Danny McBride is going to show you how to punch. And kick. And he's going to do it badly. McBride plays tae kwon do instructor Fred Simmons in the indie comedy The Foot Fist Way, and keeps the funny coming this summer with roles in Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder and David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express, in which he appears alongside James Franco and Seth Rogen, his interviewer here.
SETH ROGEN: Well, you're making big movies now. I won't ask you what that's like. Obviously you can't say in a magazine all the great stories that I get to hear. But a few years ago, you made the smallest movie ever, The Foot Fist Way.
DANNY MCBRIDE: Yeah, it really is. My family has shot home movies that I think would almost be on a par with this.
SR: And now you're making giant movies.
DM: It's nuts. I hope that I'm not getting spoiled. Because The Foot Fist Way was like, we were crashing in the same apartment, and no one was getting paid, and we were just going to work, and getting drunk together at the end of the night, and there were no bosses, everyone was just friends-and that's an incredible experience. But yeah, it's been nuts to go from that to this kind of level of shit so quickly. But luckily, the big things have all been cool. Tropic Thunder was a blast, and a good excuse to hang out in Hawaii for three months, and Land of the Lost has just been incredible, too. Everyone is so nice. And as big as that movie is, there's really only like four actors in it, so it feels really small. So it still feels intimate, but it's just gi-normous.
SR: The food is probably better.
DM: The food is incredible. It's the best food I've ever had on any movie.
SR: I remember when I first moved to L.A. to do Freaks and Geeks, and then I came back after a few months to visit my friends in Vancouver, and I'd gained like literally 30 pounds from free Dr Pepper on set.
DM: Yeah, it's easy.
SR: I had a hard time controlling it.
DM: I know. Yeah, people don't understand that. But that was one of the first things, like, "Fuck, I gotta stop going to craft service." I will fuckin' put down all the Cheetos, all the Planters Peanuts, everything—in my mouth.
SR: It's a whole thing. I'm going back now, Danny. When did you decide you wanted to go to film school?
DM: I can't even remember not wanting to go to film school. Ever since I was born, I was like, "I'm going to go to film school. One day I'm going to go to film school."
SR: That's a strange thing to want to do! [laughs] You didn't want to make movies.
DM: No, I didn't want to make movies.
SR: You just wanted to go to film school.
DM: I just wanted to go to film school. Maybe one day I can teach film. [laughs] You can teach film editing. I made movies all the time when I was a kid.
SR: Do you have any of them?
DM: Yeah, I have a bunch of them. They're all on VHS. The really good ones are on Hi-8.
SR: Did you direct them?
DM: I would direct some of them, yeah, and I would just fuck around on some of the others. Most of them involve little clay figures or fireworks.
SR: Have you watched them recently?
DM: I have. And they don't hold up. I was going for a Vanilla Ice look for so much of middle school.
SR: Did you have the eyebrow?
DM: I didn't ever do the eyebrow. But I'm watching these movies, and it's like, "Wow, I had those lines on the side of my head for a long time."
SR: That's pretty impressive.
DM: Yeah. Sixth, seventh, eighth grade . . . There was no bar set in Spotsylvania, Virginia, of, like, what was cool and what wasn't. So you could go unchecked for a while.
SR: I had a rat-tail. Then the term-and I didn't coin this, so Interview magazine knows—"fag tag" reared its ugly head. [McBride laughs loudly] And then, once that came, everyone who was smart cut off their rat-tails.
DM: But you kept it.
SR: I kept it as, like, an act of defiance. I was like, "Fuck that." So when you're in Virginia, what context is there for . . . Well, that's why you just wanted to go to film school?
DM: Yeah. There really was no context. I grew up in a really small town, so your choices of things to get into were, like, maybe hunting or football or drugs. Or drama. [laughs] When it was time to find a college, I really had no idea what I wanted to go to school for. I knew I didn't really want to go to a regular college and have to write papers all the time and do all that kind of shit.
SR: I've never actually seen any of the movies you made in film school, although David [Gordon Green] tells me that they're hilarious.
