“McBride belongs to the same noble lineage of F-blinders as Richard Prior. He’s also the hands-down best thing in every movie he’s turned out for”
his comedy chops to a misspent youth in redneck surroundings.
“I basically just watched movies. I was no good at being a redneck. I didn’t go hunting. I didn’t have a huge four-wheel drive. Instead I found those dudes hilarious. Jody Hill, who I write with, was a punk-rock kid from North Carolina. We just didn’t look good in trucks.”
At the University of North Carolina, McBride and Hill hooked up with film-maker David Gordon Green, who went on to direct such highly regarded indie classics as George Washington and All the Real Girls. But Danny and Jody just wanted to write “some funny shit”. Like all good film students, they dutifully decamped to LA. “It was the usual amazing series of jobs as a waiter. You leave film school, you wait tables.”
Undeterred, McBride and Hill took the DIY route. The Foot Fist Way, McBride’s hilarious, guerrilla-budgeted portrait of a North Carolina taekwondo dojo, took Sundance by storm in 2006. Conan O’Brien loved the movie so much he kept inviting McBride to appear in character on Late Night with . . . Judd Apatow soon got in touch, as did Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller.
“Everything happened really fast after The Foot Fist Way,” says McBride.
“ Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder hit around the same time, so there was a real momentum to it. It was Eastbound and Down that has made things really crazy. Now I got to wear a hat if I want to go to a bar.”
Eastbound and Down, McBride’s hit sitcom about a bush league baseball player with anger issues, has just been renewed for a third season at HBO. The show is a phenomenon; McBride’s character, Kenny Powers, even has his own deal with K-Swiss shoes.
“I get my best ideas when I go home and sit in a bar with my friends. They’re funny because they have nothing to do with movies. I’m not going to hate on LA. The weather is great, there’s great music there, there are amazing restaurants. But when you’re trying to write or be creative, it’s tough living in the same place where the cheques are signed. It’s hard to take ideas from real life when real life is always sitting around trying to work out what ideas are hot and funny right now.”
Your Highness, a delightfully puerile quasimedieval stoner comedy, predates McBride’s current wave of success.
“David [Gordon Green] and I used to play this stupid games between takes on the set of All the Real Girls,” recalls the actor. “He’d come up with a title and I’d come up with a stupid plot. So that’s Your Highness. It’s
about this loser prince who can’t compete with his heroic brother.”
As ever, the project’s demotic use of language falls somewhere between high art and pissing contest. Bongs are passed. Inappropriate body parts are rubbed. A Minotaur is slain.
“That was the first idea David had: ‘I want you to kill a Minotaur, then chop off its dick and wear it for the rest of the movie.’ In the script that was 20 pages of me wearing a dick. But on the shoot that translated into me wearing that nasty thing for a month. You lean over your plate and bang. Damn thing’s in your soup again.”
Hang on a second. Can this really be David Gordon Green, the same guy who directed the sublime, unbearably poignant George Washington? How on Earth has he drifted in to stoner comedies?
“You haven’t seen anything from that guy yet. He’s doing a remake of Suspiria with Natalie. He’s developing westerns. He’s somebody like Altman. He’s heading out all over the fucking map.”
Unlike many of their erstwhile Frat Pack and Team Apatow collaborators, McBride and company are happy to give their female lead something to do.
“Natalie is awesome. She did something that’s really tricky to do. She’s standing around with all these jerks doing really dirty things, and she’s playing this whole other comic movie. She stays the course.”
McBride lived in Northern Ireland for the six-month shoot. His father’s family is from Tyrone, and he says he felt right at home.
“I became a local, totally,” says the 34-yearold. “It was awesome. I’ve been on so many locations, and Belfast is by far the best stop in the world. The people are fucking great. The crew are awesome. The countryside is beautiful. We were able to do all this Lord of the Rings shit without needing millions for CGI. That stuff is there. And it feels like a place where people want to party.”
He’s liking his new-found fame, he says. He doesn’t even mind it when fans come up to quote cherished McBride obscenities.
“I get the ‘thug life’ thing from Pineapple Express a lot. I get ‘big-ass titties’ from Tropic Thunder and I get ‘you’re fucking out’ from Eastbound and Down all the time. It’s funny, except when you’re out with your parents at a fancy restaurant. It’s crazy. They walk out of those movies so proud of me. But they’d never have allowed me to watch shit like that. I still don’t cuss in front of them.” Yeah, we do, but we don’t care. Obviously we’ve come from a negative environment, so they just think “Ohhh, these people are thugs”. we might come from that place, but we’re good-hearted people, y’know? And we put on a great show for the public. We’ve got so many dedicated N-Dubz fans that just swipe the press out, man. Nah. She wears the trousers when it comes to behaving and being good as a band – but when it comes to being in the studio, and taking care of the albums and writing the albums, me and Fazer wear the trousers. But obviously she wears the trousers with her voice, ’cos she controls her own voice and it’s a beautiful voice. At the end of it, we turn a demo into a platinum record, and that’s what N-Dubz are about. I’m looking in the mirror right now, and right now my hair looks very nice, I must say. It’s nice and short at the sides, a nice little bit on top . . . I’m wearing some sunglasses, but no hat. Hats are only for under-18s projects. When I go to somewhere that’s for over-18s, I’ll be more mature – maybe I’ll wear a cap, or glasses, or I’ll take my hair out, put a hood on, have some jewellery on. It’s never just hats. I’m not a plonker, d’you know what I’m trying to say? If that’s what they see me as over there in Ireland. The under-18s are the ones who scream, you have to understand. The rest of them, 28, 29, they’re women and they’re starting to get more mature. But the ages of 18-22, 23, 24 – they’re the ones who scream and cry for the band, man. They’d love us because we’re such a home-grown act. We didn’t have to stand in a queue and wait to go in to an audition. We suffered for 10 years straight, and here we are – 1.5 million albums, four times platinum, four Mobos. Unfortunately we ain’t had a Brit, but it’s coming. It’s good to know that we’re the only band in our genre that have reached arena level. We’ve opened doors for a lot of people. I’m a carp angler. Like, fishing, man. And I know a lot of Irish people fish, too, salmon and stuff. The last time we were over, I was standing outside our tour bus in Dublin next to that river you got running through, and I asked this old man [puts on comedy Irish voice], “Excuse me, you don’t know where I could go fishing, do you?”, and I said it in an Irish accent, trying to fit in, yeah? He goes to me, “You ain’t that boyo, are you?’ Dappy, is it? Give me a picture for me daughter, and I’ll tell you where you can go fishing.” So I took a picture with him, and he said “Go down there to that bit of the river, and you’ll catch a lot of good salmon there.” So I actually went to a fishing tackle shop in Dublin, but it was closed! And unfortunately we only had three or four hours left until we were performing, so I never got to fish in the end. Everything is true, mate! Everything is absolutely true. [Repeats story word for word in normal accent.] Why would I lie about going fishing in the River
Li-fif-fiffey, whatever you call it?
Dappy: looking snappy, to be sure, to be sure