Across the country, college students are stepping onto the competitive field of battle in passionate pursuit of championship football glory. But they’re not playing in stadiums, they’re not wearing helmets, they don’t have thousands of fans and, well, most of them aren’t particularly athletic.
They are the dedicated gridiron giants of intramural flag football.
And for the first time ever, collegiate intermural sports and its colorful cast of mostly delusional characters come to the big screen in the new movie “Intramural,” which premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“Intramural” stars “The Office” alumni Jake Lacy as fifth-year senior Caleb Fuller, who reassembles his ragtag team of flag football misfits, known as The Panthers, to make one last run at intramural greatness. Standing in his way, however, are an overbearing girlfriend (“SNL” star Kate McKinnon), an impassioned pigskin nemesis named Dick Downs (“SNL” star Beck Bennett) and the crippling demons of his flag football past.
The film costars Nikki Reed, Nick Rutherford, Jay Pharoah, Gabriel Luna, Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney, and combines the spirit of nearly every sports film you’ve ever seen with cinematic send-ups such as “The Naked Gun” and “Airplane!”
I recently sat down with Lacy to discuss “Intramural,” the logistics of pooping on a ceiling and the lessons he learned at “The Office.”
David Onda: What does it feel like to star in a movie that premiered at Tribeca?
Jake Lacy: Well, it’s surreal, I suppose. We had a blast making this thing, and we were down in Texas and you’re making it thinking, “This is amazing. This is the best time I ever had.” And then you finish and you just sort of hope that it goes somewhere. And I guess I’m just hugely grateful that we’ve gotten the opportunity to share it with people and try to take it to a bigger audience for more people to see it. I live in Brooklyn, so it was amazing to go over the bridge and be at the premiere of a movie I’m in. It’s wonderful.
Onda: Have you ever played intramural sports at the collegiate level?
Lacy: I have not. I played sports through middle school, high school and then I went to North Carolina School of the Arts, which has zero athletic programs, including intramural clubs. You’re there for your chosen craft or career. So, I had no reference point, really, until I met [writer] Bradley Jackson and he started showing me YouTube videos. And not even videos of intramural play, but more of the personalities that surrounded it – like, pep talks. It’s insane. It’s like Ray Lewis is talking to a bunch of college sophomores. These guys are like Shakespearean frat boys: “This is our moment! This is our time!” It’s 2:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday. This is your time? If this is your time, you should set that bar higher.
Onda: “Intramural” balances between being an outright spoof, like “The Naked Gun,” and being a traditional comedy narrative. How approach that as an actor, particularly as the straight man of the film?
Lacy: I think I have the easiest job out of all that. Caleb is always, hopefully, the normal one. Whichever tone the editor chooses to use based on the thousand takes that we did for every scene, luckily I’m just the guy that is like, “That’s insane!” Whether it’s a guy running on [the field] and saying he’s a doctor or my friend being paralyzed from them penis down or Kate McKinnon licking my face, I get the easy go of it by just being the straight guy.
Onda: I’m guessing there wasn’t much of a budget for stunt doubles. Did you take any lumps during the football scenes?
Lacy: We had this great football coordination production team who did “Friday Night Lights,” but they were used to having actual football players run the plays and then [cutting to] a tight single [shot] on a guy with his helmet off being like, “We did it!” But because this is intramural, you see us the whole time. You would know that there’s these gargantuan football players, and then these scrawny guys hanging out in the rest of the scene. So, we ended up doing all of our own stunts, if you will, but all of our own football plays. That was kind of beautiful – this great, crazy bonding experience – not just literally sitting on the sidelines and waiting to go in and say your lines, but to be out there goofing off for 14 hours a day playing football.
Onda: And if you didn’t bond during those scenes, I’m sure you and your co-stars bonded while they held you up to poop on the locker room ceiling.
Lacy: Yeah, luckily that was a ways in to shooting, so you were like, “Whatever. Everybody’s seen everything. Who cares? It doesn’t even matter.” You’re just in the weird zone of complete disassociation from privacy. They prepped for, like, 45 minutes. You’re having this very clinical discussion: “So, when he poops on the ceiling, is anyone gonna get hit in the face? Do we want two people to get hit in the face? Is it mushy enough?” There’s a real scientific element behind the grossest joke in the movie.
Onda: How did your time on “The Office” and working with that talented cast help prepare you for comedies like “Intramural”?
Lacy: I would say being on “The Office” basically afforded me the opportunity directly to do “Intramural” and this movie, “Obvious Child,” that I did just after “The Office.” And I can’t thank NBC and “The Office” and Greg Daniels and all those guys for giving me a shot and having me there. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened for me. As far as comedy or just absorbing things, I’d say two things I really took away from that were – jokes are always funnier when they’re really personal. When, either, the subject matter means a lot to the person saying it, or their really effecting the person their talking to. That will destroy every time. And Craig Robinson said this thing that he learned back in the day. He said, “Don’t make the immediate joke. Keep the ball rolling and, at some point, an even better joke will come along and make that joke.” It’s just learning patience, which is still very difficult for me.
Onda: Do people ever call you “Plop” out in public?
Lacy: Yeah, like once a month. And usually the people who choose to contact me via “Plop” opt for yelling it across the street at me. It’s rarely someone sitting next to me like, “Hey, were you that guy ‘Plop’?” They will usually say, “Were you on ‘The Office’?” But someone will yell at me as if they’re not sure it’s me, and then kind of look away. And I’m like, “I see you. I saw you yell it, man.” In any other way, it would seem cocky to be like, “They’re probably talking about me!” But with something like that, you know it’s you. If you’re yelling “Plop” for any other reason than to address a television character, there’s a serious issue going on.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.