Read our roundtable interview with the main actors and director of the new sports comedy ‘Goon,’ which is currently available on VOD, and hits select theaters on March 30, 2012. The movie follows Doug Glatt (played by Seann William Scott), as he dreams of following in the footsteps of retiring minor league hockey goon Ross Rhea (portrayed by Liev Schreiber). After winning a fight, Doug receives the break he’s been looking for when the coach of the Halifax Highlanders hires him. Despite not having any hockey experience, and receiving taunts from the other players, Doug becomes a successful player, with the encouragement of his best friend, Ryan (played by the film’s co-writer, Jay Baruchel).
Scott, Schreiber and Baruchel were joined by director Michael Dowse at New York City’s Le Parker Meridian hotel. They discussed, among other things, why they were all interested in telling the story of a naive character who goes against his parents’ wishes to play a violent game, as he finally feels like he belongs.
Question (Q): Seann, what kind of hockey background did you have, growing up in Minnesota?
Seann William Scott (SWS): Yeah, I had no background. (laughs)
Q: Did you root for anybody, watch any games?
SWS: No. My friends played, but I played baseball, basketball and football. I remember going to the games because all the hot girls from school would go there, they wouldn’t come to the basketball games. Part to see them play, part to see some hot chicks in high school. (laughs) So that was my background, to be honest.
Q: That’s something Stifler would say.
SWS: Yeah, and most other men. (laughs)
Q: Jay, you were a co-writer on the film. Was it your idea to make Seann a member of the tribe?
Jay Baruchel (JB): Yeah. It’s like I’m half-Jewish on my dad’s side, and everything I know about hockey and hockey fighting, in particular, stems from Dad. It’s hard to separate that particular sense of hockey from the first-generation Jewish immigrant experience. Fighting, hockey and being Jewish were defining parts of his identity. So when it was time to take ‘Goon’ from the book (‘Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League’ by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith), it was impossible for that not to come through.
Q: Seann, were you surprised that you got the job of Doug?
SWS: Yeah, it was a huge opportunity for me. It was also the first movie that I got to be with actors and a director that I love, that already believed in me before. They already felt that I was right for it in the beginning. That’s totally different for me.
But just the role, it was such an incredible character. It’s hard for me to articulate why I love the movie so much. But was I surprised I got the job? Yeah, but I’m grateful.
Q: When Doug meets Rhea in the diner, it’s a beautiful scene, and there was a lot said and not said. How did you work through that?
Liev Schreiber (LS): I was grateful to Jay for including that. I think it’s a true testament to his passion of the game and the players, that he would include in his story. A guy who’s in the twilight of his career. When you think about a lot of these guys, before they can walk, they’re on ice skates. Hockey is their life.
Then, suddenly, at the relatively tender age of 35, 40-years-old, these guys confront a life without hockey, without a team, without the only thing they’ve existed for for the past 35 years. I love that Jay included that, because to me, that was a particularly impactful element of the movie.
Reading (Canadian NHL forward) Bob Probert’s book (‘Playing With Fire’), I didn’t base the character on him, but he was certainly on my mind and in my heart a lot. One of the things I remembered most about him was that people didn’t think about him as a hockey player. People thought of him as an enforcer and goon. This was a guy, who in my opinion, was constantly evolving as a player. He was a goal scorer.
With Seann’s character, I think this movie is realistic in so many ways, particularly with minor league hockey. One of the poetic licensing elements Jay took, which made it so funny, as that a guy with no skating skills whatsoever (laughs) could make it that far in the minor leagues.
That aside, everything else was so spot on. Particularly at the end, when the guy was saying, we’re not hockey players. Then the younger player says, yeah, but we are. So that’s perfect thing to say to that guy in that moment, at that point of his career. To give him a sense of redemption of his life and his game. To see the passion in a younger player, he was passing the baton on to the right guy. That’s an interesting element, because fight movies don’t work without a story that has to do with fighting.
Q: Jay, how did you get involved with (co-writer) Evan (Goldberg)? Did you know him from ‘Knocked Up,’ or did you know him from before that?
