SXSW Interview: Kevin Hefferman and Jay Chandrasekhar
At the SXSW premiere of The Babymakers, Kevin Heffernan told the audience that he and director Jay Chandrasekhar had a room with one bed and needed to have a beer chugging contest to see who gets the bed. Heffernan won but offered to share the bed with Chandrasekhar. The film, which does not bear the Broken Lizard label, stars Olivia Munn and Paul Schneider as a couple who can’t conceive. Since the husband was a sperm donor in the past, he tries to reclaim his old sperm which was obviously acceptable for insemination. Sperm jokes run the gamut from donating samples (stimulated by a picture of cantaloupe), planning a sperm bank job, and Heffernan himself in a messy pratfall spill. We spoke with Heffernan and Chandreskhar the day after their SXSW premiere. Hopefully they’ll find distribution so everyone can enjoy the highbrow comedy. We also got a status update on the long awaited Super Troopers 2.
Crave Online: How did you sleep last night?
Kevin Hefferman: It was all right. It was not bad.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Well. Well.
Kevin Hefferman: I felt like I kept it in check last night.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Did you? I drank a little too much.
Did you end up sharing the bed?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We have separate rooms.
Kevin Hefferman: That was a lie. It was a lie.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Just a schtick.
Kevin Hefferman: It was an excuse to gratuitously drink beer.
Is Babymakers a Broken Lizard movie?
Kevin Hefferman: No.
Jay Chandrasekhar: No.
Kevin Hefferman: I think it was just the inception of where it came from. When I was working on Strange Wilderness, a guy gave me the script. I read it, gave it to him and it was like let’s try this out, see what we can do. We worked with those guys as the writers so it really wasn’t in that group where Broken Lizard broke the script. When you found the financing for it it was kind of separate from the group.
Jay Chandrasekhar: And also when you make a movie with five guys, putting five guys at the lead of a film is difficult. We could’ve put them in all the little parts, but a Broken Lizard film is really written by all of us, starring all of us and fairly equal sized parts. You have to really be policemen or firemen or spacemen or a basketball team. That’s the kind of movie we could make. You can’t really make a film about a guy and a girl starring Broken Lizard.
When you cast Olivia Munn, were you eating any kind of seafood at the time?
Jay Chandrasekhar: [Laughs] What?
I’m making a Brett Ratner joke.
Kevin Hefferman and Jay Chandrasekhar: Ohhhhh.
Jay Chandrasekhar: That wasn’t me, that wasn’t me. You know, we met Olivia Munn on “Attack of the Show” because we were interviewed by her and we became friends. Then when her co-host took a vacation I co-hosted with her for a couple times. She is an enormous Super Troopers fan and a really good actress, so we put her in The Slammin’ Salmon. She’s such a brilliant mind. She’s just a funny, funny person.
Kevin, on the golf course did you make your shirt lift over your tummy?
Kevin Hefferman: No, no. That was one of those things. I had probably just swung the golf club and my shirt lifted up and he kept putting that take in when he was editing that. I was like, “You should probably use maybe a different take.” Then he kept putting it in. Now last night it got a laugh.
Jay Chandrasekhar: It did!
Kevin Hefferman: So it’s not coming out now. It’s not coming out now.
Jay Chandrasekhar: I thought I replaced it with the take, I really did. I told Katz, our editor, I said, “He doesn’t want his belly showing.” And he goes, “Oh okay.” I thought we dealt with it and then you’re right. I saw it and was like, “Oh f***, we didn’t change it.” Then it got a laugh and I’m like there you go.
Is this humor sex jokes by men who love women?
Kevin Hefferman: [Laughs] Maybe.
Jay Chandrasekhar: I love women. I never understand when people say, “This guy hates women.” I don’t understand what that even means. Why would you hate women.
Do they say that about you?
Jay Chandrasekhar: No, they don’t say that about us but yeah, I think ultimately we wanted to make a film that you could go to on a date with your girlfriend. So that guys and girls would both have something they would like about it. There are certain jokes that absolutely turn women off and we make those privately.
Kevin Hefferman: No, no, we make them publicly. In the movie.
Jay Chandrasekhar: We make them publicly too sometimes. I don't know, it’s hard for us to answer that.
Well, it can become tiring to see movies about men complaining about women and women complaining about men.
Jay Chandrasekhar: There are some great men complaining about women and women complaining about men in movies but I suppose you’re right. I suppose it’s been done to death.
And gay humor that’s not homophobic but still funny. You haven’t taken the edge out.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, I think there’s that one scene in particular which I was somewhat concerned about. We had a real evolution on just tolerance of gay people. Society has transformed over the past 20 years. I don’t want to give it away but there’s a fairly provocative scene with a gay couple in this movie that I was worried, but I felt in my heart that we were in a good place because you don’t want to say you can’t make jokes about gay people because then they’re not even in the movies. You still want to keep everybody in the movie and have it be edgy but tolerant really.
Is this really how sperm banks store sperm?
Kevin Hefferman: All the research he did for sperm banks. That’s the comedy version of how they store sperm in sperm banks.
Jay Chandrasekhar: I think the beauty of it is most people don’t know a great deal about how sperm is dealt with. It’s a little bit of an unknown in society’s consciousness. We needed to have him swimming in sperm so we came up with this idea that there would be a room called Fresh Sample Storage. All the samples are just sort of put together. Who knows, I don’t even know how it’s done? One fresh room.
