IR Interview: Jay Sits Down With Author Kevin Kwan and Co-Stars Gemma Chan and Jimmy O. Yang to Discuss Their Delightful New Film CRAZY RICH ASIANS

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a contemporary romantic comedy based on the acclaimed worldwide bestseller by Kevin Kwan. The story follows New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. Not only is he the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families, but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh) taking aim. It soon becomes clear that the only thing crazier than love is family, in this funny and romantic story sure to ring true for audiences everywhere.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, “Crazy Rich Asians” features an international cast of stars, led by Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, and Awkwafina, with Ken Jeong and Michelle Yeoh. The large starring ensemble also includes Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remi Hii, Nico Santos, and Jing Lusi.

Gemma Chan plays one of the book’s most beloved characters, “Astrid’s story is so big, we had to be very strategic about which parts of it to include,” Chu acknowledges. “Casting was also challenging because Astrid is so flawless, you wonder how such a person could exist on this planet.” In sync with many fan-site wish lists, the director’s search led to Gemma Chan. “She’s so elegant and warm. She can appear both relatable and untouchable at the same time, which is, I think, the trick to playing Astrid with all those facets to her personality and upbringing. Gemma was the
absolute embodiment of the role,” he says.

Bernard Tai, enthusiastically portrayed by Jimmy O. Yang. Not technically related, Bernard nabs the honor of staging Colin’s bachelor party via his father’s business ties with Colin’s dad. In other words, they’re stuck with him. Yang calls him “a billionaire playboy not doing much with his life except partying and having fun. He’s kind of a douche, but he loves himself and he loves life. Imagine an 18-year-old who just graduated high school with a billion dollars.”

Author, Kevin Kwan served as an executive producer on the film and makes a cameo in the montage where the gossip over Nick and Rachel’s imminent visit goes viral. He consulted on myriad details from character to costumes, locations to design, opened up his private family albums to inspire the design teams and even put the filmmakers in touch with a private watch collector who lent the production a prized high-end timepiece that arrived with its own security escort. “He was the best creative partner,” Chu attests.

I was fortunate to speak to author Kevin Kwan, as well as Gemma Chan and Jimmy O. Yang on their recent stop in Boston.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

By virtue of the process there are always differences between a book and film. Going into it were you told they were going to change some things? Did you have input even though you weren’t the one adapting the book for the screenplay?

Kevin Kwan: I was involved in the very beginning. I chose the screenwriter and worked with him. I helped to really lay out the general outline of the story and I knew that HE needed to make the choices, the hard choices. I didn’t know which babies I wanted to sacrifice. I’m glad I didn’t play that role. It was very clear to me from the start that we needed someone to make those hard decisions and really adapt a five-hundred page book into an hour and forty-five minutes. You’re going to lose storylines, you’re going to lose characters and hopefully we can do many more movies so THAT gets covered. I’m thrilled with how it was adapted.

What does this movie mean to you? It’s the first big studio film in a quarter century to feature an all Asian cast and there’s not enough of these being made. Did you feel the added weight of that responsibility to make sure the film was great so that there would be more opportunity for Asians going forward?

Jimmy O. Yang: I think as an actor and seeing the script with a full Asian cast, it’s so surprising that you think, “Oh my god, I can’t believe this is getting made and I NEED to be a part of this.” Then I start uncovering more and more how great this project actually is. Reading the script, it’s a good, funny script and getting to audition, I auditioned for Colin first and then they offered me the Bernard role which I was more than happy to play. Then start to listen to the audio books and hang out with everyone. When we landed in Singapore, in the hotel lobby and we’re all like, “You like Asian food, too?” like, of course. “And you like karaoke?” It was just such a special bond that all of us have and still have. We’re still really good friends, all of us.

Kevin Kwan: Which never happens, right? You see them and then you never see them again.

Jimmy O. Yang: Yeah. All the time. I might have one friend from each movie that I still kinda talk to. THIS is different. When Ronnie (Chieng), whenever he comes from New York to L.A. or Gemma (Chan) is in town, when Kevin (Kwan) is in town… it’s like, let’s hang. We are each others priority, because really… for me culturally, yes, of course, it’s very important. In just a microcosm in a personal sense, it felt like I found my creed in my peers, which has been very hard for me as a comic and as an actor. Hopefully the audience will feel the same way, watching this movie they will finally feel like our voice is being heard and that our faces are being represented. Hopefully it’s just one of many to come and this is to just open up the doors. I think it’s a great start and we’re all very excited about it.

