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Don’t Blame Canada: Broken Lizard Explain Why They Wrote 35 Drafts for Super Troopers 2

on April 18, 2018, 12:00pm

Photography by Heather Kaplan

With Super Troopers 2, the guys in Broken Lizard hope to achieve among the rarest of cinematic feats: making a comedy sequel worth seeing.

Seventeen years after the prank-happy patrolmen made their debut, Officer Farva and crew are back. Despite the success of the first Super Troopers and a cult fan base that only grew with the subsequent releases of Club Dread in 2004 and Beerfest in 2006, the Broken Lizard squad found themselves turning to the public for help to raise funds for their latest endeavor.

The group’s Indiegogo campaign was a record-breaking success, ultimately raising $4.6 million. Now, fans will finally reap the rewards of their generosity with a new Super Troopers that features bloodthirsty bears, the consumption of unlabeled narcotics, and hot officer-on-officer action. Master curmudgeon Brian Cox is back while the forever-handsome Rob Lowe (as the mayour) and MadTV alum Will Sasso (as one of three disgruntled Canadian Mounties) join the cast for a story that finds the onetime Vermont State Troopers tasked with overseeing a seemingly sleepy Canadian town now inexplicably under US jurisdiction.

Sitting down to chat about Super Troopers 2 with Broken Lizard members Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, and Steve Lemme is like being granted a temporary pass into their world of inside jokes, gleeful insults, and easy banter. The five core members of Broken Lizard have been together since their fraternity days at Colegate University, and their familiarity with one another is a joy to behold.

It also explains why they’re willing to let themselves be doused with powdered sugar while fully nude on camera, do more takes than necessary for difficult scenes when director Chandrasekhar demands it, and ultimately deliver a film as irreverent as its predecessor. Over the course of an early morning conversation in San Francisco, following a backer’s sneak preview the night before, three of Broken Lizard’s five members touched on their favorite moments from set, the origins of an ongoing macho contest, and writing checks to Danny DeVito.

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On Writing 35 Drafts of Super Troopers 2

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Heffernan: I think just because the movie took so long to happen that we just kept writing drafts. I think the first draft was probably six or seven years ago, and then every time we got life again, we’d do another series of drafts and put new jokes in. We like to try and layer as many jokes as we can, but it’s also just a function of how long it took to get the movie made.

Lemme: It was the same for the first Super Troopers. It was five years between our first film, Puddle Cruiser, and Super Troopers getting completed. Even if you have one draft and get three new jokes or five new jokes, that’s still three or five new jokes in the movie.

Heffernan: It is a testament to how many times it was jump-started. Even with the first movie, there were so many times where we thought we were going to make it, and then the financing fell through.

Chandrasekhar: Also each time you write a new draft, you’re like, “Thank God we wrote this draft, because the movie wasn’t actually good until we wrote this draft.” You feel that every time, like, “Now we have a good movie!”

Heffernan: And then you write another five drafts.

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On Researching Canada for Super Troopers 2

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Lemme: [Laughing] Yeah. We did a lot of recon.

Chandrasekhar: I’ve shot a lot in Canada. I’ve shot a lot of television in Vancouver and in Montreal.

Heffernan: We’ve done a lot of stand-up shows there. We go there a lot.

Lemme: Also, the original idea came from back when we made our first movie. We went up to a buddy’s house and he lived right on the border of Vermont and Canada, and we spent some time there. That’s where the very first little cracklings of an idea about this area of the country came together. It’s absurd: you can cross over the border — you’re literally five minutes away from the United States — and there are these French-speaking people who will not speak English to you. They’re business owners, and you’ll say, “Can I get some Poutine?” They’ll go [in a French accent], “I do not speak English.” I’m like, “You’re such a dick.”

Chandrasekhar: You don’t even know what the French is for “I don’t speak English?”

Lemme: Je ne parle pas anglais.

Heffernan: I think one of our intentions, though — because we cast a lot of Canadians in the movie — was to have it be a give and take. The Canadians give the Americans as much shit as the Americans give the Canadians in this movie.

