Broken Lizard Interview
Interview by Aaron Haughton
The line wrapped around the building at Gourdough's Public House in Austin as fans lined up to meet the Super Troopers in the flesh. The setting was oddly appropriate; Gourdough's sandwiches are smashed between two pieces of donut bread, which definitely qualifies as stoner food in my book and is pretty ironic given the whole cop/donut cliche. Although, when mentioning this to the Broken Lizards themselves, which consists of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme and Erik Stolhanske, they didn't seem to think so. In fact, Paul even said he'd be scared to eat one of Gourdough's sandwiches if he were stoned, favoring the simplicity of a banana and a glass of milk instead. Talks of stone food fare aside, the troopers gave me a few minutes of their time to talk about their latest crowd-funded sequel, Super Troopers 2, which releases this Friday, April 20th.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
With this being the first sequel you guys have written, was there any change to your writing style, or anything you guys tried to avoid from other sequels you’ve seen?
Jay Chandrasekhar: You know, the first movie had an emotional attachment to people because they saw it with their buddies and it became their own private little thing — that’s what the cult’s all about — so we were really eager to not ruin that for them. We wanted to work harder. We wrote 35 drafts, thousands of jokes, and we tried to keep only the really good ones in.
With the five of you guys in the writer’s room, how crucial is collaboration to your writing process?
Paul Soter: There’s really no part of the writing process that isn’t the five of us. Sometimes, we’ll divide up some sections just to get stuff on paper to get a first draft. From the first ideas to the outlining to filling in the jokes, for us it’s not gonna feel like a Broken Lizard movie unless it’s got that sense of us trying to crack each other up. It’s really the only way we can write these things.
Did any of the early drafts include you guys keeping the townie cop jobs, or did you always get the sense that they would somehow mess that up?
Kevin Heffernan: We had to be the troopers again, so the question was: how do they get there? That was the big question. So we went through a lot of debates about what would get us fired — and there were a lot of different thoughts on what might get us fired. Then, the idea was: let’s kill an actor in a ride along.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Let’s kill a beloved actor…
Paul Soter: And that was actually what was the last piece of the puzzle for us. There were so many ways, it was like, no they got in trouble for this, no they got in trouble for that, they fucked this up, somebody got hurt, somebody got blown up… For some reason, that was the one thing we just couldn’t crack. So, yeah, that really felt like that was the icing on the cake.
One my favorite scenes is Brian Cox singing karaoke. Did you have to pitch that to him, and did he pick the song?
Jay Chandrasekhar: He actually read the script and said, (*Brian Cox impression*) “I need a moment!!” And so we added this karaoke thing, and it turned out to be something he just dove into and really embraced.
Kevin Heffernan: We couldn’t pay for a modern day song, so we had to pick an old-timey public domain song.
Paul Soter: Which really fits O’Hagen. I mean, O’Hagen would probably only want to do public domain karaoke, which is awesome. But that’s pretty emblematic of what Brian Cox is like. If you can offer him something that he doesn’t do, that he hasn’t done, that he doesn’t get to do, he’s just like, “Yeah, let me have it!” In this case, it was singing an old dumbass show tune, and he was just like a pig in shit.
Steve Lemme: Which is how we got him in the first place for the first movie. He said to us that he never had the chance to do comedy. Even then, he was an accomplished actor, so he really showed up on set. That scene at the end when he’s on Grady’s lawn and he’s trashing the place, they just rolled the cameras, and he did five to ten minutes just trashing the place. Everything that he did was perfect, and at the end of it, he got a standing ovation. He’s hysterical.
One of the things you guys do beautifully in the film is manage callback material. How do you strike a nice balance between callback jokes and new material?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We really wrote a film that was going to work on its own, and then painted in the callbacks after.
Kevin Heffernan: There was definitely a lot of debate about putting spins on them, like how much do you do? Even in the editing room, you can go and modulate how much there is and figure out how much you think you should have, so there was a lot of debate that went on all the way through.
Steve Lemme: You’ve seen sequels that just rehash the first movie and that’s a mistake, but then you see some that don’t have any nods to the original. You know, you have to pay some homage to the first one.
Paul Soter: And especially with the pull overs because those are, generally speaking, what is most iconic about the first one. I think that was another aspect of this that we really spent a lot of time going over and over and over and throwing stuff out and starting over again. Finally, we decided to have that just be one chunk of the movie with this sort of narrative purpose, instead of peppering in a pull over every couple of scenes. The pull overs in this film had a purpose in the plot a lot more. I think doing things like that made us feel like we weren’t doing the same things over again.
Was that one of the bigger challenges you faced on the film?
Steve Lemme: The pull overs were probably, I think, one of the big challenges when we were writing. In the first movie, we’re on our home turf, and it’s like that’s who these guys are, like in the opening scene, we fuck with people in a good natured way. But in this movie, with us being an occupying force, we couldn’t just go into that. And so that was the question, where are we gonna put these things? And then is it a revenge thing? It took us a while to finally land on: okay, we’re gonna pose as the mounties and do some pull overs.
Paul Soter: We’re back on heels for most of the movie because we’re not welcome, and so anytime we would put in pull overs it was like, why are these guys doing this? They wouldn’t feel necessarily comfortable enough, and certainly not bored enough to be doing this. So, yeah, it was a tough nut to crack.
A nice change up to the first film was making the Mounties somewhat Canadian versions of the Troopers. How was it that you guys got into contact with Will Sasso, Tyler Labine, and Hayes MacArthur?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We were looking for Canadians first. We knew Sasso, and I worked with Tyler Labine in a show called Animal Practice. Hayes MacArthur is from Chicago, and we’ve done a couple TV pilots together. You know, we called Tyler, and he’s like, I don’t even need to see the script, I’m in. Sasso was sorta similar. They came up with the idea of speaking in that real deep Montreal Quebecois accent. It really gave us that authentic Canadian armor, so that when Canadians see it, they’re like, (*Canadian accent*) oh, hey, well, yeah, can’t make fun of those guys…
Catch the troopers in action this weekend, as Super Trooper 2 hits theaters this Friday, April 20th!
What do you think? Are you excited for the film? Did you learn anything new? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments sections below, and as always, remember to viddy well!