Danny McBride is usually the guy playing the loud, blustery blowhard. So it's a welcome surprise to discover that this summer's Next Big Comedy Thing is actually a really nice guy.
Wait. Danny McWho? How can he be the next big thing if no one's ever heard of him?
Don't worry, you're about to. McBride, who stole his scenes as the member of Andy Samberg's posse you didn't recognize in last summer's Hot Rod, has parts in two of the summer's biggest comedies. On Aug. 8, he'll be seen as a hit man in the Jud Apatow-produced stoner comedy Pineapple Express, and a week later, he'll show up in Ben Stiller's war spoof Tropic Thunder. But long before those hit the theaters, McBride will star as Fred Simmons, a bombastic, out-of-control, imminently quotable small-town Tae Kwon Do instructor in the hysterically strange and funny The Foot Fist Way. It's an indie film that he and his friends shot way back in 2005 that's just now going to see the inside of American movie theaters. It's destined to be his signature role, the part that got him all the other parts, including the one he's currently shooting, the live-action version of the 1970s children's TV show Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell, who actually championed Foot Fist and set McBride on his current career path.
“This movie has given us careers doing what we've always wanted to do,” McBride says of himself, Foot Fist director Jody Hill and co-star/co-writer Ben Best. “Now it's just cool that other people are going to be able to see it. It feels good. It brings that project full circle. We were happy for it to hit a festival or two, so the fact that it's done Sundance and is now going to see some sort of theatrical release is just insane to us. It blows our minds.”
The trio made The Foot Fist Way—which finds incompetent instructor Fred Simmons unraveling after his wife cheats on him—for $70,000 in just 19 days, maxing out a number of credit cards along the way. The movie played Sundance in 2006 but didn't get a U.S. distribution deal.
“No one seemed sure what to do with it,” McBride says. “The sense of humor was too edgy for what they thought people would be comfortable with. So we didn't get the humongous Sundance victory.” But Foot Fist went viral, passed from Hollywood friend to Hollywood friend. Apatow and crew loved it—there's talk of Foot Fist radness in the DVD commentary on Superbad. Eventually, it landed with Ferrell and his producing partner Adam McKay, and that's when everything changed.
“We got a call saying Will and Adam are starting this new company, they love your film, and they want to meet with you guys and talk about distributing,” McBride says. “We couldn't believe Will Ferrell and Adam McKay had even seen our movie. But those guys, they're super-cool. We went out to dinner with them, and they were on the same level as we were. They got what we were trying to go for. And it was refreshing to see people who are successful and who do what they do well respond to what we'd been doing.”
And now, McBride isn't just in business with Ferrell, he's on screen with him. He and Best and Hill shot a pilot for HBO. It's all coming together. And that's something he and his Foot Fist buddies still can't quite wrap their minds around.
“Me and Jody and Ben, whenever we're hanging out and having a beer, there won't be a night where we won't be, ‘Jesus Christ, isn't this fucking nuts?' McBride says. “It feels like one of the stories you would have heard in the independent-film scene in the mid-'90s. As lame as it sounds, it's a crazy Cinderella story. The only thing that's different is that I'm better looking than Cinderella.”
The Foot Fist Way is set to open in San Diego on June 13.