Gemma Chan: What really excited me when I read the script and the books was that although this specific story was about these characters that happen to be Asian, the themes of it are really very universal. Love, friendship, family, relationships, the conflict between old and new and different generations. It excited me that I could feel that that would be something that would resonate and would appeal, hopefully, to people who aren’t Asian.

Kevin Kwan: Absolutely.

Gemma Chan: If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t quite fit in or that you’re an outsider, that that’s something that would speak to you. For so long the universal experience has been assumed to be white and what I hope this shows, this story, is that it doesn’t have to be. Anyone should be able to watch this film and identify and feel for these characters. That’s the significance for me.

Jimmy O. Yang: Yeah. It’s an Asian story, but at the same time it’s a very authentic story, I think that’s why it’s so good because Kevin actually knows these people and has had the experiences. I think it encourages more authentic writing from everyone, which includes Asians and other minorities.

Did you find that because of Hollywood executives might make the argument that because you have non-white leads and a non-white cast that you had to compensate in any way to make the film especially appealing.

Kevin Kwan: We really didn’t encounter that, actually. There was one producer that suggested we change the lead to a white Reese, Johansson or someone like that. I didn’t even entertain that. Every other producer that came was really truly interested in the idea of this film because of the story. The story is one that transcends race. It’s called Crazy Rich Asians, but it’s not just because their Asian. It’s a universal story. They saw the potential for this in the worldwide market.

Jimmy O. Yang: I think people should look at this like a Game of Thrones, this author has so much source material that takes you to a different world. When we watched the first clip at the wrap party, just a little trailer that Jon (director Jon M. Chu) made for the cast, I was like, “Oh my god, the color, the people, the sets-”

Kevin Kwan: The music!

Jimmy O. Yang: The music! It was just like, oh this is not just a bunch of Asian people. This is literally like taking you to Narnia or Middle Earth or Westeros. It’s a whole new world that they’ve set up that hopefully everyone can enjoy. It just so happens that in this world everyone is Asian.

Was there anything from the book that you wanted to keep in the film that didn’t end up in the script?

Kevin Kwan: Wow. So much. There’s so many characters and storylines that were dear to me that didn’t make it in.

Gemma Chan: Astrid and Charlie.

Kevin Kwan: Beginning with Astrid and Charlie. That’s a huge storyline that her entire emotional arc was very severely cut down. Although we did restore quite a bit of it as we went along. But there was just no time. An hour and forty-five minutes.

Gemma Chan: I’m waiting for the spin-off.

What were you most excited to see brought to life from the book? Was there anything that surprised you in the film?

Kevin Kwan: I think it was really cool how Jon supersized things. I had a vision of an amazing, obnoxious bachelor party, for example. In my book it takes place on a super yacht and he was like, how can we make this cinematic to a degree that people’s jaws will drop? So he did it on a super tanker. The wedding, for example, in my book it’s only a fifty million dollar wedding and that’s old hat at this point for the really, truly rich Chinese. So how could we take that and really convey that in a way that would be spectacular? I think he succeeded. I watched it and my jaw dropped in the wedding scene when the bride enters. Not only is it a spectacle, it’s just so emotionally engaging. The music, everything, it all worked. To me, those were the surprise moments.

What was it like shooting in Singapore?

Kevin Kwan: Singapore and Malaysia.

Kevin, Gemma: It was hot.

Jimmy O. Yang: It was like one-hundred fifteen degrees.

Gemma Chan: It was SO hot.

Jimmy O. Yang: The bachelor party scene was in an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere in Malaysia. It had a functioning helipad that was three stories high. I got sunburned from my gold chain. We couldn’t have shot that anywhere else. It was brilliant.

Kevin Kwan: You could feel the heat.

Jimmy O. Yang: You need to feel the experience, right? And eat the local food. It was like a whole immersive experience. I do not think we could have done this movie on a sound stage in L.A.

