Jay Baruchel meets Sid the Kid, grows to love Pittsburgh filming 'She's Out of My League'

Jay Baruchel is Canadian, he calls hockey his "religion," and he met one of its patron saints and finest ambassadors while making "She's Out of My League" in Pittsburgh.

The romantic comedy shot at the Mellon Arena - one of the "great cathedrals" for hockey in North America - and Mr. Baruchel was hellbent on meeting Sidney Crosby.

"I got to go down to the locker room after the game that we shot at. That's when I get starstruck and kind of lose my faculties, when I meet hockey players and, especially, Sid," the 27-year-old actor said in a recent phone interview.

"For my whole country and for me, specifically, Sid is just it.

"So when I got to shake his hand, it was a huge deal. Then, as soon as I did, I called my little sister - she was with a friend of hers - and I said, 'Taylor, I just met Sid the Kid,' and I had to take the phone away from my ears because of the screaming."

In "She's Out of My League," filmed in 2008 and arriving in theaters Friday, Mr. Baruchel plays Kirk Kettner, a TSA agent at Pittsburgh International Airport. A knockout female passenger befriends him, prompting his friends (and Kirk) to declare she's out of his league.

His pals, all of whom also work at the airport, consider the dark-haired, lean Kirk a 5 or 6 on a scale of one to 10, earning points for being funny and nice but losing one for driving a Neon, while Molly (Alice Eve) is a hard 10.

"I don't ever use the rating system. I mean, of course, I'm a human being so I'll say stuff like, 'That chick's good looking,' but nothing like the extensive rating system that the boys have come up with."

Mr. Baruchel, who stayed at the Omni William Penn Hotel while in town and spent loads of time with co-stars at Dave & Buster's at the Waterfront, calls the movie a love letter to Pittsburgh.

"I think your city looks prettier on screen than it ever has. To me, it's the best-kept secret in the States."

Gee, tell us more about ourselves.

"It's such a gorgeous, gorgeous town, awesome people, great food and I can't stress how beautiful it is. I have a great affection for that town."

Mr. Baruchel, who played a college freshman on the former Fox TV series "Undeclared" and one of the guys in "Tropic Thunder" and "Knocked Up," is often recognized for those roles. But the woman operating a shop in the hotel lobby had not a clue.

"I had come in to buy a Coca-Cola and a magazine or something, and somebody had just spilled a bunch of juice on the floor and she was like, 'Oh, we're waiting for someone to clean it up.'

"I said, 'Well, I can clean it up' so I ran to the washroom and got a bunch of napkins and started cleaning it up for her," but she said he needed wet towels so the floor wouldn't be sticky.

So back he went. More scrubbing followed and when she shrugged, "I guess that's OK," he piped up with, "You know, ma'am, I don't work here."

Her answer: "Oh, are you looking for work?" And that's when he made his exit.

In a way, that's a very Kirk or polite Canadian thing to do. The TSA agent is an underdog living in city that is an underdog, compared to New York and larger locales. "So, to me, Kirk is Pittsburgh, and the two are connected."

Since his movie character is a Penguins fan, Mr. Baruchel had to camouflage the maple leaf over his heart, one of his three (soon to be four) tattoos celebrating his Irish and Jewish roots. His mother's maiden name is on his forearm, a Celtic cross on his shoulder-upper arm and he plans to add a Star of David for his late father's heritage.

An entirely different part of his body gets a lot of attention in a scene about grooming or, to be specific, manscaping. "There was a bum double, yes. I didn't need that to be out there," he volunteered about his own behind.

"I did get bum approval, though. Someone came up to me with an iPhone with four guys' naked bums on it, and I had to approve and pick the one, and for me it was whichever one had the least amount of ... ingrown hairs." Uh, yes, the movie is rated R.

Moving on to safer, more family-friendly territory, Mr. Baruchel said he spent time off screen with his on-screen buds.

"It wouldn't have worked, no matter how good an actor you are, if we didn't like each other. It just so happened I got to meet these three awesome guys that I really get along with and we see eye to eye on so much stuff," he said of T.J. Miller, Nate Torrence and Mike Vogel.

"When you work a 70-hour week, often you don't really want to see the people that you've seen every day for the past five days and we would always spend the bulk of our free time together."

On March 26, a movie that was a lonelier pursuit for Mr. Baruchel will be released. In the animated, 3-D "How to Train Your Dragon," he speaks for a Viking teenager who doesn't fit in with the tribe's tradition of dragon slaying.

Mr. Baruchel recorded his lines, often in isolation, during a three-year process. "The best part was I didn't have to wear makeup or shave. I could wear pajama pants and they always had hamburgers waiting for me. It was very pleasant."

The former child actor, whose mother wrote "The Stage Mom Survival Guide for Parents of Young Performers in the Canadian Film and Television Industry," hopes "How to Train Your Dragon" captures moviegoers' imaginations the way "The Sword in the Stone" did for him as a boy.

"That movie just took me away for an hour and a half and I would take it with me, the memories and the images in my head. So, if I can get one kid excited, if I can do for one kid what 'Sword in the Stone' did for me, that's the reason I became an actor. Period."

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read Mad About the Movies blog at post-gazette.com/movies . First Published March 10, 2010 11:00 PM


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