There are plenty of people in Hollywood who like to present themselves as modest.
They know they're modest because, well, they've practiced the whole humble routine in front of the mirror a thousand times. The ah-shucks shrug of the shoulders, the roll of the eyes as they soak in the praise, the nonchalant mention of their latest box-office figures.
With Jay Baruchel though, you get the impression that his modesty is genuine. And his aim is true.
Up on the rooftop of LA's exclusive SLS Hotel on La Cienega Blvd, the 27-year old Canadian looks like he might be there to clean the pool. As it is, after a stint as one of the gang in a run of recent movies (including Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and that so-so Night At The Museum sequel), Jay has found himself being promoted to leading man in two major movies this year. We've already had the surprisingly sedate, and really rather wonderful, DreamWorks Animation offering How To Train Your Dragon, and now comes the sweet-natured beauty-and-the-geek comedy She's Out Of My League.
"I just shouldn't be the leading man in a romantic comedy," says Baruchel, in-between munches on a mighty sandwich that probably weighs more than he does. "Just look at me. But, you know, that's the nature of comedy, and I'm down with that. If I looked like Brad Pitt, there would be no point in calling this movie She's Out Of My League."
Indeed. With a starring role in the big Disney summer outing The Sorcerer's Apprentice also in the bag, it's time for Jay Baruchel to get ready for quite a lot of close-ups.
PAUL BYRNE: Do you feel ready for the sort of attention three major releases in one year can bring?
JAY BARUCHEL: Well, I'm ready for this, for talking to people about the movies, about helping them get out there. As for what might happens after they're all out there, who knows? I don't think I'm going to turn into Robert Pattinson overnight, but there'll be some recognition, I guess. I think I'm lucky in that I don't look particularly striking. It's my major strength really. It means I can play the geek convincingly.
You certainly do just that in She's Out Of My League, playing the hapless, seemingly hopeless Kirk (a "5"), who suddenly finds himself on the arm of the super-hot Molly, played by Alice Eve (a definite "10"). So, did you go method for the role? Use your Hollywood status in the name of research?
I think that might have taken away from my character's look of total shock when he ends up with this beautiful girl. I haven't quite reached the stage, as I say, that I get recognised an awful lot, but, hey, maybe that will change. I just hope I know the difference between someone having fun with me, and someone who's just there because they just want to be with someone mildly famous.
Yep, it's going to be hell for you. Having popped up in a few TV outings back in your native Canada, your rise through small parts in the likes of Almost Famous and The Rules Of Attraction finally led to your hanging out with the likes of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Which led to Knocked Up, and a whole new comedy frat pack wave. Feel that way to you?
Well, we're all friends, and we've broken through at the same time, in the same movie, but I think we're all very wary of being tagged one way or the other. The whole kick is trying new things, pushing a few twisted ideas into the mainstream, but also just making movies that make people laugh. That make us laugh. The pressure of having to live up to this movie or that movie is pretty ridiculous, but I think we're all out there doing our own thing. Which is pretty incredible, to be honest. I don't think any of us could have guessed we'd get this far, have this much fun.
You're plainly keen to be more than just an actor-for-hire too. Having written and directed the 2002 short Edgar And Jane, you've scripted your first feature, Goon, which is currently in pre-production. Important to prove that you're more than just a geeky face?
Absolutely. There's no telling where this acting will go, and I certainly hope there's always some interesting work going on, but to have control over the script, over just about everything that goes up there on screen, that would be amazing. I'm not saying the results will necessarily be amazing, but the opportunity to make films, from scratch, is something I think everyone in this business longs for. It's early days, and I'll hopefully get to make many more, but, for now, I'll be happy to get Goon off the ground and up there on the screen.
In the meantime, you're staying true to your indie and geographical roots, with The Trotsky, directed by your Montreal buddy, Jacob Tierney...
Yeah, I hope I'll always be lucky enough to make a mainstream movie and then make something smaller, more personal, and a little more challenging. There's joy to be found in both kinds of films, really. There's nothing like the freedom of making a film independently, where you can throw the happy ending out the window, but then, there's nothing quite like being in a multiplex and everyone is laughing like a drain over some broad comedic scene you busted your ass to get right. It's all good, my friend, it's all good...
It does seem like you've come a long way in the last three or four years...
It feels that way too. Completely mindblowing, to be honest. And I want to learn as much as I can right now. Every day, I'm trying to soak up what's involved in this business, from the best way to put a script together, to the making of the movie, to the marketing, everything. Even this, being in this fancy hotel with a bunch of journalists from all over the world, it's fascinating to me. I get to talk to people like yourself, get an idea of what you guys like and don't like, and then I just take all those opinions home with me.
And laugh about them.
And laugh about them, exactly [laughs]. No, it's all these tiny parts of a big, big jigsaw, and there's just so much to learn, and so much to enjoy. I think you can overcook these things, especially comedies. There's little more painful than comedy that's looking at the pedals all the time, trying to figure out the technicalities rather than just having that natural flow. It's that balance that I'm looking for - knowing all the technical stuff, but still just having some fun on top of all that.
Words - Paul Byrne
She's Out Of My League is out now in Irish cinemas