Recently we sat down with Danny McBride to talk to him about his role as red-neck, casino entrepreneur, Will Stanton in Will Ferrell‘s comedy, The Land of the Lost. It’s not much a surprise that the real life McBride is not unlike the character’s you’ve seen him play on screen, only with a very quick wit that shows how he could go toe to toe with someone like Ferrell.
Check out what he has to say about acting with Ferrell in their first film together (and consistently trying not to laugh), what Chaka really wanted to do to the apple, trying not to swear on set (and failing), his future plans for Eastbond & Down, and more below…
(***Warning: There are some small spoilers throughout the interview. There are no huge plot spoilers, but he does talk about some of the scenes his character is in and what could have been said/done in them. Consider yourself warned.***)
What was it like working with Will Ferrell in a huge film like this?
Danny: Will is the greatest. I have a history with him. He was responsible for getting our little film, The Foot Fist Way, out there. But, this was the first time I got a chance to really work with him, and he was awesome. It was a 90-day shoot. It was a long movie, and to be stuck with Will, Anna and Jorma, they were just all great and the movie went by so fast. He’s great to work with. He can make you laugh without even saying stuff. He just bears into you with his eyes, and you’re just like, “This is going to be shit.”
Did you get to improv a lot in this?
Danny: Yeah. One of the things that initially attracted me to this was doing a comedy that would be mixed with some movie that would have all the special effects of this scope. I’m not used to really seeing a comedy on this scope. That was one of the initial draws to it. I just wanted to see what I’d look like standing next to a T-Rex, to tell you the truth. That was really what it came down to. People don’t get that chance. They’re not alive anymore. A lot of people don’t know that.
What would Kenny Powers (from Eastbound & Down) think of this film?
Danny: He’d probably watch it. I think he would like it. But, he’s not a real person. He’s a character. [Laughs]
Did you know “Land of the Lost” as a kid?
Danny: I did know it. I don’t think it was in the first run, but when I was a kid, I had definitely seen this show and was definitely freaked out by it, but found myself watching it, whenever I could.
What freaked you out?
Danny: Chaka’s brow freaked me out a little bit, and the Sleestaks. It’s funny ‘cause I had forgotten about the Sleestaks, which is like, “How could you forget about them?” When I first came to the set and all those Sleestaks were there, seeing them brought back all these primitive fears in me, that I had when I was a kid. I was like, “Oh, I hated these guys, and now I have to act with them.
You were freaked out by Chaka and it’s come full circle to where you 69 him.
Danny: I 69′ed him. You face your fears, as an actor, head on.
How did that scene evolve?
Danny: In the script, it said, “Will 69s Chaka and they wake up by a pool,” and I was like, “All right, we’ll see how that works.”
Were those giant crabs actually edible?
Danny: I didn’t know we were going to be really eating it. They just handed us those crab legs and it was stuffed with turkeys. They were like, “Yeah, you can eat this,” and we were like, “Okay.”
What would you say is the tone of this humor? This film is PG-13, but kids are going to want to see it and it rides an edge.
Danny: It definitely does. There is definitely a subversive nature to it. On face value, you’d think it would be something just for kids, but it’s pretty racy. There’s stuff in there where you’re like, “Oh, okay, I don’t know if I’d really want my kid watching that.” But, what I liked about this film was that it was unexpected. It takes some turns that you don’t expect, with the tone and even with some of the comedy. When you see that the special effects are done for real and it’s not like the old TV show, I think it’s definitely unexpected where it goes, tone wise. I think it’s cool.
Were there any ad-libs that you did that were a little over-the-top and that you had to tone down?
Danny: Yeah. There were a lot of those, where I’d just be like, “Oh, I want to say, ‘Fuck you,’ so bad and I can’t say it.” [Laughs]
Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to get through because you couldn’t stop laughing?
Danny: A lot of the stuff at the swimming pool at that hotel, and the scene where he dumps the piss on his head. That was pretty funny. And, when he’s singing the song. There were a lot of scenes. It didn’t even have to be scenes that were funny. The cameras would be rolling and he will just have this look, this glaze over his eyes, where you know that he’s going to try to make you break. It’s like an arm wrestling tournament to see who’s stronger and who can not laugh at Will’s jokes.
Were you surprised at how much you got away with, with the PG-13?
Danny: Yeah. There was a great rape joke that didn’t make it. Anna was translating Chaka and, when she was translating what he was saying, she was like, “I think he’s raped an apple,” and raping apples is not cool. That would turn people off. So, Chaka doesn’t rape an apple in the movie, anymore. But, “zombie dick” is totally cool. [Laughs]
Anna Friel said that you teased her with a lot of British jokes.
Danny: I did. She was one of the first real British people I’ve ever met before. I thought they just existed in history books, but no, they’re real. [Laughs] They walk amongst us. It wasn’t like They Live. I didn’t have to put sunglasses on to see her or anything. She was just there, all the time.
Was there anything you were surprised to learn about British people?