Lemme: We are the ugly Americans in this movie. We’re driving over the border and we’re just disparaging the Canadians, but that works because it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass. It’s like Red Dawn. We’re an occupying force coming in and taking your land.

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On Farva and Mac passionately kissing

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Heffernan: There was a huge buildup to that day. It was one of those things where you write an idea, and then all of a sudden you realize you have to accomplish it. You realize you have to suck face with Steve Lemme.

Lemme: That’s the thing. You get the shooting schedule, and it’s like a 30-page packet. It’s the breakdown of each day. The first thing you do is [mimes looking at a schedule] … “Alright, let me just find when this one’s going down.” You circle it and you’re like, “Ok, it’s three weeks in. I have to look at this guy for three weeks knowing that one day I’m going to kiss that mustache.”

Heffernan: Not even that — put your whole mouth on my mustache.

Lemme: You can see it in the bloopers. We’re not even pussyfooting around it. He’s like [points to Chandrasekhar]: “We need those cheeks to puff out.” So now we’re talking about a number of takes, and then that day it started raining. That’s when the lines get blurred.

Heffernan: Stuff got tender.

Chandrasekhar: As they know, I’m going to do way more takes than I need. They know that going in.

Lemme: Empirically, we know that. In Beerfest, I did a strikeout, which is a bong hit, and then you do a shot, chug a beer, and blow the smoke out. I wanted to do it for real, you know, because it was going to be on film.

Heffernan: And you’re a method actor.

Lemme: It was method, right. De Niro would do it, so I’m going to do it, right? So the take we use in the movie is actually the first take, but these guys made me do it like five times, and I was pretty fucked up.

Chandrasekhar: If you’re going to say you want to do it for real, you know we’re going to have to do more takes than we need.

Heffernan: Then we wrapped that day and everyone was like, “Where’s Lemme?” We found him wandering around in the parking lot.

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How an Argument About Danny DeVito Made It into the Film

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Chandrasekhar: What really happened is Danny DeVito was one of the executive producers of the first film. Basically, his name was put on it. Jersey Films was the producer, and there are three producers in Jersey Films. Danny DeVito is one of them. So I ran into Danny DeVito. I met him for the first time at a Director’s Guild dinner. I went up to him, because I write him checks. I write him checks all the time, and he should know who we are.

I went up to him and said, “Hey, Danny. I’m Jay Chandrasekhar. I directed Super Troopers.” He goes, “I’m involved in that movie!” I said, “I write you checks.” He goes, “I cash those checks.” That was two or three years ago. So I told everybody that story, and we started riffing on the idea that with the Mounties, one of them might not know who Danny DeVito was. We’re joking, we’re laughing, and then we put it in the movie. It’s an example of what our process is. We’re just hanging out all the time and we have all of these personal jokes, and once we get a good one, we try to figure out a way to make it work for our film.

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On Working with Brian Cox

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Chandrasekhar: Brian Cox comes in and he perceives the way we insult each other as the way to behave. So he comes in firing away. He’s just insulting me the whole time, and probably these guys, too. I know when I interact with Brian, that he’s cracking jokes at my expensive.

Lemme: When you’re not around, though, he’s just badmouthing you the whole time. I don’t think he understands that we’re all friends from college, so when he’s talking shit about you, that I’m like, “I’m going to tell him.”

Chandrasekhar: To some degree, in a classroom, it’s always the kids against the teacher. On a movie set, it’s often the actors against the director. Brian embraces that wholeheartedly.

Lemme: It’s funny, though. He is totally game when he comes in. On day one, he’s game for everything. Then, after spending a couple of days with us, you can see it begin to wear off. His enthusiasm begins to wear off because we’re putting him through the ringer. His body starts to rebel. He popped a blood vessel in his eye. He was generally crusty.

Heffernan: But when it’s all said and done, he’s so happy about it.

Chandrasekhar: When the movie comes out, it’s a little bittersweet for him, because he gets approached more for our movie than for his very fine artistic work.

Lemme: He’s the best actor in the world.

Hefferan: Way better than any of us!

Lemme: Combined.

Chandrasekhar: He and Rob Lowe are better than we are.