There was obviously material that was excised when adapting the book to a screenplay, but were there scenes that you shot that you were bummed to see cut?

Jimmy O. Yang: There was a lot of the bachelor party that was edited out. That was actually way more ridiculous than (what was in the film). We improvised quite a bit. I was happy with how it turned out. We got some of it back in the wedding with the scene of me and Chris Pang and Colin. That was completely improvised and I’m glad they kept it in there. I know that the character serves the story and I gotta come off the bench and hit a couple shots, you know? Because everyone is so good in this romantic, great plot and I just need to get some laughs in the serious moments to cut it up and I get that. It’s no hard feelings, everybody else is so great. If everybody else sucked and they cut out my great scenes I would have had a problem, but this whole movie was such respect for each other and everybody pulled their weight. Even when scenes got cut we were happy to see other people shine.

Gemma Chan: I really thought that the whole cast did such a great job. Every character, no matter how long their screen time was were distinctive and had their moment and did shine. It was amazing to watch. Same as Jimmy, I did do scenes that did not make it into the movie, but when I saw the film I was completely happy and understood why that had happened and this just means there is a wealth of stuff we can put into the sequel.

 

Be sure to check out the delightful Crazy Rich Asians in theaters today!

Jay Sits Down With Director Susanna Fogel to Talk About Her Newest Film The Spy Who Dumped Me!

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

In The Spy Who Dumped Me Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), are two thirty-year-old best friends in Los Angeles, who are thrust unexpectedly into an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Surprising even themselves, the duo jump into action, on the run throughout Europe from assassins and a suspicious-but-charming British agent, as they hatch a plan to save the world.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is directed by Susanna Fogel (Life Partners) who co-wrote the script with David Iserson. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down and speak with Susanna Fogel about her laugh-out-loud, rollercoaster of a film.

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

Jay: Your last film, Life Partners, was a much smaller indie production than The Spy Who Dumped Me. How did you make such a large jump from that film to this one?

Susanna Fogel: I know that a large part of it was that I wrote the script. I think, had I not written it, It would have been really hard for me to get the support to do that, to make that leap? Not for gender reasons, but because it’s a big leap to make. While I was writing the script, it wasn’t initially obvious that it was even something that I thought I could make a bid to direct. But at a certain point, as the friendship became more and more central to the story, and the girls closeness and the specificity of being their age and being in a female friendship became more and more central, it seemed impossible that I could get a male action director to capture that. And it would just be easier for me to just learn how to direct an action sequence. That felt like more of a plausible curve than teaching a Michael Bay-type to care about these friends nuances and body image and stuff.

Jay: How difficult was casting this film? How important was getting the chemistry right between these two friends? Or did it not matter because it was already there on the page in your script?

SF: Kate was the first one to come onto the project and you’re basically playing matchmaker. You’re meeting two actresses and when you’re talking about people like Mila Kunis, you don’t really have a chance to test them out, do a bunch of meetings and introduce her to every candidate. So you just have to meet her, size her up, and guess that she’d have chemistry with another person you don’t know that well, other actors. But in the case of the two of them it was… I think when you write something that’s pretty specific or has a specific perspective, there’s a self selection to the actors that want to engage with you on it. If they think the script is funny, then presumably they have a shared sense of humor on some level. And if they want to work with me then they are kind of in it for the same reasons. So it just kind of felt like the process selected people that would have good chemistry.

Jay: Were they able to spend time together before shooting to build a rapport?

SF: There was very little, because they live on opposite sides of the country. Mila has a family and it’s hard to get a lot of rehearsal time with two busy women. But we had just a couple of days, so we had to quickly bond the two of them without it feeling too contrived. So what we did was, we read through the whole script in my apartment in Budapest together right when they showed up and just had these, I sound like a camp counselor, we had these ice breakers where I was talking about their friendships and what their memories are of people they know and then they just sort of had a bonding experience like two friends would have talking. It then sort of flowed from there. It also helped that they’re two women who have really good friendships in their lives and they care about that. They’re both very warm, down to earth people who are the least narcissistic people. They were both pretty receptive, easygoing, open and sharing. We didn’t have a lot of time. I think it also helped that we were in a foreign country that neither had ever been to. So we all were having fish out of water experiences there. That connected us.

