Jay Baruchel has gone from the awkward supporting character in Judd Apatow movies to an unconventional leading man. This month he stars opposite Oscar winner Nicolas Cage in Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a live action revamp of the famous segment of the same name featured in the animated film Fantasia. The actor has big shoes [and ears] to fill as he takes over the role that was originated by a Hollywood icon — Mickey Mouse.
The weight of this film doesn’t sit lightly on the shoulders of Baruchel and when we met up with him at the Los Angeles Press Day for the movie, he let it be known that he’s very humbled to be picking up where Mickey left off…
When asked about the significance of playing the title character in the film, he revealed that the role was both scary and exciting to play. He knew what the film meant to so many people and he didn’t want to screw it up.
Jay Baruchel: There’s a gravity to it, it’s not lost on me. Everyday I came to work like “I really can’t mess this up.” Worse case scenario is every time someone sees the cartoon Fantasia I would be irrevocably connected to it like, “Oh, remember that punk kid and how terrible that was?” This sounds cheesy but I felt like the ghosts of my grandparents were kind of watching me. When you’re paying homage to one of the more iconic sequences in film history it’s like right up there with the people making out on the beach in From Here to Eternity, it’s a big one. I tried my best to kind of fulfill everything I had to do. Do everything I had to do in terms of paying homage to the character and to the sequence while looking for moments where I could kind of maybe do my own thing. But yeah, I was scared shitless!
He also spoke about his respect for the source material and how important it was for them to tackle it with reverence.
JB: Anytime your referencing or paying homage to something that’s meant a lot to a lot of people for many generations you’ve got to approach it with a degree of reverance. And I’d like to say that we have a really great seed to start from. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence in Fantasia is the seed to our oak tree and you could pick a lot worse seeds to start from. If we failed it would have been a big, big, big mess because The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is just two words that have meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time. Hopefully we’ve given them what they’re used to and then some.
As for the preparation that went into working with such an intense actor as Cage, he stated that an up and comer like himself could react in one of two ways…
JB: It will either make you wilt in the presence of greatness and you just lose it all or [you think] now I’m playing with the guys I got into it for. The guys that made me want to become an actor. Now that I have my chance, I better bring my A-game as hard as I possibly can. That’s what it was with him. I had to show up on set everyday and I’d get to work and have conversations with this guy, who I’ve been such a huge fan of and in awe of everything about him. I just didn’t want to blow it. It just made me want to work as hard as I possibly could just to be as good as he is.
Baruchel also claimed that he felt like the role was tailored to fit him. The idea of harnessing magic and shooting energy out of his hands was a childhood dream come true!
JB: I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t practiced shooting energy out of my hands my entire life. It’s all Akira, or Street Fighter 2, or the end of Return of the Jedi. I’ve been groomed for this, and I just had to prevent myself from saying, ‘Hadouken!’
When asked if he could have one power, gift or ability to choose from he’d capitalize on his childhood fantasy…
JB: I’d blow something up with my hands.
Spoken like a true eighties baby. That’s the Street Fighter generation at work!
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice opens in theaters nationwide July 14, 2010.