The State Press spoke with Danny McBride, star of the film “Your Highness” with James Franco and Natalie Portman. Premiering April 8, the film features epic battles, gorgeous effects and landscapes, a beautiful score and a plethora of fart jokes. McBride talked about the film’s story, his inspiration and what it’s like to work with Franco.
The State Press: How big is this movie?
Danny McBride: This movie is crazy, because what we were given was basically the budget of a comedy. But we wanted to make it look like it was the budget of something like “The Lord of the Rings.” And I feel like we pulled it off. We went to shoot in Belfast [Northern Ireland], which, the landscapes there and the backdrops there, everything looks grand. It looks large. And then we were able to get creative with our visual effects team, Framestore, and the guys who created the creatures for Spectral Motion, and really try to find the way we can make the biggest, coolest creatures for price. So we just had to get really creative for giving this movie that big look, which to us contrasted the such lowbrow humor we were going for. To us, the joke always lies in the fact that we’re making this movie look like it’s a hundred million dollars, but coming from the minds of basically 12-year-olds.
SP: Where did the inspiration for the fantasy elements of the film come from, such as Marteetee’s “snake-hand” and the Blade of Unicorn?
DM: [Director] David Gordon Green and myself were fans of the sword and sorcery films of the late ’70s, early ’80s — everything from “The Sword and the Sorcerer” to “The Beastmaster” to “Krull.” And so I think it was watching those films and trying to put on that thinking cap of “What were these kinds of guys pulling from, where were their imaginations taking them?” And us trying to get our imaginations aligned with some of those sensibilities. All of it was a collaboration of a bunch of these different artists. The Blade of Unicorn, we had some comic-book artists that were on the film that were drawing early inspirations for what they imagined some of the sets to look like, and some of these costumes to look like and weapons to look like. And that was just a drawing that we saw [from] one of these guys.
SP: How important is this film to you?
DM: This film fills a very interesting part of David’s and my personal taste. When we were kids, we grew up in the birth of cable television, and the birth of f---ing VCRs. And one of the things that I did when I was a kid would be, I would read the TV Guide after my parents would go to bed, like, “Oh, which movies have nudity and adult content tonight?” And I would secretly set the VCR to record those movies once my parents had gone to bed and then I’d watch those with my friends the next day. There was this certain pleasure you took in watching s--t your parents didn’t want you to see. And I think that plays some sort of weird role even in the stuff I do today, where it’s filling this kind of weird niche of stuff I wasn’t supposed to watch and now I’m getting the chance to make. For us, this film is the kind of movie that David and myself wanted to see when we were 12 or 13 years old. Something that had this sort of epic scope with this sort of tone to it with these sort of crass, dirty jokes. And that’s what we’re fulfilling here. This movie was made for the boy in David and myself. To us, that sort of sensibility matched with something that looks beautiful and looks big and looks like adults made it, to us that’s where the charm of the movie lies — combining this low and dirty humor with high art.
SP: Talk about the character you play, Thadeous, and the journey he takes in the film.
DM: Thadeous is the second-born prince. And [James] Franco plays Fabious, who is the first-born prince. Fabious is going to be the king and Thadeous is not. So Thadeous has always lived in Fabious’ shadow. The concept for that character kind of arose from, when you watch these old fantasy films, like “The Beastmaster” or “Conan the Barbarian,” where you see these heroes that basically can do anything and always make the best decisions and can f---ing just kick ass and people respect them and love them. We were kind of of the mindset of, “I wonder what it would be like if you were Conan’s younger brother?” Obviously you’re probably not as bad-ass as Conan is. And so that’s where the idea of Thadeous came from. What if you were the younger brother of Beowulf — a guy who kicks ass, his reputation precedes him, everyone loves him and you’re not as good as him. And you’ve got to figure out and find your place. So that’s where Thadeous is at the beginning of the movie. He’s consumed by sibling rivalry and he has this huge inferiority complex that he constantly masks through being vulgar and being rude and acting like a dick. As the movie goes on, he becomes more confident in his place in the world and his value and that is what makes him ultimately become a hero. In a lot of these movies, you’ll see that the guy in the beginning doesn’t know how to fight and by the end he does know how to fight. For us, that isn’t true for Thadeous. Thadeous doesn’t know how to fight in the beginning of the movie and he doesn’t know how to fight at the end of the movie. He just has more balls.
SP: This is your second movie with James Franco where you’ve played characters who are close to each other. How much of your on-screen relationship is true to life?
DM: Working with Franco is awesome. I’m not going to be one of these actors who’s like, “Oh, making movies is so hard, it’s so tough.” But it isn’t easy. You spend a lot of time on the set, away from home for long periods of time. Long-ass days. If you can find someone that you can go through that with, that you actually get along with and is a good person and that you enjoy being around, it’s always good to work with those sorts of people. It makes the whole experience of making a movie better. And I really feel that if you’re making a comedy, especially if you’re enjoying yourself and you’re enjoying the people you’re around, things tend to be funnier. And that’s what my experience has been working with Franco. I met him on “Pineapple Express.” He’s just a f---ing good dude. He’s solid, and I think he’s really funny and super-talented. It was awesome to be able to work with him again on this. I think I was in Belfast for about six months, which is a long time to be away from home. When you’re there with people you get along with and friends, it really does make that whole thing a lot easier.
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