DM: Oh, he's being kind. He's nice.
SR: No, he's not. Isn't he naked in one of your movies?
DM: He is. He does naked pull-ups in one of my films. My junior thesis.
SR: That's what he told me. So, when did you guys realize you could make actual movies?
DM: David was instrumental in that. When you get out of a film school like that, especially when you're so isolated from the industry in North Carolina, you're just kind of like the kings of your own little bubble here. You have your own little fan base made out of your friends and stuff-and you move to somewhere like L.A., and instantly it's not obviously like that. We started shooting, like, the day after we graduated college. That really kicked a lot of us in the ass, because it showed us that we could just start doing it.
SR: I'm jumping around a bit. I didn't go to film school—I have no education. But basically it seems to me like people who actually direct movies don't do any of the things that they tell you to do in film school, especially when it comes to dealing with actors and stuff like that. Do you find that?
DM: I think your first year or two, you would really try to do the shit that you read in the books and have all these long talks. But then by the time it got to the end of school there, you just realized what was bullshit and what was your way and what was someone else's way.
SR: You shot The Foot Fist Way pretty fast, in, like, 30 days or something like that?
DM: No, less—17 days. It was pretty nuts. It was crazy. But you know what? The whole thing was charmed. We never ran into any trouble. We made our days every day, we shot everything, all of the local casting we had done turned out amazing.
SR: So then it went to Sundance and people loved it.
DM: It went to Sundance, but it was weird. We didn't really know that people liked it at that point. We got it into Sundance, to the midnight-screening thing.
SR: The music is so awesome.
DM: They put the score together in a week. It was insane. It just all came together, and we got to Sundance and it screened there. It was really shitty, because our families and stuff were all there at the first screening, and we were so nervous. It screened at midnight, and as soon as the movie started all these people just started getting up. Before anything even happened in the movie, all these people were getting up and leaving and going out. We're like, "What the fuck is going on? Our families are seeing this. This sucks." So instantly, it was like, "Oh, man!"
SR: That's so brutal.
DM: But to the people who were left, it seemed like the movie played okay. Then we had the next screening, and we were getting big laughs, and it was going good, but there were still no real bites. We left Sundance with no domestic deal. So they just started showing it around and getting it all over the place. That's when they got it into your guys' hands.
DM: I can remember that meeting you guys had. They said Judd [Apatow] wanted to meet on the set of Knocked Up. I'd been a fan of everything you guys had been doing. So I remember going there the first day and just being super nervous. I remember I called Jody [Hill, the director of The Foot Fist Way] and I was like, "Dude, you should get here. Not only have they fuckin' seen the movie, but they like it!"
SR: At that point, had Will [Ferrell] and Adam [McKay] bought it?
DM: As it got to you guys, I think, it was getting to Will and Adam. So right in that same week, it was like, "Oh, shit, I can't believe that people we admire and respect have seen our movie." Then we get the call that Will and Adam have just started this production company called Gary Sanchez, and they want to do stuff like this, and we just couldn't really believe that at all.
SR: From our side that just never happens. How often does someone come up to you with some movie you've never heard of and say, "Watch this, it's fuckin' hilarious"? I mean, it literally never happens. I assume if I haven't heard of a movie, it's probably not very good.
DM: Yeah. There's a reason why you haven't heard of it.
SR: Yeah. Then, they say, "It came out of a film festival," which instantly makes you think, "How hilarious is that going to be?" Then you watch it, and I remember watching The Foot Fist Way vividly, like, "Holy shit, these guys went for it." It was just crazy. It was just kind of the first time in a long time where you felt you were watching something you hadn't really seen before. I mean, the fact that it was so clearly made for so little money, but still so funny.
DM: It adds to the charm.
SR: It does. With a movie like Tropic Thunder, you watch and you think, It's funny, but there are a billion dollars put into it and there are a billion celebrities in it.
DM: Yeah. It should be funny.
SR: It was a good time. I don't know. I don't have any other questions.
DM: Well, let's drink beer.