Jay: One thing that stuck me while watching the film is how legit the action was. Typically in an action/comedy the comedy is always the focal point and the action is usually not an emphasis, but the action in this film plays like you’re watching an ACTION film.

RF: That’s very much what we wanted.

Jay: What was that learning curve like, learning to shoot something that you’d never done before?

RF: My action directing experience was limited to one scene in one episode of a Television show that will remain nameless. It was a very different thing. This was very… different. I think when I was writing the action I found that it felt very visual to me. I knew what I wanted it to feel like. But the big transition was that on the page there was a way that things sound and you can be kind of glib or flippant or you can be minimal in your description of an action sequence. And you can describe it with enough witticisms that it just seems like it works and keeps the read going. When you’re actually staging it, and figuring out what you’re actually looking at, then all of these other questions pop up. Like, how much gun violence are you going to have in a movie if you’re a liberal person who also likes action movies and have a conscience about that and what weapons are you going to use? Then figuring out what you’re going to be watching when you break it down to those super molecular things is a whole different catalog of different decisions. So, for that, I wanted to bring on a stunt coordinator who had done those legitimate action movies, so I hired the guy who did a lot of the Bond and Bourne stuff. He was a huge help. We talked through these things. His specialty is,”Tell me where this action film is set and I’ll tell you twelve ways a dude could kill another dude.” Like, his job is that. He’ll talk about these jobs where in the script it would say, an amazing foot chase ensues and he comes up with everything you see in a movie. So, in a way, he’s a writer himself. So we just talked a lot from very different perspectives. I’m coming from this very analytical, feminist perspective and he’s coming at it from the perspective of a very technical expertise. And a cleverness that is very specific to his more physical job. Just working with him I felt really safe and protected because he had so much experience and I could ask questions and we had a really great dialogue. Without his partnership, I don’t know what I would have done. I think I would have pointed to other movies and said, “I dunno, like that.” But with him, we broke it down to such bite sized decisions that it felt manageable.

Jay: It’s never overtly addressed in the film, but it feels like Kate’s character is supposed to be a lesbian in the film. Was the choice to never come out and say that your choice or was that something you were asked to not address?

RF: It was never really a mandate at all. It was really just that have romance for either of the girls felt like a necessity of plot. Mila had to get dumped for the story to take place, but then we really wanted to keep it as Bechdel Test passing as possible. It just sort of felt neither here nor there to go into her sexuality. It just felt like a thing that didn’t need to be there. And a thing that if could just keep it free of that… we didn’t want that conversation to dominate the movie. Just because everything with female protagonists becomes about their love lives.

Jay: Provided the film does well and there’s a sequel, I’d love to see one, but beyond that where are you looking to go?

RF: It’s funny because… specifically thinking about mentors or people whose careers I admire, it’s really the filmmakers who have done a lot of different things. It’s the Curtis Hansons and Ridley Scotts and David Finchers… Obviously I’ve mentioned three GREAT filmmakers, but it’s people who don’t do the same thing over and over again. It’s not that I need people to think that I have a range, it’s more that I want to constantly challenge myself. This was one of the most creatively rewarding and fun experiences I’ve ever had. It wasn’t harder in a way that made me feel like I couldn’t expand my repertoire in other ways. It’s interesting because the last thing you do, at least in a traditional Hollywood sense, the last thing you do people send you the exact same thing. What’s least interesting to me is doing what I just did. I went from indie dramedy to proving I could do a big comedy and now I feel like I would love to do something dramatic, whatever the size and whatever the budget.

 

The Spy Who Dumped Me opens in theaters today. Get out there and see it this weekend, it’s a fun and hilarious with some top-notch action.

Indie Revolver Talks to Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal About Gentrification and Their New Masterpiece BLINDSPOTTING

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

In Blindspotting, Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.

Their other mutual love was Oakland. But the Oakland they’d grown up with, a place of equal parts defiant grit and revelatory grace, was changing so fast it made their heads spin. Hipsters had invaded the boulevards, healthy foods (and prices) had hit the bodegas, and business was booming … but what was being erased in the process?