JB: I’ve known Goldberg since I was 18 years old. He’s known (Seth) Rogen since they were like 10. Whenever Even comes to my city, whenever I’m not in the States, I live in Montreal. We became friends, because he went to school in my city. Five years or so ago, he called and I was home. He asked me to write this Canadian hockey flick.
I don’t know s**t about hockey, but Evan had read some of my crazy horror s**t that I wrote. I guess he didn’t think I was too crummy, because he vouched for me. He knew a little about hockey, and said you’re not a terribly s**tty writer, so maybe we can figure something to do together.
I have to say, it was one of the easiest mapping out processes I’ve ever been apart of. He and I kind of hashed out the entire thing in about an hour-and-a-half. Then I just f**ked off to the confines of my bedroom, and knocked it out in two months. Then five years later, the movie died many deaths. But we found a way to keep going, because we dug what this could be. But Evan’s been one of my best friends for 12 years.
Q: How do you guys think Doug’s growth serves as the moral compass for the characters’ growth, and moving the narrative forward?
Michael Dowse (MD): I think you see Doug become a little bit more confident throughout the movie. I think you see that with Alison (Pill’s) character (Eva) a lot. They mature a little bit there, and I think you see that with Liev’s character, too. Marc Grondin (Who plays Xaxier Laflamme) would be the best example of the growth.
I think you see that as his hockey playing gets better, he sees his role and he starts to stand up for his family. I kind of like that about this character, he kind of has nothing, and then finds what he loves. It brings about positive change. I think that’s a great theme that people can climb onto, in terms of how this film speaks to people, and not just hockey fans.
JB: That’s what guides this whole thing. He’s innocent in a world of cynics who have plenty of reasons to stop giving a s**t about whatever he does. It’s kind of the point of what it is to do this job, whether your team is up by five goals or down by five goals, regardless of whether the guys you play alongside respect you, you will go out and do whatever needs to be done to protect them. It’s your job and the center of all of it. Everyone who plays alongside him, or becomes involved with him, becomes better for it.
MD: Yeah, you see it the most between the team.
LS: It’s a love story. He starts off not knowing anything about it, gets inside and loves it. That passion for the game becomes infectious. I think that’s the thing that sort of redeems Ross in the end. He asks, what did I do this for? They don’t give a crap about me. Doug says, they don’t love you because you fight, they love you because you’re a hockey player. Had there been someone around to give that boost to players recent years, it would have been different.
Q: Was the Euguene Levy character (Dr. Glatt) based on anyone in your life, Jay?
JB: No, the main source material, as far as I’m concerned, was the one book. Also, one of the greatest sports movies of all time that’s criminally under seen, ‘Les Chiefs.’ A guy I actually went to university with, his dad’s a doctor, his grandfather’s a doctor, his brother’s a filmmaker, and he slugs it out in a league called Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey, and it’s only in Quebec.
SWS: I’ve seen a game, and it’s amazing.
JB: There was this great, I don’t want to say tragic, character who loves this game so much, in every aspect. To love a game is to love playing it and to be around the boys and the audience and the crowds, he loves every aspect of it, it’s in his heart. His family thinks what he does is dogs**t.
That’s a universal truth. I know plenty of kids in plenty of lines of work who follow their heart, much to the disappointment of their family.
Q: Do you guys have any advice to people who want to break into filmmaking?
JB: I’m not in the position to give advice to anyone about anything.
MD: My advice to directors is to go work in the edit suite. As a writer, just go write.
JB: Yeah, that’s what my mom said when I was a little kid, find something that you can do for free, and find a way to make a living out of it. Never get sick of watching movies. One of the things that breaks my heart is guys I know in the film industry, the last thing they want to do is watch a flick on the weekend, because they make them all week. But that’s the best thing we do. How I earn my living and how I unwind are one in the same. How many people can say that? They should never be content with the amount of movies they’ve seen or written.
Q: What are some of the non-hockey movies that are inspiring to people who may not go out and see a hockey movie?
