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Interview: Joel McHale liked playing with knives in 'Deliver Us From Evil'

"Deliver Us From Evil" star Joel McHale talks about playing tough, why his character prefers knives to guns and entertaining the president.

Joel McHale stretches out into dramatic horror in the exorcism saga "Deliver Us From Evil." Credit: Getty Images Joel McHale stretches out into dramatic horror in the exorcism saga "Deliver Us From Evil."
Credit: Getty Images

Joel McHale wants everyone to know he can be a badass if need be. His latest film, the supernatural thriller "Deliver Us From Evil," is something of a departure for the "Community" star and "The Soup" host — and that's exactly why he did it. Well, that and he got to play with knives a whole bunch.

You've got a pretty bad-ass fight scene in this film. Is that meant to be your sort of "Hey look at me" for action movie producers?

Yes. In fact, at the end of the movie my character sits up and says, "Hey, action movie producers, what else do you want?" [Laughs] Hell, no one's called, but I'll take the calls.

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Well, the movie hasn't come out yet.

That's true.

You do handle yourself quite convincingly in the fight scenes.

Oh good. I worked my ass off to make sure that looked real. So many people have been like, "Was it hard going from comedy into drama?" No. It was hard learning a knife fight, to make it look real. My greatest concern was that if I looked slow or it looked amateur or anything like that then it would suck. I wanted it to look blindingly fast. Boy, I rehearsed the s— out of that. It's a Filipino knife-fighting style, which when you see it on YouTube it's insanely fast. I mean, you don't even know you've been hit.

Don't most cops pull a gun on suspects instead of a knife, though?

Right, yes. But guns are no fun when you've got knives. My character is psychotic in that he prefers knives. He would much rather just stick you a couple of times. I think my character would probably be a criminal if he wasn't in law enforcement. He's relatively simple, and something probably happened to him when he was younger. [Laughs] He just sees every human being as a possible target.

Joel McHale wears a Red Sox hat and tats as a cop in "Deliver Us From Evil." Credit: Andrew Schwartz Joel McHale wears a Red Sox hat and tats as a cop in "Deliver Us From Evil."
Credit: Andrew Schwartz

Just wearing a Red Sox hat around the South Bronx is a sign of mental issues.

Yeah. I got s— walking around the set [with that on]. But he does things just to agitate people. He likes to be contrary. That Boston Red Sox hat really informed the whole thing. Just in the face of every single Yankees fan in the world, he's like, "Yeah, I'm wearing this, what are you going to do?" He's like, "Please take a swing at me. I invite you to do it."

But I imagine you weren't walking around the set asking Teamsters to punch you.

No. Well … I would be like, "It's a character hat, dummy. I've been wearing it for weeks. What's wrong with you?"

What else are you looking to do in film besides the obvious "Community" movie that will be made any day now?

It will be made, and it will be bigger than the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise combined. [Laughs] Well, I'm going to be a spokesperson for a couple of different products. One of them is a vodka, so let me know if you need some vodka.

I always need vodka.

And well, I've been doing "The Soup" live, and I spent the entire spring preparing for the White House Correspondents' Dinner. That was an intense amount of preparation. And now I've just been kind of getting to know my children again.

How do you think the Correspondents' Dinner went?

Believe me, I was happy. I know that some critics didn't like it, other critics liked it. That crowd, they're going to be divided. Get this, they're going to be partisan. I was thrilled with the jokes, I knew the jokes were good and boy, I had a ball doing it. And I got to freaking entertain the President of the United States. He seemed to like it, other than the drone strikes joke.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick

 
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