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal about Blindspotting, one of the years best films, after a charged screening of the film in Boston back in April. The energy of these two artists was palpable as we spoke in a closed hotel bar the morning after.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

IR: The theme of change while trying to maintain identity is at the heart of Blindspotting. Post incarcerated Collin feels like a guy who is struggling with his own personal gentrification in his relationship with Miles while the city they inhabit, Oakland, itself is also struggling with gentrification. The film doesn’t seem to take a stance on whether gentrification is good or bad which I found interesting. What is your opinion when it comes to gentrification?

Daveed Diggs: Gentrification is problematic when it either ignores or very intentionally covers up or destroys the community that already existed. The soul cycle place is not the problem. It’s the… I mean, you move into a new area where you’ve never been before and you sort of have a choice when you move there, are you going to interact with the community that’s already here or do the easier thing to do and what you’re often encouraged to do if you’re in a new groundswell of people moving into a brand new building with no history attached to it and where, generally speaking, it’s all new people in that building… The thing you’re encouraged to do is participate in a brand new life that popped up out of nowhere in this desert where this newly discovered frontier of places to live… So gentrification is tricky, right? Space is at a premium, everything is getting more expensive, we don’t have answers for how communities are supposed to deal with it and everybody is dealing with it differently. You see cities trying to, in every new building, make sure certain percentages have to be low income housing. There’s all that stuff that is happening, but it all gets complicated by what, because ultimately the flow of the money is going to dictate the policy. So, if new people move in with more money and therefore have more power to dictate policy and say we don’t want these people in this building or we’re moving out. The policy might change. It’s very complicated and layered and you’re right, in the film we’re trying not to take a stance, we’re trying to present the lesser seen effects of a changing landscape.

Rafael Casal: You have a neighborhood that’s had decades of tension between the community and police before an influx of new people come in. And then these new people show up and they have a different relationship with the police. The previously existing residents don’t inherit the new position that the police have with the new neighborhood. If anything, the old neighborhood feels more criminal, because now there’s this… You can identify the old and new by where they live and what they look like and who gets protection and safety are two very different populations of people. So, if anything, it creates tension between the old community, it feels even more violent because now, right on top of you, is a community that’s getting policed just fine and the original residents are getting the police called on them in spaces that used to feel like theirs.

IR: It definitely feels like you had those themes in there but you didn’t make a social commentary or political film. You wrote a personal story and that stuff is in there, but it’s a smaller individual story.

Daveed Diggs: That was the hope, right? We weren’t setting out to write a film about issues. We were just trying to tell these guys’ story.

IR: Everything is inherently political now.

Daveed Diggs: We’re also all dealing with these things all the time. Everybody is. You can’t not. This is world we live in. All we’re doing is telling this story of these two guys who we hope the audience cares about. But not ignoring the way the world works.

Rafael Casal: There’s no such thing as non-political art.

IR: Not now.

Rafael Casal: Not ever. You’re either supporting the status quo or you’re challenging it. That’s it. We didn’t set out to make something political, but we are aware that everything we make is political. A great story is a personal story that has a universal value. So instead of coming out all preachy, with politics on our sleeve and shit… We don’t really have to. All we have to do is… The great mechanism of empathy is if things are corrupt or wrong or worth investigating all you have to do is show them in the most human way. And then empathy broods. Everyone is rooting for Collin in the movie and no one is rooting for Collin in the world. Straight up. So the political act, to me, is just an audience of people rooting for Collin for once. That’s it. I love when people gasp in fear for him. I love hoping that that’s just collective whiteness gasping.

Daveed Diggs: It’s also blackness gasping. It’s humanity gasping. It is, hopefully, a moment where everyone in the theater is feeling the same thing. Which is wild, right? Because Collin’s fear is based in the fact that generally in the world that is not true. That’s why we can all look at that moment and go, “Oh shit, he’s fucked right now.”

IR: The film really works because it makes the audience ask those questions and does provoke thought and engaging an audience, which doesn’t happen enough these days. It doesn’t spoon-feed all the answers and challenges you to look at yourself and the world around you a little differently.

Daveed Diggs: Check your blind spots.

Great advice, check out Blindspotting in theaters now.

IR INTERVIEW: Broken Lizard Reveal the History of the Meow Gag, Beef With Jim Gaffigan and Taking the Piss out of Canada With Super Troopers 2!

