Since we just posted Jessie Eisenberg’s serious, detailed interpretation of what it was like being on set and shooting Ruben Fleischer’s upcoming comedy 30 Minutes or Less, we thought it would be nice to balance it out with an equally light-hearted and humorous interview with the power comedy duo Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. Though these boys are working hard, there’s not much stopping them for also having fun. And one thing’s for sure, nothing about film-making is too precious, there’s always a reason to crack a joke to not make a joke about, especially when press is about…
I was just going to ask, how do you keep your energy going all day with doing that same scene again, and it’s like a five-page scene.
Danny McBride: It’s a lot of words.
And then I noticed the Red Bull.
Danny: Yeah, but we’re digging deep, right?
That and meth?
Danny: Mhmm. You gotta be sure with meth though, right? You can come down hard on meth, right? It’s hard to keep up…
Nick Swardson: Yeah yeah yeah. These aren’t even real eyes. These are crystal meth balls, painted where my pupils are. [laughter]
While on set it’s obvious that though Nick and Danny like to play, it’s also quite obvious how professional they are about it. Multiple takes of comedy, while out in the sun, working 12 hour days is not easy. They both managed to use whatever tools (and of course a sprinkle of meth) to keep things rolling. They’re obviously cast because they can be trusted to deliver original performances take after take. On set, they’re not only there to play, but they’re encouraged to do so by their director. Almost every take, though they hit their marks and said their lines had some slightly different ideas or movements added by the duo that kept the scenes fresh and the talent and crew chuckling…
You’re obviously being encouraged to take risks and move away from the script as written, how do you know when you’ve gone too far?
Danny: That’s kind of what Ruben’s job is, is just to kind of keep you on point. I think when you’re improv-ing, you should never go into it trying to put restraints on what you should do or what you shouldn’t. I think you just keep pushing it, and then when it goes too far you just have someone like Ruben to say, “Hey, that’s out of the realm.” I think it’s just about trying to improv, keeping the character in mind. That usually will keep things in track. And not just try to do standup or something, but just try to riff on stuff that you’re supposed to be talking about in the scene anyway, and just see if there’s a way to make it come out more naturally.
Nick: Yeah, the key is really making sure that you maintain the character in the improv, do you know what I mean? Because with a lot of comics and stuff you see, they’ll just start riffing and get jokey. But then all of a sudden you’re like, “It doesn’t really make any sense to the character of the scene.” So the key is really just keeping in character. But Danny and I could go for a long time. So that’s why Ruben’s almost like the referee in that kind of fight where you’re just like, “OK, OK, OK. The round’s f**king over. OK, we got it. We got it. We got it.”
Though they’re not necessarily “method” actors, and a good thing to considering the characters that they play in this film, they do make physical strides to become more like their characters…
Do you guys do any kind of consistent preparation from one role to the next to get ready for it? Or is it pretty much all in the script and you just sort of build it as you’re shooting it?
Danny: You took years of training, right? With monks?
Nick: I lived with f**king Vietnam monks. [laughter]
Danny: A little bit like Brando.
Nick: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t do anything too crazy. The thing about comedy is you don’t really have to… I’ve never done anything in my career that was just, “Holy f**k. I’ve got to dive in hard core.” There’s no Bill the Butcher moment, where it’s just like, “Alright, Swardson. Let’s go!” “Reno 911” is probably the closest I’ve ever come to really getting out there, and that’s just an extension of myself basically.
How much of your characterization is accomplished by your facial hair?
Nick: Thank you, because that was getting dark. So I thank you for making it a lighter tone.
Nick: I mean, Danny always is f**king used to it. I’m not used to it. This is awful. For me I f**king hate it. I hate having a mustache, but it taught me a lot. I don’t know.
Danny: Yeah, nothing. I just feel this is just how I look now, so it’s just roll with it.
Yeah, heavy. These guys are serious, especially when it comes to getting a chance to blow shit up! While they were doing the scene before a teddy-bear gets blown up in which the actors had to pretend like it was happening, but don’t worry, they’re going to get a chance to really blow it up, and when they do, both actors will be there for the important stuff…
Besides ripping duct take off Jesse’s face and shooting a gun, do you guys get to actually mess anything up in this movie, cause some major destruction? And do you have fun doing that, if so?
