Early Years and Career
The son of an antiques dealer father and freelance writer mother, Baruchel grew up in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood and studied theatre at the Fine Arts Core Education (FACE) School. He began acting professionally at age 12, appearing in such television programs as Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1995) and My Hometown (1996) before co-hosting a season of Popular Mechanics for Kids (1997–98) with Elisha Cuthbert.
Baruchel’s big break came when he appeared as a devout Led Zeppelin fan in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000). That performance caught the attention of director-producer Judd Apatow, who cast Baruchel as the lead in the short-lived FOX comedy Undeclared (2001–03), which co-starred fellow Canadian Seth Rogen. The two actors became roommates and close friends as they established their careers in Los Angeles.
Baruchel then had a small role in director Roger Avery’s Rules of Attraction (2002), but it was his supporting performance as a mentally-challenged aspiring boxer in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004) that gained him international attention. He starred opposite Don Johnson in the short-lived WB courtroom drama Just Legal (2005) and had a recurring role on the CBS series Numb3ers before playing a version of himself in the hit Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up (2007), starring Rogen.
Baruchel followed that success with supporting roles in a string of hit Hollywood comedies, including Tropic Thunder (2008), Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (2008) and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) before landing lead roles in the romantic comedy She’s Out of My League (2010) and the animated hit How to Train Your Dragon (2010), for which he won an Annie Award for best voice performance. He continued the role in the Cartoon Network animated series Dragons: Riders of Berk (2012–14) and Dragons: Race to the Edge (2015–18), as well as the theatrical sequels How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019). The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy earned more than $1.6 billion at the global box office as well as two Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.
Baruchel again played a version of himself opposite Seth Rogen in the self-effacing apocalyptic comedy This is the End (2013), which was based on the 2007 short film they wrote and starred in called Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse. This is the End grossed more than $125 million worldwide and was named the best comedy of the year by various critics’ groups and associations. Baruchel then had a supporting role in the remake Robocop (2014) and starred in the critically acclaimed fantasy-comedy TV series Man Seeking Woman (2015–17), co-starring Mark McKinney.
Career in Canada
Throughout his career, Baruchel has remained an outspoken patriot (he has a red maple leaf tattooed on his chest) and a staunch advocate for Canadian film. Fluently bilingual and based for many years in his native Montreal, he has balanced his Hollywood career with steady work in homegrown projects while publicly encouraging other Canadian actors to do the same.
After his successful turn in Million Dollar Baby, he starred in the Vancouver-shot indie film Fetching Cody (2005), and followed Knocked Up with the quirky Halifax comedy-drama Just Buried (2007). He filmed Real Time (2008) in Hamilton opposite Randy Quaid and starred in Jacob Tierney’s Montreal-set coming-of-age comedy The Trotsky (2009). He received best actor Genie and Jutra nominations for that performance, as well as a Canadian Comedy Award. In 2010, he co-starred with Emily Hampshire, Scott Speedman, Micheline Lanctôt and Gary Farmer in Tierney’s dramatic thriller Good Neighbours, which was shot and set in Baruchel’s native Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
He then co-wrote, produced and co-starred in the hit hockey comedy Goon (2011), which earned Telefilm Canada’s Golden Box Office Award as the top-grossing English Canadian film of 2012. It also received nominations for six Canadian Screen Awards, including nods for Baruchel’s supporting performance and adapted screenplay. He played multiple characters in the Showtime comedy series The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour, starring John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells and Mike Smith from Trailer Park Boys, and appeared in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012).
In May 2013, he returned to the stage for the first time since high school, garnering positive reviews as the title character in the Segal Centre’s production of Sherlock Holmes. He also hosted a gala presentation of stand-up comedy at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, and starred opposite Kathryn Winnick, Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon and Terence Stamp in Jonathan Sobol’s The Art of the Steal (2013).
He co-starred with Jacob Tierney and Jessica Paré in Tyson Caron’s Lovesick (2016), began a recurring role on the cult hit comedy Letterkenny (2016) and made his feature directorial debut with the sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers (2017), which he also co-wrote and produced. He then directed, produced, co-wrote and starred in the horror movie Random Acts of Violence, adapted from the graphic novel by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray about a comic book artist whose fictional murders start happening in real life.
Baruchel was engaged to Canadian actress Alison Pill from December 2010 to March 2013. In 2015, he officially moved to Toronto after “Quebec’s politics did my head in.” As he told the Montreal Gazette in May 2015, “The last election was very traumatic in a way.” He attributed the decision to move to “the kind of poisonous ethnic dialogue, which really, really left a sour taste in my mouth.” He also conceded that, “if I want to put my money where my mouth is and be a filmmaker in Canada, as opposed to the States, I gotta be honest and realize that the vast majority of the ideas I have are in English, and that’s why it makes much more sense for me to be [in Toronto]. That being said, I still have my house in Montreal, and so I’ll always keep one foot in NDG. It might just turn into a pied-à-terre, but I’ll always have one foot there.”
- Best Performance by a Male – Film (The Trotsky), Canadian Comedy Awards (2010)
- Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production (How to Train Your Dragon), Annie Awards (2011)