Jay Baruchel says he hopes the financial success of his hockey comedy Goon will help stem Canada’s talent “brain drain” to Hollywood.
The Montreal-based actor was in Toronto on Tuesday to accept Telefilm’s Golden Box Office prize for last year’s on-ice smash.
“If it were up to me I would never have to leave and so it was kind of a beautiful thing that we got to make this movie,” Baruchel said while accepting the annual prize for Canada’s top theatre release.
“We’re doing our part to fight the brain drain and I hope we just get to keep making cool movies and kids will go see them.”
The Telefilm honour comes with $20,000 for the winning film’s director and $20,000 for the film’s writers.
Baruchel, who co-wrote the Manitoba-shot Goon with Pineapple Express and Superbad scribe Evan Goldberg, accepted a giant novelty cheque along with director Michael Dowse at Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t know we’d actually get giant cardboard cheques,” Baruchel said incredulously while thanking the cast and Telefilm for their support.
“My friends back home were making fun of me (saying), ‘Oh, you’re going to get your big Lotto cheque.’
“And I (said), ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And it actually is a big cheque. This is amazing.”
Telefilm says “Goon” collected $4.1 million at Canadian theatres in 2012, more than any other homegrown English-language feature film that year.
Goon was a box office hit from the moment it opened in February 2012, beating Hollywood imports its first weekend out.
Seann William Scott starred as a bouncer-turned-hockey-enforcer who muscles his way through the minor leagues. Baruchel co-starred alongside Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Alison Pill and Marc-Andre Grondin.
Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower and co-stars Grondin, David Paetkau, George Tchortov and Richard Clarkin were at the awards presentation Tuesday.
Telefilm boss Carolle Brabant says Goon collected a total of $17 million, including revenue from foreign box offices, video-on-demand and DVD sales.
Producer Don Carmody says that put the film in the black, noting it cost just $9 million to make. He suggests part of the winning formula was not approaching Goon as a Canadian movie.
“I approached it as an international movie that would appeal to a wide audience. And fortunately it did,” says Carmody, whose other films include Chicago and the Resident Evil franchise.
“There is some great talent in this country and so much of it gravitates towards the U.S. once they become successful and it’s really a challenge to bring it back. I happen to like making movies in Canada, but I make international movies, basically, and that’s how I approached Goon.”
Canada’s expat stars include the L.A.-based Goldberg, who has another hit on his hands with the current comedy This is the End, also starring Baruchel alongside fellow Canucks Seth Rogen, Michael Cera and Hollywood pals James Franco and Jonah Hill.
Goldberg, who co-directed and co-wrote the apocalyptic adventure with fellow Vancouver native Rogen, was not in Toronto for the “Goon” award.
“Evan’s a little busy, I imagine, counting his money,” Carmody joked.
Baruchel says he’s proud to work in his homeland and would like to see more actors with Hollywood success do the same.
He’s working on a sequel to the animated hit “How To Train Your Dragon” and also appears in the upcoming “RoboCop” reboot with Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson.
But Baruchel is intent on shooting a “Goon” sequel here next summer, and says he’s always needling his pal Rogen about working more at home.
“He knows my opinions on the matter and I constantly guilt trip him for that. But different strokes for different folks,” he says with a shrug.
Baruchel says the rude and crude “Goon” is not the kind of movie that’s usually celebrated by Canada’s film industry. But he says things seem to be changing.
“For a long time we yielded more or less the same kind of movie — some sort of strange, depressing, bleak, erotic, winter-based drama, sleeping with corpses and stuff — and that stuff has a place, it means something to a lot of people. But Canadians like hockey, Canadians like fun, Canadians like comedy, Canadians like action, so we thought ’Why not put all of these into a movie?”’
Baruchel says he’s in the process of co-writing a sequel to “Goon” and expects to be done by the end of the summer.
“If all goes according to plan we’d be shooting this time next year,” he says, hinting it will explore the emotional toll suffered by hockey enforcers.
“It’s our ’Empire Strikes Back,’ so it’s going to be a bit darker than the first one, a bit heavier. It’s still a ridiculous comedy with a bunch of stupid silly jokes but more fighting, more hockey and just higher stakes and we’re just trying to up the ante as much as we can.”
He’s also voicing a sequel to the animated hit “How To Train Your Dragon.”
“It makes the first one look like a flip book,” he says. “And I adore the first one, but I think we destroy the action sequences in the first one in this movie. I think (we’re) just upping the ante and it’s even more epic than the first one.”