How did you choreograph your sperm room pratfall?
Kevin Hefferman: It was kind of funny. We did a reshoot for that scene because we had put together that heist part and we were feeling like we were missing that big moment. So we went back for one day to do a couple little shoots and that was one of the big things that we did, which is kind of funny because you have to pitch that to the money guys. “Here’s what we’re going to do.” It was not glamorous. There’s a bunch of sh*t they smeared on the floor and I flopped around in it. We were laughing our asses off as we were doing it, like what the f*ck, I hope this works out.
What was the stuff?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It was lotion and hair conditioner.
I wonder if that’s the same formula prop guys have been using since There’s Something About Mary.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Right, right.
Kevin Hefferman: Yeah, they know. “Get the sperm out!”
Jay Chandrasekhar: I mean, there’s no doubt that that was the first really great sperm joke ever done and we’re following up on the backs of that wonderful, wonderful joke.
Kevin Hefferman: But in volume, in high volume.
Jay Chandrasekhar: I think we have the highest volume sperm scene in American history.
Where did you find the cantaloupe picture?
Jay Chandrasekhar: You know, actually Johnny Knoxville read the script a while back because we’ve been friends from The Dukes of Hazzard so I had him read it to see what he thought for fun. He said, “You know it’d be funny if you got this really erotic fruit as the thing that the guy jerked off to” and that’s one of the things we kept from his comments.
So how did you get the photo?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We doctored it up.
Kevin Hefferman: You did a cantaloupe photo shoot?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, with some nice little nipples on it and we photographed it and were like, “Yeah.” That got a good response when you took another look at it and zipped down.
What are your release prospects from premiering at SXSW?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It’s hard to tell. Films sell more slowly these days. When people go to Sundance, a lot of times the films will sell over the next two weeks. If everything goes well, if we’re lucky, it’ll sell by Friday. You need the right people to see it who can write not big checks to buy the film, but to promote a film like this costs $10 to $20 million. So these are big decisions that someone has to make and you need to put them in a room with a crowd and they go, “Okay, I can sell this.”
You made a couple movies at Fox Searchlight and Warner Brothers. Have you not found a home base studio?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It’s not so much that. It’s more that in order to remain nimble and productive, we’ve come to this mentality that we should just keep shooting movies. It’s much easier to get two to five million bucks and that’s what we did this movie for. You can make a movie now more cheaply than you used to. If the right studio situation came along where they wanted to make these movies in, for them this would be like a $15 million movie, in the 15-20 range, we would do that but the studio has to be committed to wanting to make those kind of movies. They’ve got these big movies like John Carter and some of these huge effects films. The general moment right now is that those big $100 million movies are the best way for them to maximize their profit. What you don’t want to do is sit on a studio lot and not make movies.
Kevin Hefferman: Basically you have to throw a lot of sh*t at the wall and see what sticks.
Jay Chandrasekhar: And then they’re like “Nah” and then you’re sitting there. Let’s keep making movies.
Is that what happened at Warner Brothers?
Jay Chandrasekhar: No, we made two films at Warner Brothers. It was a fairly productive run and Warners is in the big movie business.
Kevin Hefferman: They’re very focused on the Harry Potters and the Batmans and Supermans.
Jay Chandrasekhar: And they’re an awesome studio, an awesome, cool, great place. But if the directive from the big boss is let’s make big movies, well, we don’t really want to make $100 million comedies. We want to make $15-20 million comedies. If someone wants to do that, we’ll do it. There’s no difference for us between studio or independent. It’s the same movie for us. We’re going to make it and you buy us, that’s what you get.
Kevin, you made your directorial debut with Slammin’ Salmon. Are you directing again?
Kevin Hefferman: Well, that was kind of a unique situation in that when that movie came together very quickly, he was obligated to other stuff so I just kind of stepped in and did it. The Babymaker project existed three years before we even shot Slammin’ Salmon, right? He was always attached to [direct]. I’d love to do it again. I had a great time.
How has Broken Lizard changed since Super Troopers?
Kevin Hefferman: We’re all old.
Jay Chandrasekhar: We’re more efficient. We used to spend a ton of time breaking stories and now we kind of get together and we know exactly how. It’s gotten a lot easier to write?
Are you still doing Super Troopers 2?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, there’s a contract issue with Fox that we’re trying to deal with and once we settle it…
Kevin Hefferman: But the script is written and we’ve given it to them so we’re ready to role once this stuff gets resolved.
Jay Chandrasekhar: We just have to resolve an issue.
Were you happy with your take on a Super Troopers 10 years later?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We have figured out a way that I think is true to the original. Obviously we’re walking on mined ground and we know that.
Kevin Hefferman: But we’ve done a bunch of other movies. I don't think it’s a crutch in some way. When we started writing the thing it was exciting to go back to those characters again. When you write a script, you start fresh and try to find the characters. This was the first time we had written something where we already knew who they were and you knew what comes out of their mouth. I think it was fun to revisit that.
Are they in a different place 10 years later?
Kevin Hefferman: They are in a different place for about three pages of the script and then boom, we want you right back into the world. So we all come together very quickly.
Is Brian Cox still in it?
Jay Chandrasekhar: If he’ll have us, yes. We would love it.