Why Jay Baruchel Hated Watching His Dailies for ‘Random Acts of Violence’

Jay Baruchel would gladly just write and direct movies for the rest of his life — just don’t ask him to act in them too.

The 38-year-old wrote, directed and starred in his latest thriller, Random Acts of Violence, but noted that “everything but the acting was awesome.”

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“Everything but the acting comes naturally to me and feels very intuitive. And then I remembered that I had to get makeup and stuff and put a costume on. I don’t like directing any scene that I’m acting in for a few reasons,” he exclusively told Us Weekly. “One, my focus feels split. There are literally shots in our movie where we’re in the car and I’m in the backseat and I’m staring down and it looks like I’m making an acting choice but no, there’s just a f—king monitor at my feet. Truly. But also, there’s way better actors I could be directing than me and so I was OK balancing, wearing every hat but that one.”

The Canada native’s career spans more than two decades, with notable roles in This Is the End, Knocked Up, She’s Out of My League, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the animated franchise How to Train Your Dragon.

“Ultimately, it’s all the same kind of s—t because you’re just trying to be as honest as you can in the most compelling way possible. And I think that applies to every kind of genre,” Baruchel continued. “That being said, if all I ever did was write and direct horror movies and action movies the rest of my life, that would be the dream. I’m very, very proud of the career I’ve had as an actor, but obviously nothing will touch the pride I feel for having written three features, two of which I directed.”

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Baruchel stars as Ezra in the thriller alongside Jesse Williams (Todd) and Jordana Brewster (Kathy). Wearing so many hats, his advice to others would “maybe don’t act in your s—t if you don’t have to,” noting that watching dailies after each day was torture.

“I think a lot of people, they can’t separate. They wouldn’t want to direct it if it wasn’t something they acted in. But I’m just not wired that way. If I never had to suffer through hours of f-king dailies of me again, that would be too soon,” he told Us. “I got to sit there with editor Andrew [Gordon Macpherson] and be like, ‘Do you think I look better in this shot?’ That’s f-ked. I don’t want to do that. It’s so stupid.”

Oddly enough, Baruchel has never had an issue watching himself onscreen though. “What’s weird is typically I’m a huge fan and I love the things I’m in. But I guess it’s one thing to see the finished product than it is to be in my basement just staring at myself on a computer for hours like some kind of personal hell,” he explained. “On this one, I have issues with watching me. But no, typically I get a kick out of it. I’m always like, ‘Hey, look! I’m in a movie.’”

Baruchel looked to some of his favorite horror films for inspiration while filming Random Acts of Violence, which tells the story of comic book writers forced to face a crazed fan who is using their ideas to go on a real-life killing spree.

“Nobody will ever make anything scarier than The Exorcist or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or John Carpenter’s The Thing. Those are pretty substantial sources of inspiration,” Baruchel noted. “There’s a British movie from the 40s called The Red Shoes, which is about a ballet dancer. It’s not a horror movie but it’s not a walk in the park, either. It’s a pretty heavy flick. That was a big one that was in me the whole time when we were making it.”

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A scene that stands out is when Todd and Kathy have a huge fight in a hotel room.

“That was just beautiful stuff, man, because I wrote the scene, various versions of this scene on paper for the better part of a decade and then I get my flesh and blood representations of the characters,” he recalled. “And I told them when they showed up, ‘You guys, your job now is to own these characters. And I want you to push back. If I give you a piece of directing or direction or there’s a story point that you’re like, I don’t really think I would do this, please tell me because it’s a benefit to me. These people have only existed on paper and now I get to talk to them as people, so I want you guys to be invested and I want you to take ownership.’”

He added: “I basically was like, ‘Is there a more truthful version of this scene that you guys would feel better doing?’ And so the two of them went off and just riffed and figured it out. While the heart of it was based on what was on the page, they just ad-libbed that whole f—king thing for four hours. To be able to pull that off and for it to work is a testament to how profoundly talented both of them were. Just getting to watch two incredible actors riff their way through this scene and to try and stay out of their way and shoot them, that was really inspiring.”

Random Acts of Violence ultimately took eight years to make and about 19 days to shoot in Canada — and it’s clearly something he’s proud of. “Every movie is a miracle. The movie that you think is the sh—tiest thing ever is somebody’s baby. And especially if you make small movies in Canada. You’re fighting for a few grand here, a few grand there. And it can only get to the finish line if somebody’s willing to risk everything for it,” Baruchel told Us. “Movies are incredibly hard mainly just because on the cheapest end they’re still super expensive. No record costs a million dollars to record. No painting costs a million dollars to make. But a small, small movie costs a million dollars to make.”

Random Acts of Violence is available on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray on February 16.

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