L-R: Paul Soter (“Foster”), Steve Lemme (“Mac”), Erik Stolhanske (“Rabbit”), Jay Chandrasekhar (“Thorny” Writer/Director) and Kevin Heffernan (“Farva”). PHOTO CREDIT: Aram Bogoshian

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

I hate to be a bummer, but I’ve been going through a real rough patch lately due to the passing of my mom just before this past Christmas and then April fourth being the ten-year anniversary of my dad passing away.  So I’ve been in a pretty dark place for a while now. On the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing I sat down to talk with Kevin Heffernan (Farva), Steve Lemme (Mac), Paul Soter (Foster) and Erik Stolhanske (Rabbit), who comprise four-fifths of the comedy troop Broken Lizard (You were missed, Jay Chandraskhar), about Super Troopers 2 and I came out feeling a lot better than I had thanks to their humorous stories and the fact that (thanks to a local appearance) were in their complete Vermont State Trooper costumes. (They were even kind enough to sign a liter of cola for me) I really couldn’t have asked for more than that.

We covered a lot of ground, from the origins of the iconic meow joke in the original film, to Kevin Heffernan’s beef with comedian Jim Gaffigan (who appears in both films), to how they go about crafting an R-Rated comedy in today’s social climate. It was a great chat and the new film is really funny, so be sure to check it out this weekend!

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity:

So what was it like being on a set together for the first time in a while?

Kevin Heffernan: We’ve known each other for so long and we’ve been doing it for many, many years. So it was kind of old hat. It was just a matter of growing the mustaches and putting the uniforms on and you’re right back into it.

Steve Lemme: We’ve done these characters before so it’s not like trying something new. It was like slipping back into a nice comfortable slipper.

Paul Soter: I think that’s part of what a lot of people like about the films, the easy familiarity from the fact that we’ve been buddies for almost thirty years. So, for us, it’s just hanging out with the buddies again.

Lemme: There’s a lot of B.S., like for instance just now, Paul was talking and Kevin was pouring his water, which you’ll probably hear on the microphones. It reminds me of a funny story. We had our first test screening back in March and Kevin had a great idea to bring his phone (to record audio of the audience) so we could hear where the laughs were during the movie and we could bring that in the editing room to line it up against the movie. I was sitting next to Kevin and I had my Nachos (all four start to laugh) and it takes a while to get through a plate of nachos. So for the first thirty minutes of the tape is just me CRUNCHING. (Laughter)

Soter: And then also you hear Heffernan, “What the fuck are you doing? Eating nachos while I’m recording,” and you (Lemme) were like, “I was hungry.” (Then Heffernan was like) “We just had dinner.” (Lemme) “But they were for free.” Suddenly they’re like this husband and wife bickering. Between that and the sound of the nachos, it was unusable audio.

Lemme: So making movies with your friends, that’s what happens.

When you’re slipping into a comfortable role, you guys have played these characters before, does that facilitate the process versus having to step into completely new characters and completely new roles and archetypes?

Soter: Yeah, because it’s always the hardest part of any movie. Like, coming up with ideas, we could do that all day. Writing jokes (is something) we do all day. Five guys with five different voices, you know? You read it on paper and if you haven’t distinguished those different voices… People read a script and it’s just a bunch of talk. But everybody had that voice established (already). 

Heffernan: You’re able to hit the ground running and you don’t have to worry about character so much. You just worry about the bits and the jokes.

Lemme: I think that contributed to the insanity of Farva in Super Troopers 2. Anytime we had an un-PC line or an obnoxious line, we gave it to Farva. And as a result, ALL he says is un-PC, obnoxious shit.

Heffernan: He’s a little bit unhinged.

Erik Stolhanske: Makes you wonder a little if he had a tumor.

Soter: (To Heffernan) Would you consider, if there’s a third one, do you want to push it even farther so that he’s just completely like…

Heffernan: No, we were talking about going in the other direction and I would be the romantic lead.

Soter: Oh, ok.

Heffernan: And I would get the girl.

Soter: You will have survived the tumor operation and it will be like Regarding Henry and you’ll be a quiet, thoughtful soul.

Lemme: By the way, that’s a terrific idea.

