A pint with...
Danny McBride on A-listers, filming in the North and getting intimate with puppets
Pineapple Express star Danny McBride talks us through the making of Your Highness, his latest cinematic adventure.
American actor and comedy writer Danny McBride looks pretty content with his life as he sits in the corner of the back bar at the Brazen Head pub in Dublin, sipping his way through a pint or few of Harp lager.
Tired – he’s currently on a whistle-stop promotional tour for his latest film Your Highness – but happy to sit in an Irish pub with a beer in one hand and a plate of sandwiches and assorted fried stuff in front of him.
McBride, who rose to prominence in films such as Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, managed to get a taste for Harp during a six month stint in the North while filming Your Highness, a comedy adventure set in a fantasy land of knights, serfs and damsels in distress.
The 34-year-old co-wrote and co-produced the film in which he stars alongside Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (his love interest in the film) and long-time friend and collaborator James Franco.
In the film McBride plays Prince Thadeous, a grouchy slacker who’d rather smoke weed than turn up for the wedding of his older, more heroic brother Prince Fabious (Franco). At the wedding, Fabious’s bride is kidnapped by an evil wizard who wants the pretty young damsel (played by Zooey Deschanel) for himself and who is determined to put her through a session of what he calls “fuckering” at the exact moment that the two moons in the sky align.
Prince Thadeous is charged by his father, the King, with accompanying his brother on a treacherous rescue mission.
And so a quest involving the two brothers gets underway – a quest that involves encountering a woman determined to avenge the death of her kinfolk (Portman), an arena full of bare-breasted ladies and a wise but pervy old prophet who likes to kiss young princes and have his wand rubbed.
Your Highness spoofs fantasy adventure films from the 80s such as Krull, Dark Crystal and Conan the Barbarian, and it gives more than a knowing nod to other adventure parodies such as The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
And all of this goes on in front of a backdrop of Northern Ireland’s finest scenery.
“We shot the film in Northern Ireland and I got to live in Belfast for six glorious months. It’s a great city with some great pubs and great people, and it’s where I got a taste for this stuff,” Danny says, pointing at his quickly emptying pint before taking another decent sip.
“We had the budget of a comedy, but we needed it to look as if it had the budget of Lord of the Rings. So we visited Belfast and saw Tollymore Forest, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway, which were exactly the sort of places where we’d imagined the film to be set.
“We were given access to some great facilities, sometimes for free, which meant that we could make the film look like we’d spent a lot more on it than we actually had just because of the landscapes.
“There was also the benefit of it being too long a plane ride for the executives from the studios to come and check up on us. Which meant that we were left to do our own thing.”
Although the location is key, getting the right cast is even more important. McBride and the film’s director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) were lucky to be able to call on the services of in-demand Hollywood A-listers to ensure the film got made.
“A lot of people don’t know who Natalie Portman is,” Danny says, deadpan but with a slightly raised eyebrow, “so we thought we’d give her a chance to make her name.
“Natalie actually approached us, saying that she wanted to be in a comedy. I’d never worked with her before but I knew she had an awesome sense of humour having seen her take part in sketches on Saturday Night Live back in the US, particularly when she took part in a gangsta rap video for the show.
“I thought it was pretty cool that someone as prestigious as Natalie getting dirty and doing crazy stuff, and I thought that would work in this film.
“I think she did a brilliant job. She played it straight, like she was in a completely different movie, and that worked really well.
In 127 Hours, James has to act against a boulder for the whole film, so I like to think that I prepared him for that.
“Originally she was James Franco’s love interest, but when she signed on to be in the film I did a rewrite.
“As for James, we’d worked together before on Pineapple Express. He’s a good dude and great fun to work with – one of those good-looking actors who is not too concerned with his image and not afraid to act silly or look dumb.
“This is the movie that both of those guys did right before they went off and did better performances. In 127 Hours James has to act against a boulder for the whole film, so I like to think that I prepared him for that.