Director Michael Dowse, the man behind “Fubar” and “Take Me Home Tonight,” is no stranger to pushing the envelope. So it’s no surprise that his latest effort, the hockey comedy “Goon,” opens with a splash of blood and a tooth hitting the ice. While the real hockey world is currently wrangling with issue of concussions, in the stylized sports comedy “Goon,” the hits are big, bad and brutal. We recently caught up with screenwriter Evan Goldberg (who co-wrote the film with Jay Baruchel) to talk about the film, and we started off by chatting about balancing the real-deal hockey in the movie with the bone-crushing fights and checks that pepper the story.
“When we were writing the script, all we thought to ourselves was, ‘Whoever makes this is going to try to make it so much less violent than whatever we write, that we should really amp up the violence.’ Because, we wanted it to be true to hockey and that was always one of the goals, and in the end, it’s a little heightened for sure, but it still feels like real hockey being played,” Goldberg explained. “And we were worried it would feel like a Disney version…so we wrote a lot of violence into it, and then we just so happened to find the ballsiest, most gritty director around town and so that’s how it ended up being ever so violent.”
“Goon” follows the story of a bouncer-turned-hockey player (Seann William Scott), drafted into a league just below the NHL, when his ability to take a punch and deliver an even harder one, catches the eye of coaches. He’s saddled onto a losing team, with the task of protecting their premiere player and prima donna (Marc-André Grondin), while a fading enforcer (Liev Schrieber) wants his shot at taking on the new rookie sensation. For any hockey fan, these archetypes are familiar, but Goldberg reveals his interest in the sport has always been casual, and oddly enough, that’s what drew him to work on the movie.
“Really what made me interested in it, was that I wasn’t interested in it. I’ve always liked hockey as a Canadian…[but] I also just didn’t get why people loved sports movies. But clearly, they make more money than most other movies, people always love them, and even shitty ones, people just love them,” he said. “And so I kind of wanted to see why I didn’t love them quite as much, and I think [other hockey movies] never felt real, and so what enthralled me about this project is that we could make it feel realer…To me it was interesting to take this genre that I feel is always unreal, and try to make it real, and also just learn about something I’ve wanted to know all about my whole life.”
“The way we approach the movie is, I was obviously the one who did not know as much about hockey, so we should make sure that I loved this script, and that it doesn’t require any knowledge that I don’t have,” Goldberg added. “Because, most of the people who we want to go see the movie, and especially in America, won’t know a lot more than me — if they’ll even know as much as me — so I had to love the script as someone who liked hockey, but didn’t live or breathe it. And Jay had to also love the script, being someone who lives and breathes hockey, and if hockey ceased to exist, he would without a doubt throw himself off a bridge.”
And it’s this dedication to making sure the narrative is grounded in some kind of reality, combined with a desire to take on new territory, that has led Goldberg to one of his next endeavors — writing a full on, straight ahead horror movie. “Seth [Rogen] and I have been talking about doing a horror idea that we came up with, and I don’t like horror movies. It’s interesting to me that I don’t like horror movies and I’m interested in doing it,” Goldberg revealed. “I used to just think, ‘Anyone who likes horror movies is sick or [more] likely to kill me in my sleep than my friends who like comedy.’ But movies are therapy for a lot of people, and it’s good for people to get things out. Maybe there would be more serial killers because they get it out with the horror movies, or maybe it makes people serial killers, I don’t really know. But I’m interested in this whole area now, and I never really was before.”
And while Goldberg is keeping further details close to the chest for now, he does cite one recent franchise for spurring his curiosity, and he hints that comedy could possibly find its way into the story. “We do assume that by making it funnier, we can make it scarier, but people don’t love ‘Paranormal Activity‘ because it’s funny,” he said. “If it was a bit funnier, and more realistic, maybe it would’ve been even better — and I did think it was a fantastic movie, I actually really liked that movie. That was the one that kinda drew us into discussing this, because we just thought it was so innovative.”
But before he gets to that, Goldberg will team with his friend Rogen to make their directorial debut on “The Apocalypse,” which will round up his pals Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco and a host of other funny folks. And this summer, the Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn comedy “Neighborhood Watch” hits screens, a movie that he co-wrote with Rogen as well. But until then, you can catch “Goon” right now on VOD, or in theaters on March 30th.