Gemma Creagh (and some lovely, but competing website writers) got to sit down and have a chat with the writer, producer and star of Your Highness, Danny McBride.
Did you ever think you’d get to this point in your career?
It’s real crazy. I moved to LA in 1999 when I finished film school, with a bunch of my buddies like Jody Hill – who I wrote The Foot Fist Way with. We were waiting tables, trying to get by, trying to pay rent and to find our place in Los Angeles. We weren’t really too successful, so we eventually we decided to just make something ourselves and see what happens. That was the idea for with The Foot Fist Way. We tried to make something we thought would be funny and that we liked, but didn’t have a lot of money. We funded it on our credit cards for $40,000. We didn’t try to imitate a Hollywood movie or try and make it look like we had more money than we did. Instead we just embraced the lo-fi nature, making it look like it was made for 10 dollars. I don’t know what ended up happening; the next few months became a whirlwind. The film just ended up getting out there; people ended up seeing it and responding to it. Suddenly we went from having nothing going on to Jony and I getting phone calls from people like Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell – and all these guys who we really admired – and they had seen our film and were saying that they would like to work with us. It was a really surreal time! It was crazy to make something like that, and we were just worried about how many jobs we would have to take on in order to pay off the debt – for that not to have happened is awesome. We were very grateful.
Where did the idea come form?
David Green and myself went to film school. When you leave film school you tend to lead off with all these arty pretentions films so you can show people how smart you are but David was one of the guys who was like not ashamed to show that movies like The Beastmaster were part of his video collection. We had that in common. I loved those movies, they were one of the first films that captured my imagination when I was a kid. So Your Highness was a strange love-letter to the weird, perverted 13-year-old versions of us. We really approached it this way, even when it came to the comedy. The thought of this movie was about getting these huge actors – like Natalie Portman; Franco; Toby Jones; Damian Lewis and Charles Dance, and our camera department were people who had worked on Lord of the Rings with Peter Jackson, all who really approached this thing really seriously – but then undercut the whole thing with this really juvenile comedic approach. All of it was to make the younger versions of ourselves laugh.
What was the writing process for the script like?
The script was formed over the course of two years. Right before I did the Pineapple Express I sold the script, during Pineapple, Tropic Thunder, I made a loss and a lot of the time I was on the sets, in my trailer, writing the script. Working with David I know that the script is just the blueprints, the springboard, but we worked hard to make sure the story and the structure and the characters were there. However we really started to explore a lot of the comedy and the chemistry though the improv on the set.
What are the influences of Your Highness?
It really came to the forefront when we started getting the first Office series in America. We had never seen anything like that before, where the main character’s such a buffoon but then when he doesn’t get the promotion you really feel sad for him. I love comedy that teeters on the edge of tragedy the whole time. I think that’s what we try to do with Eastbound & Down, really ride the line, making it really dark. It has moments of it being really dirty and foul but at the same time there’s a tragedy that undercuts it. I don’t think with this movie we try to go so much into that dark territory, but it still plays with that concept of ‘what does it take for the audience to root for someone’. I think with a story like this, if we were just to do he straight up version where we’ve followed Franco’s character, who’s just the ‘Good Knight’, where would we really find the comedy if were weren’t going to do a straight up spoof? In ours we found it a little better by shifting who the audience was supposed to be followed. The protagonist is not the same one you’ve seen in this type of film before. You can run them though the same clichés that they hit in these movies, but there’s always a different angle to it comedically as you haven’t seen a character like this go through those steps.
How did you get James and Natalie attached to it?
We’d worked with James on Pineapple Express, and David and I had a really good time with him. We had written the character of Fabious for James. And Natalie? David was in talks with Natalie on another film and she had heard about this film that we were trying to do and wanted to get involved. She actually was really open to the idea, which was surprising to us! But I knew she had this great sense of humour since I had seen her Saturday Night Live Gangster rap music video. I thought that was amazing, she had this image of being a serious accomplished actress and to see her just undercut that in this video was just hilarious. We were just stoked to have her in this movie to do a little bit more of that.
What can we expect from Eastbound & Down?
We’re still writing the third season now and with the last season you find out that Kenny is going to be a dad… the next season is going to explore that even more. Kenny is going to try and be a dad while making one last run for glory. We aim to finish the series with this next season. We always saw it as something we wanted to keep small and compact. With a lot of shows in the states, the seasons are so long, 24 episodes, that you kind of tune in and tune out during episodes and we wanted to do something different.
Your Highness is in cinema’s 15th April.
To read the review, click here.