Danny McBride on His Early Career Struggles: “Looking back on it, I liked how dirty and grimy and dangerous it got”

Actor Danny McBride

One of the most familiar pieces of advice that aspiring actors hear today is “Write your own material.” The idea is that by creating one’s own scripts will help an actor not only create opportunities for himself or herself, but help that actor develop storytelling skills. One actor who found success by developing his own material is Eastbound & Down star Danny McBride, who tells Rolling Stone that he came to Los Angeles with ambitions to write and direct — not to become one of the funniest comedy actors working today.

McBride reveals that he has a similar story to many dreamers who move to Los Angeles with plans to make it in Hollywood — and he initially ran into the same problems. He recalls “Man, I thought that I’d move to Los Angeles, sell some screenplays, become a director. Then I get there, became a waiter, started working at the Burbank Holiday Inn, was P.A.-ing, ran out of money and didn’t have time to write. I went out there thinking I’d replicate what I was doing in film school. I studied to direct there; I didn’t have anything to do with acting. I was really trying to make that happen, and I quickly learned, so is everybody in that town. I struggled a lot in my early 20s, but looking back on it, I liked how dirty and grimy and dangerous it got. It was living on the edge the whole time.”

One reason why McBride didn’t give up on his dream is because he had the support of filmmaker and frequent collaborator David Gordon Green. McBride recalls, “If David thinks I can do this, then I’m not going to waste any time thinking I can’t. I’m just going to go try to deliver what he wants. I found that that came in helpful for everything that happened in my career. Because I went from waiting tables to, six months later, acting with Owen Wilson in Drillbit Taylor, acting with Ben Stiller in The Heartbreak Kid, doing Tropic Thunder with Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise. Literally, a year earlier, I was stoned on my couch watching these motherfuckers on my TV. Now I’m being thrown into scenes with them. It was crazy. It really was just a matter of just not getting in your own head about things.”

However, McBride still thought of himself as a writer instead of an actor. After his first role in Green’s All the Real Girls, McBride thought he’d go back to writing — until one of his other collaborators, Jody Hill, suggested that he write something to star in. He continues, “I didn’t have any ambitions to do more of it. I just was trying to write and figure out what was next. That’s when Jody was like, ‘Why don’t we write something together for you to act in?’ We felt at the time, just because I was in a movie, maybe that would help us get it made. That was when we started talking about Foot Fist Way. We wrote that script, went back to North Carolina, shot it and our careers took their next step from there.”

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