Nick: Yeah, we haven’t done it yet, though.
Danny: Yeah, all the destruction is next week, yeah. You guys missed out, yeah.
Nick: The next two weeks.
Q: You guys excited?
Danny: It’s always fun to do that kind of stuff. That’s the stuff always whenever I’m in a film and there’s something crazy, like shit’s blowing up or there are cars speeding by, you never get tired of that stuff, I don’t think. I’m always just amazed and wide-eyed that I’m involved in such situations. That stuff’s definitely more fun than doing a five-page scene over and over and over.
Nick: Are you going to make sure you’re there when the blow up the bear?
Danny: Yeah, yeah, we’ll be there.
When you guys came to the project, did the script change at all when you got involved? Because someone was saying earlier that when they were reading it, they could imagine you as the character. Basically how much changed when you guys got involved, or did it not at all?
Danny: The character of Dwayne was pretty much what it is now. When I read it, it seemed like something I dug and was funny. The character didn’t really change so much for Dwayne. I mean, I think they’ve had the regular rewrites that happen when they’re developing something.
Nick: Mine was a little less. I think they did some stuff to mine. But I think it was basically pretty much the same. They told us a lot that the reason they cast me and Danny was that we could bring another level to it in terms of improvising and just bringing out more and more lines and popping it out a little bit more. So they’ve really been malleable with the dialogue and being able to bring a little bit more out of it that wasn’t on the page.
Danny, we heard through the grapevine that Ruben was a really big fan of yours while making Zombieland. Did you know that? Maybe that’s why he came to you so early in the process.
Danny: I didn’t get a chance to meet Ruben until, my gosh, I guess it wasn’t until after Zombieland. But he was a nice guy when I met him, and I loved Zombieland. I thought it was great. So I was stoked about the idea of being involved in something he was going to do next. But I didn’t know how far back the love affair had gone or if it was mutual at that time.
Nick: It was a very strong love affair.
And Nick, when did you come on board in terms of casting?
Nick: I think Danny and Aziz were attached before I went on. Then they were saying that Jesse was going to be in it. I don’t know if he was locked in yet. But I think all the elements were in place. I think me and Michael Pena signed on at the same time.
We actually don’t know too much about who Michael plays in the film. Does he have scenes with you?
Nick: Yeah. Wait, no.
Danny: Does he or does he not? I can’t remember.
Nick: Michael plays…
Danny: He plays a hit man in the film.
Nick: With HIV.
Danny: With HIV, yeah.
Nick: I was really hoping that was kind of part of it.
Danny: That would be so intense.
Did you get to pick your Metallica shirt?
Danny: Yeah, I picked this. Do you like it?
I like it very much.
Danny: It’s pretty cool, huh?
Nick: That shirt is…that’s one of their best albums too, I would have to say.
Obviously, these are not their only roles…
Danny, you’re getting a lot of attention with Kenny Powers now. People are really going crazy with that character. Do you feel like you have a responsibility, I guess, to create more of a definition between Kenny Powers and your characters on film or in any other things you do?
Danny: Yeah, a comedian has their voice and the things that make them laugh. So there’s always the danger of just relying on those things too much or whatever. With Kenny Powers it’s different because when you do a character in a film, you do it and it’s done. But with a TV show, it goes on and on. So you’re doing the same material over a long period of time. So, yeah, I think it’s important to toss it up. The film that I finished last year, Your Highness, which we just picture locked last week on. That’s a different role for me. I’m a pansy little British prince in it. So that will be a little different. But, yeah, I think anybody who’s acting, you’ve got to try to change things up every now and then and make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut.
How about you, Nick? Is it the same thing with you with “Reno 911”?
Nick: Yeah, this was definitely a break for me from doing a lot of the crazier characters. A lot of the stuff I do is always a crazy kind of character. I’ve known Ruben for a long time, so when he brought the role up to me, he was just like, “I’m psyched for you to just have something a little bit more grounded and not as wacky and crazy.” So yeah, I was really, really psyched to do it.
30 Minutes or Less hits theaters late this summer, August 12th! Check out Nick and Danny in what looked like from our few hours on set to be a hilarious performance!