Lemme: Truthfully, everybody we ever bring in — all the outsiders — they’re all better than us, but that’s because they are people who rose the organic way. They are capable of beating everybody else out in auditions, and they get a lot of work because they’re so good.

Chandrasekhar: Right. We just write our own scripts and cast ourselves, and then we’re like, “We’re in this movie!”

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On What Mac Sees After Taking Confiscated LSD

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Lemme: The funny thing is that the thing that I do see when I look over at all of these guys and they’re not police officers is something that we had been talking about for years.

Heffernan: That may have been in the first draft of the script.

Lemme: It may have been.

Chandrasekhar: We always wanted to dress up.

Lemme: We had always wanted to use those particular costumes. That was another date that we had circled on the shooting schedule

Chandrasekhar: That joke has been in a number of different movie scripts, but never made it. We finally were able to figure out how to do it.

Lemme: Although it was devastating for me, because in the scene it’s my POV. I remember on that day, these guys were all in that makeup, and I was sad that I wasn’t in it. They told me not to worry about it, and then we took the group photo with of all of us.

Heffernan: He was Plain Jane over there.

Lemme: They’re like, “Steve, can you step out for one second?”

Heffernan: That was Brian Cox’s favorite day. I swear to God.

Lemme: It was the only time his family came to watch him during the shoot.

Heffernan: His family came and he was so happy and excited. People will see what we mean.

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On the Macho Contest Between Chandrasekhar and Erik Stolhanske

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Chandrasekhar: [Fellow Broken Lizard member] Erik Stolhanske is from Minneapolis. So when I was 19, we were all in a fraternity together. I was going to build sets for the day on a Saturday morning. As I’m going out to build the sets, our rush chairman is like, “Hey, there’s this guy Erik Stolhanske. He’s from Minnesota. He’s pretty cool.  Get to know him.” I’m like, “I’m not going to get to know him. I’m not going to rush him. I’m not going to do anything like that.”

I get there and I’m building sets, and Erik Stolhanske walks up to me because he knows I’m in this fraternity that he wants to get into. He goes, “Hey, I’m Erik. I’m from Minneapolis.” I’m like, “Ok, sit down. I’m Jay. I’m from Chicago.” We quickly started making fun of each other for who had a tougher city: Chicago or Minneapolis. We’re going at it, and he’s talking about Prince and I’m talking about the blues. I’m talking about the Bears and he’s talking about the Vikings. He’s like, “Oh yeah? You’re such a tough guy?” We’re hammering, right? He takes the hammer, and he goes, “Can you do this?” and he pops himself on the ankle really hard.

He goes, “AHHHHH,” and he’s rolling around. I’m like, “What the hell is this about?” But I’m not going to be showed up by this little Minneapolis punk, so I take the hammer and pop! I hit myself. Not as hard. He’s like, “Ok, you want to do this? Let’s do this.” He runs at the wall very fast and kicks it as hard as he possibly can and falls over. I’m like, “What the fuck is going on?” So I do the same thing — again, not as hard. Then he picks up a power staple gun and puts it on his calf, and he blows a staple into his calf and falls over.

He’s rolling around screaming. I go and I look at it, and you can see that it’s into the flesh of his leg. I’m like, “Oh, my god.” I decide I’m going to cheat a little and do it in my thigh. I’m pressing it against my thigh. I ask him if it hurts, and he goes, “It’s pretty bad!” I’m pressing it there, and he then finally goes, “No, no, no, I have a fake leg!”

I thought, “This guy is getting into the fraternity.”

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Hefferan: And he does. He has a prosthetic leg. He’s played a lot of pranks on people.

Chandrasekhar: That was the beginning of our macho contest, which continues to this day.

Lemme: Stolhanske loved that leg bit. At our fraternity house, a guy came and saw him. Stolhanske had a towel around his waist, so only his foot was showing, and it was just slightly off-color. The guy was like, “Is something wrong with your foot?” Stolhanske just turned and barefoot kicked a porcelain wall and this dude — he was one of the more sensitive guys in our frat, was in the men’s singing group — he just vomited.

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