The prince McBride
To his fans, Danny McBride is the funniest man in the US. They’re not far wrong, as Your Highness– a sort of Princess Bride with Minotaur knobs on – proves. So what do US reviewers have against him? He tells TARA BRADYabout his issues with the press, his love of profanity and his Northern Irish homecoming
‘SO MUCH of the movie industry is based on what happens in the first three days. But think back. How many people went to see Ghostbustersin the first three days? I don’t want to watch a movie on a ticking fucking clock – I want to watch a movie when I get around to it. It’s crazy shit.”
Danny McBride takes another swig of Red Bull. It’s entirely understandable in the circumstances. Tonight he’s in Dublin for the last stop on a globetrotting publicity tour for Your Highness. This morning he was doing much the same thing in Glasgow. With his A-list co-stars currently occupied elsewhere – Natalie Portman is on a maternity break and James Franco is off attending university – McBride has been shouldered with the lion’s share of press engagements.
Thing is, he’s not exactly enamoured with the press right now. It’s cool. He’s not miffed with us. Why would he be? In this part of the world a Danny McBride flick is far more likely to receive a good notice than a kicking. But on the back of last weekend’s characteristically scathing batch of US-based reviews for his new, potty-mouthed Princess Bride adventure, he wouldn’t mind having a quiet word with our critical brethren over the water.
What do American broadsheets have against the new Golden Age of Hollywood Comedy? “I don’t get these fucking people,” he says. “You pick up a review in America and they got nothing to say about the movie. They’re writing about all this other shit. They’re reviewing numbers. They’re reviewing career paths. They’re reviewing James Franco at the Oscars. Celebrity is a massive industry in America, and it creeps in to everything. My favourite kind of joke is an inside joke – the kind where I’m laughing my ass off and you look totally fucking stupid for not getting it. I’ve been in cinemas all over with people laughing their asses off at this movie. These critics mostly live in Los Angeles, the least humorous place in the world. It’s hard to make those jaded motherfuckers laugh.”
He need not trouble himself unduly. To his fans, Danny McBride is the funniest man in the US. They’re not far wrong. Proudly profane and cheerfully anarchic, McBride belongs to the same noble lineage of F-blinders as Richard Prior. He’s also the hands-down best thing in every movie he’s turned out for, the crass tour-de-force inhabiting the corners of Superbad, Hot Rodand The Heartbreak Kid.
“I’ve always loved comedy that wasn’t appropriate for my age. I was always into shit that was way dirtier than what I should have been watching, and I’m still thinking about the kind of movie I’d like to have seen when I was 14. I loved anything that felt naughty.
“When I was in fifth grade I had all of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious memorised. It was the funniest shit I had ever seen.”
Born in Statesboro, Georgia, and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia, McBride attributes his comedy chops to a misspent youth in redneck surroundings.
“I basically just watched movies. I was no good at being a redneck. I didn’t go hunting. I didn’t have a huge four-wheel drive. Instead I found those dudes hilarious. Jody Hill, who I write with, was a punk-rock kid from North Carolina. We just didn’t look good in trucks.”
At the University of North Carolina, McBride and Hill hooked up with film-maker David Gordon Green, who went on to direct such highly regarded indie classics as George Washingtonand All the Real Girls. But Danny and Jody just wanted to write “some funny shit”. Like all good film students, they dutifully decamped to LA. “It was the usual amazing series of jobs as a waiter. You leave film school, you wait tables.”
Undeterred, McBride and Hill took the DIY route. The Foot Fist Way,McBride’s hilarious, guerrilla-budgeted portrait of a North Carolina taekwondo dojo, took Sundance by storm in 2006. Conan O’Brien loved the movie so much he kept inviting McBride to appear in character on Late Night with . . . Judd Apatowsoon got in touch, as did Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller.
“Everything happened really fast after The Foot Fist Way,” says McBride.
“Pineapple Expressand Tropic Thunderhit around the same time, so there was a real momentum to it. It was Eastbound and Downthat has made things really crazy. Now I got to wear a hat if I want to go to a bar.”
Eastbound and Down, McBride’s hit sitcom about a bush league baseball player with anger issues, has just been renewed for a third season at HBO. The show is a phenomenon; McBride’s character, Kenny Powers, even has his own deal with K-Swiss shoes.
“I get my best ideas when I go home and sit in a bar with my friends. They’re funny because they have nothing to do with movies. I’m not going to hate on LA. The weather is great, there’s great music there, there are amazing restaurants. But when you’re trying to write or be creative, it’s tough living in the same place where the cheques are signed. It’s hard to take ideas from real life when real life is always sitting around trying to work out what ideas are hot and funny right now.”
Your Highness, a delightfully puerile quasi-medieval stoner comedy, predates McBride’s current wave of success.
“David and I used to play this stupid games between takes on the set of All the Real Girls,” recalls the actor. “He’d come up with a title and I’d come up with a stupid plot. So that’s Your Highness.It’s about this loser prince who can’t compete with his heroic brother.”
As ever, the project’s demotic use of language falls somewhere between high art and pissing contest. Bongs are passed. Inappropriate body parts are rubbed. A Minotaur is slain.
“That was the first idea David had: ‘I want you to kill a Minotaur, then chop off its dick and wear it for the rest of the movie.’ In the script that was 20 pages of me wearing a dick. But on the shoot that translated into me wearing that nasty thing for a month. You lean over your plate and bang. Damn thing’s in your soup again.”
Hang on a second. Can this really be David Gordon Green, the same guy who directed the sublime, unbearably poignant George Washington? How on Earth has he drifted in to stoner comedies?
“You haven’t seen anything from that guy yet. He’s doing a remake of Suspiria with Natalie. He’s developing westerns. He’s somebody like Altman. He’s heading out all over the fucking map.”
Unlike many of their erstwhile Frat Packand Team Apatowcollaborators, McBride and company are happy to give their female lead something to do.
“Natalie is awesome. She did something that’s really tricky to do. She’s standing around with all these jerks doing really dirty things, and she’s playing this whole other comic movie. She stays the course.”
McBride lived in Northern Ireland for the six-month shoot. His father’s family is from Tyrone, and he says he felt right at home.
“I became a local, totally,” says the 34-year-old. “It was awesome. I’ve been on so many locations, and Belfast is by far the best stop in the world. The people are fucking great. The crew are awesome. The countryside is beautiful. We were able to do all this Lord of the Rings shit without needing millions for CGI. That stuff is there. And it feels like a place where people want to party.”
He’s liking his new-found fame, he says. He doesn’t even mind it when fans come up to quote cherished McBride obscenities.
“I get the ‘thug life’ thing from Pineapple Expressa lot. I get ‘big-ass titties’ from Tropic Thunderand I get ‘you’re fucking out’ from Eastbound and Downall the time. It’s funny, except when you’re out with your parents at a fancy restaurant. It’s crazy. They walk out of those movies so proud of me. But they’d never have allowed me to watch shit like that. I still don’t cuss in front of them.”