laughs)
I've got one last question for you.
Danny McBride: Hit me.
Has Sobe or Shizuoka Tea approached you about being their Green tea spokesperson?
Danny McBride: I am sitting by my phone, waiting. But nothing yet. And I'm not really sure why. I think they are missing out on some great opportunities here.
I think they are too. I'm glad you took time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today.
Danny McBride: Thank you. I really appreciate it.
The Heartbreak Kid opens this Friday, October 5th, 2007.