Jay Baruchel is best known for his comedic roles in movies like Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder, and This Is the End, but his latest film shows a different side of him. In BlackBerry, he plays Mike Lazaridis, one of the Canadian nerds who invented the world’s first smartphone and then lost it all to the iPhone.
The film, directed by Matt Johnson, is a mix of comedy and drama that chronicles the rise and fall of Research In Motion, the Waterloo-based company that created the BlackBerry. Baruchel stars opposite Glenn Howerton, who plays Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO who clashed with Lazaridis over the direction of the company.
Baruchel, who is a proud Canadian and a former BlackBerry user, said he was drawn to the project because he wanted to tell a “super Canadian story” that was also universal. “It’s about a bunch of nerds that changed the world and then had it taken away from them,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s compelling and stressful and kind of inspiring and also completely preposterous.”
The actor also said he enjoyed playing a character that was different from what people are used to seeing him do. “It’s all presence and focus and responsibility and truth and being the steward of the narrative that the script and the movie needs you to be, whenever it needs you to be that,” he said. “The job is the same if it’s a comedy or a drama.”
One of the challenges of playing Lazaridis was wearing a wig that gave him white hair. Baruchel said he hated the wig and had to take three showers to get rid of the glue. “It was like having a dead animal on my head,” he joked.
Another challenge was revisiting his personal beef with Jonah Hill, his former co-star in This Is the End. The film, which featured Baruchel and other actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves during an apocalypse, exploited their real-life tension for comedic effect. Baruchel said he resented having to do that and felt uncomfortable throughout the shoot.
“I don’t want to say it was an accident,” he said of his comedy career. “I wish maybe I hadn’t done the ‘cum in my pants’ scene in She’s Out Of My League, but for the most part I don’t have any regrets.”
Baruchel said he doesn’t see himself working with his Judd Apatow pals anytime soon, as he has moved on to other projects. He recently starred in a Netflix show called FUBAR, where he had a memorable encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The former governor of California picked a booger off Baruchel’s face while they were filming a scene.
“He just reached over and flicked it off my face,” Baruchel recalled. “He said, ‘You had something there.’ And I was like, ‘Thank you, sir.’”