Charlie Day likes playing smart, though he doesn’t do it often. Since 2005 he’s filed over 100 episodes as Charlie, the dim-wittiest (and sweetest) of the four monsters on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” But in “Fist Fight,” the actor and writer gets to play a teacher. He’s no inspirational educator, like Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” or Robert Donat in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” His school has long been plagued by crippling cut-backs, the kids are all rambunctious, and — worst of all — he pissed off a colleague (Ice Cube), who’s challenged him to an after-school fight.
Day, 41, talks to us about getting accidentally punched by a rap god, the kids these days and playing an even smarter guy in “Pacific Rim.”
So, what’s it like being punched by Ice Cube, or at least fake-movie-punched?
It’s surreal! I’m a huge fan of Ice Cube, from when he was in NWA and his solo stuff. I love the album “The Predator.” I know every song on that. So it was surreal. And when you get a punch wrong, when it accidentally hits your forearm or something instead of missing you, it really hurts. He’s a big guy; he can throw a real punch.
So Ice Cube accidentally punched you in the arm?
Yeah, there were plenty of times that happened. There were times when our forearms clashed, our knees banged together. Thank god no one got one on the nose by accident. But there are times when you move the wrong way and you get a little punch here, a little scrape there. We were both a little black-and-blue in some spots. We shot this over a year ago, and to be honest my legs still hurt.
You’ve done stunts before, but this is next-level.
It was the most physically demanding and exhausting thing I’ve ever done. My wife was saying you’re not allowed to ever do any stunts again. I said, “I don’t want to.” And we shot it consecutively. We wound up shooting the entire fight in a row because they were worried that the outdoor trees were going to lose all their leaves. If we put it off the fight wouldn’t match. So it was all day every day, 12- to 14-hour days of fighting, eight days in a row.
That sounds horrible.
Yeah, it was a really bad idea.
I’ve talked to Cube before and — this shouldn’t be shocking but it kind of is — he’s really nice.
[Laughs] He’s a nice guy, and I’m sure if you piss him off he really isn’t.
I’m old enough that I find myself saying phrases like “the kids these days.” So since you’re playing a teacher, what was your impression of the kids these days?
They’re living a different life than we lived, because everyone’s constantly in contact with one another, over their phones and social media, Snapchatting, Instagramming. I finally got on one of those things, because I’d been rebelling against it. I’d do it for a month and say, “OK, that’s enough.” The saddest thing is dating. It used to be real work to find someone who would date you, then you’d have to invest a little time to get to know somebody. Now you’re thinking, "I’ll swipe and see who’s next."