Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Nick Offerman on woodworking, integrity and the little known story of McDonald's

by Alex Cohen and Lori Galarreta | Take Two®

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THE FOUNDER is a drama that tells the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. He maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire. The Weinstein Company (via YouTube)

Now, to some history of a little fast food joint you may have been to: McDonald's.

Presently, it's a global powerhouse —but it goes back to 1940 with just one restaurant, started by two brothers - Dick and Mac McDonald. 

It began as a barbeque spot in San Bernardino complete with car hops taking orders.

But a few years later it started to look more like the Mickey D's we know today. Serving up cheap burgers and soft drinks like Henry Ford churned out cars: fast.

That drive for efficiency led the brothers to a milkshake mixer salesman whose name might sound familiar: Ray Kroc.

The new film "The Founder" tells that story  of how Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) bought in to the business and built up the McDonald's franchise. However, the principles Kroc ran the restaurant on were ones that the McDonald's brothers deeply disagreed with.

Actor Nick Offerman, who you may know as Ron Swanson on the hit show "Parks and Recreation", plays Dick McDonald.

Nick Offerman plays Dick McDonald in the upcoming film "The Founder."
Nick Offerman plays Dick McDonald in the upcoming film "The Founder." The Weinstein Company (via YouTube)

Take Two's Alex Cohen recently caught up with him to talk about his role in the film, his passion for woodworking and the timeliness of the movie in today's American culture.

Interview Highlights

Who was Dick McDonald and what was the struggle he eventually faces in building this business?

"It's depicted in the film on a phone call between Ray Kroc and Dick, where Ray Kroc– thanks to Joan Smith who became his second wife Joan Kroc– she discovered this powdered milkshake that would...would save them tons of expense on refrigerating the ice cream they used for their milkshakes.

Real Milk

Somebody says, 'Hey, if we lower the quality, if we lower the integrity of our ingredients, we'll make a lot more money,' basically. And he said, 'I'm not even going to consider that. If we can't sell products that have the full integrity of what we want to feed our children, then I don't want to sell anything.' And ultimately, that was part of what led to their downfall."

You're a woodworking guy, how did you get into that and what is the appeal? Why woodworking?

"It happened organically. I come by it honest. I grew up in a family of people who make things, farmers and school teachers and nurses...so all these family members taught me to use tools growing up. And so when I began looking for jobs, first to make money to pay for college and buy a car, I found out I could work in the theater scene shop for the college and that they would pay me wages and then that was when my love affair with the wood shop began.

It's so satisfying as a complement to show business because in the shop there's nobody giving me notes and I don't depend on any editor or director or studio. It's me and my stack of oak and at the end of the day I can tangibly feel the work I've done, instead of have to wait around for an audiences response and that is really satisfying. It's really meditative for me especially when I'm dealing with the frustrations of show business."

It feels like there's a certain timeliness to this movie even though it's a story that happened decades ago.

"When we shot the film it was just when this presidential campaign was getting started and I can't believe how appropriate this message seems. 

...that was exactly John Lee Hancock's hope, was that the audience would leave and half of them would think Ray Kroc was a hero and half would think he was a villain. I think the truth is and the fascinating thing is, we all have some Ray Kroc and some Dick and Mac McDonald in us. And it begs the question, how much is your integrity worth? Or how much money can you make versus when is it okay to crush other human beings, your collaborators or business partners?

I feel like the American dream has sort of been tarnished in a way, it's become this notion of not having to back up your work with quality or integrity, instead you're selling people on a catchphrase or name on a building."

To hear the full segment, click the blue play button above. 

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