SWW: ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ (laughs)
MD: We talked about ‘Slapshot’ as a hockey movie, but I think there are a lot of great films from that time period that were sports comedies, like ‘North Dallas Forty,’ that are blue-collar grit. A lot of the sports comedies have become a little bit more glossy and high class. But I wanted to get that blue-collar feel to the film. I really love those films.
Q: But those are the films that the major studios distribute. Did the big studios pass on ‘Goon?’
JB: I just think that we made something that has a legitimate voice. When you watch our movie, it’s a collaboration, but it’s not a watered-down piece of non-sense. It’s about something, and it’s made purely of intention for a specific group of people.
MD: The major studios, it’s rare that they acquire films. The producers really believe in Magnet’s releasing model. We had interest from other distributors, but we thought this would be the best way to find the broadest audience.
JB: Maybe if we had made it PG-13.
MD: That’s the other thing. If we had shot this with a partner before, we wouldn’t have made the same film.
JB: There would be no point in making that film.
Q: It seems like you made a conscious effort to be respectful to the goon/enforcer. Did any of that cross your mind when you were writing in it and acting in it?
JB: Yeah, it’s a love letter to them. I was raised in a house where we respected and revered these guys that had pure intentions and executions. It comes from a reverential place.
Q: do you think this is a tribute to goons, since they have diminished since the lockout?
MD: I think they’re evolving back to the way Chris Nilan played the game. I think it’s harder to keep a pure enforcer on the bench as a fourth-line player. It’s going back to guys who can maybe put in 10 goals a season, but can also put in minutes. I think it’s really positive for these guys, to give them a little bit more value.
JB: And relevance.
MD: Yeah, and relevance. I think it’s positive.
Q: Liev, you have two small boys. If they wanted to play hockey, would you be supportive, or would you be worried?
LS: I’d definitely be nervous. But if my kids came to me and told me they wanted to play hockey, and expressed one billionth of the passion that Jay expresses, how can I stop them? (laughs) You can’t, if they love it. But my kids are three-years-old and four-years-old, I get nervous when they go to the bathroom. (laughs)
MD: I have a six-year-old, and he’s in his first year of hockey. I don’t get nervous at all. I think when they get a little older, when the hitting becomes part of the game, I think I’ll think about it again and re-judge. But at this age, it’s nothing but fun, there’s no violence.
LS: I’m not concerned about violence. When they trained me to play this game, and I got on the ice with these 6’5″, block guys, they move like lightening bolts across the ice. You feel that speed and power, it’s not the fights you’d gotta watch out about.
I don’t know enough about hockey, but I challenge someone to come up with the statistics about the injuries. I don’t think they come from fights.
JB: Cheap shots to the head.
LS: They come from the same place they come from in football and a lot of these other sports. Any sports that deal with speed, you’re going to have injuries. It’s not fighting, it’s speed. You can’t take speed out of the game, that’s what defines it.
MD: That’s the other thing, the NHL reduced the redline, and speeds up the game.
JB: There’s nothing to compensate that.
Q: Do you find Jay that some of the kids in the NHL have something to prove, and that’s why they fight, particularly the enforcers who aren’t going to score goals?
JB: No, if anything, I think it’s the opposite. What I do see is a fairly terrifying train of cynicism. Like what Liev said, there’s a lot of guys who don’t have anywhere to put their aggression, and it really manifests itself in cheap, dirty s**t.
The one time I’ll ever agree with (American-Canadian hockey executive/President-General Manager Toronto Maple Leafs) Brian Burke. About a month ago, he put Colton Orr on waivers, and said “I fear the rats are taking over the game.” I think that’s a trend I see.
Q: Seann, a lot of the characters you’ve played in your career have gotten the girls all the time. Playing a humble, vulnerable character in this, were you looking forward to that?
SWS: Well, I have played guys that think they can get the girls, but they really can’t. This character isn’t just humble and a good guy, and he means well, and the whole journey he goes on, he’s everything I’ve been looking to do since I moved to L.A.
Written by: Karen Benardello