Canadian actor Jay Baruchel appeared for a moment in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, starred in Judd Apatow's short-lived, but beloved TV show Undeclared and has been on a comedic hot film streak recently jumping from Knocked Up to Tropic Thunder with barely a pause. He stars alongside Nicolas Cage in Disney's re-make of one of it's own iconic properties - the Sorcerer's Apprentice scene from the 1940 classic Fantasia.
Izumi Hasegawa: You’re filling some rather big shoes here — the legacy of Mickey Mouse and the legacy of Merlin. What is more difficult — filling Mickey’s shoes or the old man Merlin’s shoes?
Jay Baruchel: Mickey, and it’s not shoes — it’s gloves. There’s a gravity to it; it’s not lost on me. When we were shooting the sorcerer sequence, the famous Fantasia sequence, doing our version of it where the mops come to life, every day I came to work, I was like, “You really can’t mess this up.”
Worst-case scenario, anytime someone else sees the cartoon Fantasia, I will be irrevocably connected to it: that punk kid, or how terrible that was… This sounds cheesy, but I felt like the ghost 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 right up there with those people making out on the beach, and from here to eternity, it’s a big one.
I tried my best to do everything I had to do in terms of paying homage to the character and the sequence whilst looking for moments I could maybe do my own thing with. I was scared shitless.
IH: What challenges did you experience working with such a big and experienced actor like Nicolas Cage?
JB: You can approach a situation like that one of two ways – when you work with someone who’s close to hero status for you, it’ll either make you wilt in the presence of greatness and then you lose it all, or it makes you like, “Now I’m playing it with the guys I got into it for. They made me become an actor and now I have my chance. I better bring my A-game as hard as I possibly can,” and that’s what it was with him.
I got to show up on set every day and get to work and have conversations with this guy who I’ve watched since I was a little kid and have been a huge fan of, and I am in awe of everything about him and I didn’t want to blow it. It made me want to work as hard as I possibly could and to be as good as he is.
IH: You’re re-making one of the biggest movies in movie history. What is that like, and how do you feel about it?
JB: Anytime you’re referencing or paying homage to something that has meant a lot to a lot of people for many generations, you’ve got to approach it with a degree of reverence. I’d like to say that we have a really great seed to start from, because the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia is the seed to our oak tree, and you can pick a lot worse seeds to start from.
If we failed, it would have been a big mess because “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” are two words that have meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time, and hopefully we’ve given them what they’re used to, and then some.
IH: This movie reminds me of Dragonball, with its choreography. Can you tell me about that?
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, “Hadoken!” which took a lot of effort.
IH: There’s also another set of symbols, I think they’re called a fringe, but they’re a group of religious believers who have taken Harry Potter to task for being about witchcraft, and here you actually have cult symbols and raising the dead. This could be, to borrow the Tesla reference, a lightning rod for that kind of criticism. Was that a concern?
JB: Alchemy predates Christian fundamentalism.
IH: On a slightly lighted note, and to end: If you had the ability to do magic one time, what would you do?
JB: I’d blow something up with my hands.
Disney's 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' is in theaters now.