Before QuÃ©bÃ©cois actor, Marc-AndrÃ© Grondin started work on the Canadian hockey comedy, Goon, he was not what you would call a great skater. “I skated like shit,” is how he actually put it to me when we met recently at the Drake Hotel in Toronto.
This meant Grondin would have to train to convincingly play Xavier Laflamme, a major league hockey player burnout, who has been demoted to the minor league, which he can still barely keep up with. “The players today are machines. They start at 12 in the gym. There are like five guys in all of the NHL who are my size,” he explains of his motivation to pick up his game, with only a hint of self-deprecation. “So I trained. I had to go on a big diet. It was two and a half months of hell.” But worth it, I’m sure.
Laflamme is a character Grondin knows well. In fact, the tweaked out, trashy QuÃ©bÃ©cois hockey bum is a character we all know well, whether we’re hockey fans or not. Rather than allow the character to sink into cliche though, friend and Goon co-writer, Jay Baruchel, worked with Grondin to keep the character feeling real. “When Jay sent me the script, there were a couple of things we knew we had to work on, mainly to not make this French-Canadian character a joke. We didn’t want “˜Tabarnac’ to be the punch line.”
Their efforts were successful. Actually, Baruchel, along with co-writer, Evan Goldberg (Superbad), and director, London, Ontario native, Michael Dowse (FUBAR), injected Goon with so much genuine heart that none of the main characters succumb to any of their potential trappings.
“The heart comes from Jay. He’s just like that,” Grondin says of his longtime friend, and fellow Montrealer. “He can see a douchebag, a nerd, a gay guy, a Russian, stuck up parents or potheads, whatever. Even though he labels them, he doesn’t judge them. I think that’s what comes out in Goon.”
And did Baruchel write the part of Laflamme with Grondin in mind? “That’s what he told me,” Grondin says, somewhat suspiciously. When he realizes I’m not sure if he’s kidding or not, he continues, “Well, he told me so early on in the process that I have to believe him.”
Ever since Grondin’s breakout in Jean-Marc VallÃ©e’s C.R.A.Z.Y., he has been working consistently in QuÃ©bec and France. When I ask why he never went after the English market or Hollywood, he gets a little reticent, as if nervous not to say the wrong thing. I learn why when he says, “I don’t really dream of a perfect career because my happiness doesn’t reside in movies,” he admits, candidly. “If you ask me what it would take for me to be happy, I would say a small farm and a family, maybe a few horses. If I work in the US or in France, it doesn’t matter, as long as I can bay my bills and work with interesting people.”
Before we move on, Grondin chimes in with one more thought on the subject. “Obviously I still see some English films and think, fuck, I wish I could have done that.”
Grondin will be seen later this year in the Victor Hugo adaptation, The Man Who Laughs, alongside GÃ©rard Depardieu. With Goon now behind him though, is he keeping up with his hockey? “When we finished shooting, I continued working out. I stopped the diet but I continued playing hockey.”