Soter: Ok, let’s all agree to sit on that one. You can’t use that.

We’ve got it recorded here if you need to find us.

Soter: It all depends on opening weekend.

You previously said that there were a lot of re-writes and with your improv background and having guys like Tyler Labine and Will Sasso, how much of the script makes it to what is seen on screen?

Heffernan: We definitely like to shoot the script, because we spend a lot of time crafting the jokes. We’ll improv in rehearsals and will put lines in that way, so it will hopefully be fresh. When you bring the new players in, they want to have fun and that’s a good thing.  Will Sasso is one of the great improvisers around and you can’t NOT improvise when he’s around.

That kind of lead to that scene, the Danny DeVito scene, which was not in the first thirty drafts of the script. We just put some filler in there for the scene and then we started hanging out with them and we did this Danny Devito riff where we were talking about this topic and after work we’d be riffing about it and they were like, “God, that’s so funny let’s put it in.” So we wrote the scene, like the day before and we shot it and we’re all like, “No way it’s gonna get in the movie.” It’s so weird and esoteric. And why are you spending time with the bad guys? Then we cut it in and were like, “nope that’s not even gonna make it.” Then, the first time we showed it to an audience and they laughed we were like, holy shit this is really funny.

Soter: Usually that’s the kind of riff that’s hilarious to us at the moment, when we’re stoned, and the next day you look at it and you’re like, “Yeeeah ok,” and you chalk it up to being high. In this case there was still that feeling of, was this something that was just funny to us in the moment?

Heffernan: The response has been amazing. People love that scene. I think that’s because it’s just a fun, weird, different kind of conversation. Not that it’s earth shattering in any way.

Lemme: Traditionally in our movies you don’t really get to go behind the curtain of your nemesis and this is just one of those things where you can take a break from us and get to know these guys a little.

Soter: One of the things that really helps is that our intention was always… In the first one the bad guys are just dicks and they really had no business being dicks to us, but in this case these are guys who from their point of view… These guys just show up and are claiming we’re all American  now and they’re going to lose their jobs. So it allows to have that balance of, yeah we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys but at the same time, I dunno, maybe we’re the bad guys and they’re the good guys? Canadian jokes can be followed up by American jokes and it keeps things light.

Lemme: Let’s just say we enjoyed taking the piss out of Canadians.

Heffernan: And us. We get as much as we give.

Thirty drafts is SO many. How did it come to thirty drafts?

Heffernan: Part of it was how long it took the movie to get made. Every time there was a chance that we got funding or whatever it was, there would be a flurry of activity and you do five or six drafts. Some of them were just joke drafts and some of them had full plots that ended up being too hard to shoot or (were) too expensive or there were too many characters. For multiple, multiple drafts we had a United States Homeland Security guy.

Lemme: Jim Bigwood.

Heffernan: And we had too many characters and we’d fold them in. A lot of them were just like, “Let’s punch this scene up,” so you’d have a new draft once you punched the scene up.

Lemme: Technical stuff, like the pull-overs for instance, we knew we wanted to do pull-overs but the nature of the pull-overs in the first one was like, we’re bored (and) this is how you meet people. We’re just peppering them throughout the movie. In this one we couldn’t really do that, because essentially we have to be on our best behavior. So the challenge is where are we going to put these pull-overs? Each draft has a different set of pull-overs and different locations and finally we just realized we were going to put them at the back of the movie (for good reason). Those were like ten drafts just trying to figure out how the pieces go.

Farva’s got an amazing Canadian counterpart in the film. How did that character come about?

Lemme:  He’s a funny character. Originally it was just a mention of that character. Then at some point we were like, we should see this guy.

Heffernan: Lonnie Laloush.

Soter: As we have come to find over the years, when we talk to people who love the first one, everyone is like, “I’ve got a Farva in my life.” We thought to make it just a little throwaway that of course in Canada they’re going to have one, too. We found ourselves too intrigued and were like, I gotta know what this guy looks like and what this guy sounds like and then you (motions to Kevin Heffernan) had met Paul Walter Hauser as he started to take off.  

