Thankfully, Montreal native Marc-André Grondin is nothing like the character he plays in Goon. He seems about as far away from the flashy and occasionally loathsome burnt out hockey hotshot Xavier Laflamme. During the Toronto International Film Festival on the day the film was due to premiere, Grondin sits in a hotel suite relaxing between press interviews by playing games on his iPhone and excitedly and happily whiling away the hours before the film is due to make its worldwide premiere. Where the real Grondin is a team player, having had standout roles in Jean-Marc Vallee’s C.R.A.Z.Y. and the suspense thriller 5150 Elm’s Way, Laflamme probably would have been doing massive amounts of cocaine in the washroom or, as one character says, “giving a single mother herpes in a parking lot somewhere.”
Grondin throws himself into the amusing, but tragic role of Laflamme, a former professional hockey prodigy that’s lost his game following a devastating hit from Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber) who now finds himself demoted to playing for a minor league club in Halifax and working along side his new “team bodyguard,” a sweet and kind enforcer named Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) who has more love for his fellow players in his pinky than Laflamme might have in his entire Ed Hardy clothed body.
The charming and candid Grondin talked to Dork Shelf about just what it’s like to play someone so irredeemable, how to dress like a douche for the camera, and how challenging it can be to make a French Canadian character funny without turning it into a stereotype.
What made you want to join up with the cast of Goon?
Well, I’ve known (co-writer and co-star) Jay (Baruchel) for a couple years and we always wanted to work together, so when he told me about the project, I was thrilled and I was like a kid because I’m a HUGE hockey fan and this was going to give me a reason to get up and skate and work out and train with some real hockey players and try to look the part. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to actually being a real hockey player. (laughs)
And you also have to look like an excellent hockey player for parts of the movie. You have to be this washed up star.
Yeah, I’m kind of a douchebag. A really huge douchebag. I would never be friends in real life with someone like Xavier Laflamme. (laughs)
Is that hard for you being such a fan that you also have to kind of play this role of someone who’s bad for that sport? Because the character still seems like a lot of fun to play.
Oh, it really is a lot of fun. You know, it’s different because I always play the nice guys, so it’s good to play the asshole sometimes. And the whole prep of the movie where the costume designers are calling you up to set up looks for the character, you know, I just imagined someone like Ovechkin, you know, really, like, him in a party with a bunch of bling and Ed Hardy. I Google image searched a lot of Alexander Ovechkin party pictures a couple years ago while trying to find the look, and the costume designer had a lot of fun going around shopping for the clothes, especially in Winnipeg where we were shooting. I honestly didn’t keep a lot of stuff from my wardrobe, either. (laughs) But it’s fun when you get on set and you have a beanie and jeans that are weirdly splattered with silver paint for no good reason and a Ed Hardy tank top and dog tags, and you just look at yourself and you just have to laugh. I go in to work like this and I ask “What’s my scene?” “Oh, you’re fucking a stripper and doing coke off her back.” (laughs) Alright! (laughs) You know, it’s fun to be able to do that and to do other stuff, but we had a lot of fun with this character.
I think a lot of actors playing some of the other players on the Highlanders also got to have a lot of fun adding things to their character in terms of giving them the right look and attitude. We all had a lot of freedom to come up with our own interpretations.
What was it like working with having the writer, Jay Baruchel, on set a lot of the time and having to act opposite him in one of the film’s major scenes? Is there more pressure there?
Not for me, but then again, I know Jay. We talked about the part for a while from the first draft he sent me and I really liked the whole thing, but there was still a lot of stuff that I wasn’t totally comfortable with that we addressed and he was really open to. Because, you know, it’s tricky when you play a French Canadian, as a French Canadian, and the only one in the film, and you’re playing a douchy asshole, and even though it’s a comedy you don’t want to fall into this category where French Canadians are going to look at you like it’s being offensive. And you don’t want to make tabernac or any of those curse words the punch line of every joke. I mean, it works, but it’s not original. It’s too easy. It’s funnier this way because I’m playing a character who doesn’t speak English well, not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t care. Talking with Jay, I told him I wanted to turn him into a French Canadian version of one of these Russian players. You know, one of these guys who has sometimes been playing for about 15 years, but they still have an accent like they still came off the plane. So the minute we started shooting and after talking with Jay we knew what we had to do in order to stick to the character, and Jay was always on set which felt good to have him always looking at what I was doing. When you’re getting scrutinized like that, you’re more assured that you must not suck that much, or else someone would say something., especially with Michael and Jay, so you finish your day and you know if they’re satisfied or not. It’s a great feeling.