Danny: She introduced Will and I to all these weird things, like Ribena, this weird little red thing that she would put into her water. No, I had met British people before, just none as beautiful as Anna Friel. (Pauses) I’m laying it on thick. [Laughs]
How fun was it to do the wire work?
Danny: It wasn’t that much fun, to tell you the truth. I suffered a casualty, doing that. I lost a mole on my stomach, from the wire. And, it was a good mole. He had been with me, since I was a kid, and I lost him on this film. It was terrible.
Your career has really taken a strong upward swing, in the last year. What is it like to be able to pick projects, instead of fighting for them?
Danny: This career has been so weird, in the sense that I never really had any ambitions to go into acting or anything. I had gone to film school as a writer and director, so most of my interests were behind the camera. I just ended up acting in The Foot Fist Way out of necessity because we didn’t know any actors, so I skipped that whole period of having to go to auditions and be rejected and have headshots, and all that stuff. I don’t think I have the same appreciation for where this is at, but it’s cool.
Because of what’s happening on the acting front, we’ve been able to push these projects that we’ve been working on, as writers. I’ve definitely felt my fair share of rejection from the writing tip, and so it’s good to be in a place where you can start pushing the other stuff you’re interested in forward, and people actually will listen to you about it. With the TV show, just being able to work with all these guys that I’ve grown up with, and have been friends with forever and we’ve collaborated, as a real job and that’s actually going to find an audience. At the end of the day, it’s definitely a cool feeling.
Jody Hill has said that he envisions Eastbound & Down as a two season show. Do you still think that, or do you think there could be a third season?
Danny: How we approached the first season was that we had an initial idea for how the whole show would go, if there was enough interest and we had a little bit of a run with it. But, we approached the first season going, “If no one watches this and we don’t continue, let’s make this so it can stand on its own.” And, that’s how we would approach the second season, too. I think we have a three-act idea of where the series goes, that would be three seasons, but it could end at the second season, if no one watches it, and it will stand on its own. But, we have a plan for what the third would be, if we got a chance to do it.
Are you already thinking about how you’re going to top the first season?
Danny: The good thing is that we did have a plan for where we’d go, so that’s one thing that we’re feeling good about. We don’t have to really feel like we have to step over the same stuff. We had a plan for where things would go in the second season. The second season is going to be pretty crazy. We’re going to catch people by surprise. We’re treating this whole series as if it’s one giant movie. The second act of a film is not the same stuff that’s going on in the first, so we’re approaching this as if it’s the second act of a larger story. It’s going to go out there and be a lot different than the first season.
If you’re going in such a crazy new direction with Season 2, will you still have the same cast?
Danny: You’ll have to see. [Laughs]
Do you want to have Will Ferrell back on the show?
Danny: He might show up, here and there. We’ll see.
Do you ever think about doing topical humor, like what’s going on in current events?
Danny: Sometimes. But, it takes me so goddamn long to write a script that, if I strap on something that’s topical, it will be old news by the time I finish it.
Do you write by yourself, or do you sit in a room together?
Danny: We do a little bit of both. Ben Best is another one of our writers and he lives in North Carolina, so we’ll email each other. But, being in the room together is the best thing. When we wrote the whole series for Eastbound & Down, Jody was cutting Observe and Report, so we just gave up any writing offices and we were literally in his editing room, writing the TV show while they were cutting the movie. We’re not high maintenance. As long as we have a notepad and pencil, we’re fine.
I heard about a film you were working on IMDB, Mr. Machine, what is that about?
Danny: Mr. Machine is an old script that David and I wrote together, that takes place in the ‘80′s. It’s got this Gremlins feel, about these kids who make this robot for their science project and it ends up taking over their town. It’s something we had written a long time ago and were able to get it sold, once things started poppin’.
Is there a role for you in that?
Danny: Yeah, there would be, if we’re able to get that made.
Knowing the “Land of the Lost” TV show, were you surprised that this film wasn’t more of a spoof?
Danny: The first thing I thought was, “What are the special effects going to be like? Are they going to be like the special effects in the TV show, or are you going to go for it?” When they said they were going to go for it, I was like, “Oh, that’s probably an interesting choice.” It seems like it would be a cheap joke, just to go with the toy dinosaur. I don’t know if that would hold my attention for an hour and a half. There’s the purists, who I always read about, that are like, “I can’t believe you’re raping my childhood.” But, if Land of the Lost is your childhood and we’re raping it, I apologize. I think the show is awesome, and I think Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas keep the mythology intact without taking it too seriously. If it was taken too seriously, it’s just Jurassic Park. We’ve seen that movie before. This is a more interesting take on that tone.
Where do you think your character would go, if Land of the Lost got a sequel?
Danny: I feel like they would come back to him and he would be like General Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, ruling. It would be crazy.
Opening this Friday, June 5th, is Will Ferrell’s new comedy, The Land of the Lost, with Danny McBride as Will Stanton, the lovely Anna Friel as Holly Cantrell, Jorma Taccone as Chaka, and Ferrell as Dr. Rick Marshall.