Heffernan: Yeah. He’s the bodyguard in I, Tonya, Sean Eckhardt. It was fun. He was a young comic and had some credits and I had done an improv show with him and after it was done I said to these guys that I had found the guy who is going to be Canadian Farva. The guy is fucking great. So we sent him in to our casting director and he did the read for it and he got the part. The same casting director was casting I, Tonya and they needed this character. Because he did Super Troopers 2, they called him in and he got that part. We felt great that we helped get him along into bigger and better things.

Lemme: Also from his audition tape, we were like this guy is so fucking funny, we need to see a little more of him. So we decided that they should run into each other. And that was the evolution from a name on a page, to a scene, to a second scene.

Soter: That was the fun thing about bringing in guys. Everybody wanted to make those contributions, so the exchange between Lonnie Laloush and Farva was quick, but in those ten takes he had a different line and had prepped a different read and we got into the editing room and EVERYTHING was gold. How do you choose one of these ten things? He didn’t prep us, so we were trying not to laugh and he just kept pulling this shit out of his pocket, each thing funnier than the last.

Is there a reason you didn’t focus too much on what the main characters had been up to for the last fifteen years?

Heffernan: Yeah, we just didn’t want to get bogged down narratively. The whole idea was just to get to the laughs. I think we just kind of made a joke about it essentially in the opening scene, this idea that we got fired and went on America’s Got Talent and all of a sudden became a band and it kind of went from there. We talked about that a lot and there was so much time that we didn’t even know if the movie was going to get made, so that we kind of made a conscious effort to gloss over that and get us back where people want to see us, in these uniforms, and go from there.

Soter: For a long time we felt that we needed to establish exactly how many years had passed, exactly what we’d been doing, and went around and around and around because it was like,  if we talk about it in real time is that exposing how much longer it’s been? Then if we pick it up right after the first one left off, are we gonna look old and stupid, trying to be young again? At the end of the day I think… do we need to get hung up on it? Does the audience necessarily need to get hung up on the nitty gritty? Let’s just start and make it funny and let’s get everybody along for the ride.

How tough is it to craft an R-rated comedy now compared to when the first film came out? People have become a lot more sensitive, is there ever a concern that you’re going too far?

Heffernan: I think we just use the same bar that we’ve always used and that’s, does it make the other guys laugh? If you can make the other four guys laugh then you’ll probably get it in the movie. We didn’t get too caught up in, I don’t think we did, crossing any boundaries. The funny thing is, when we shot a couple years ago, there was a Stephen Hawking joke in there and now that he’s recently died we look like assholes. But we wrote it and shot it a couple years ago.

Lemme: We wrote… Well really, Rob Lowe came in with the Halifax explosion riff. That was all his idea and his riff. We showed this thing in Toronto on the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion. That came up and some of them gasped and we were like, “I guess, fuck it.”

Soter: Certainly there were times where we discussed that we might need some sensitivity to, “What are cops doing to innocent people?” So even something that’s a pull-over, we’d definitely talk about it. We tried to make some call-outs, like when the little kids (in the film) are on drugs or you have them on leashes… This is the kind of thing that could go viral. (We) tried to stay away from anything cruel or unwarranted.

Heffernan: I think our philosophy, in general, is to create a world where you’re likable guys and then people want to hang out with you in that world. So, it’s never like we go into it being mean or controversial or that kind of stuff.

I recently read a tweet in which Patton Oswalt referred to Ted Nugent as a beta and the first response I saw was someone saying it was sexist to refer to him as a beta. It just seems like frequently people are looking for new ways to be offended. It just seems like it could be tougher to make an R-rated comedy now with people finding ways to be offended constantly.

Heffernan: I guess we’ll find out that Monday after opening weekend if we crossed the line. I don’t know.

With this being in development for so long and with so many different storylines, why did you settle on this specific one?

Heffernan: It kind of mutated for a while. When we first came up with the idea, it was kind of a post-9/11 border reassessment type of thing. Then, it kind of shifted over the years to become more of a border war, kind of in the vein of how topical it is to maintain our borders. We were just able to shift it with the times a little bit. Things kind of mutated as time went on. You’d take things out thatn didn’t fit.

Stolhanske: But that main plotline was always involved.

Soter: You do wanna straddle that line on a sequel of familiarity to the first film with some kind of new landscape. It’s like Bad News Bears go to Japan. We’