Philippe Brenninkmeyer talks about working with Broken Lizard

Philippe Brenninkmeyer is best known for his work with Broken Lizard on their films like “Super Trooers” and “Beerfest”. He has also worked with the guys indivdually on projects like “I Heart Shakey” with Steve Lemme, “Dark Circles” with Paul Soter” and “The Babymakers” with Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Philippe about his films and his love for comedy.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you met up with the troupe Broken Lizard?
Philippe Brenninkmeyer: It happened quite simply. I went out for an audition for the part in “Super Troopers”. When I went in they were all there in the room. Normally you audition for just a director and casting director. There were five of them there, so it was pretty fun. After my audition, I was pretty upset because I didn’t think I did a good job. I didn’t feel that I was that present. Then a few months later they called my agent and said I got the job. I had already forgotten about it. So that’s the way it happened.

MG: Your role in “Super Troopers” is so great; can you reflect on that experience?
PB: The great thing about the Broken Lizard guys is that they do all their own writing. They are really good comedy/script writers. They stick close to the script, even though they may improvise here and there. The scenes were so well-written you didn’t need to do much to deliver the lines. So, the first scene – the famous scene – with the feather and all, they were doing car chase scenes all day, which took a very long time. Just before the light was going down, I was waiting and waiting all day – then they came about and shot it very quickly. The light was very low but you can do a lot with film to fix it up. But from what I remember it was a very quick shot.

MG: With “Super Troopers 2” in the works, did they give you any hint about being involved?
PB: No they haven’t yet. They are such wonderful and loyal guys. They are really professional in the sense that they don’t want to promise anything that might not happen at the end of the day. So far they have taken care of me very much in their films. They wait until they have the greenlight and then give you a call…hopefully.

MG: “I Heart Shakey” was a cute film, how was it playing Mattias Ober?
PB: The characters that they cast me in aren’t too much of a stretch for me. It comes to me easily. They are close to me in real-life. I am kind of that crazy guy. I would say the character in “Super Troopers” was a bit more difficult, but he was still a laid back German swinger. Mr. Ober in “I Heart Shakey” was the kind of character that I relish in. It was great, great fun. Lemme was amazing in this film. It was great playing off him, since he is so subtle and real. You only do something if it really affects him and that is when the truth comes out. The truth is the most believable thing to watch on film.

MG: I loved how that film included the song, “Bidibodi Bidibu”, which the same song you had playing in your Porsche in “Super Troopers”, was that your doing?
PB: What is really funny is that I wasn’t even aware of that. But that is really awesome, I love it.

MG: What do you enjoy most about doing comedy?
PB: In the drama based films, I feel like it is more difficult. The script would need to be really good. In a comedy if the script is good but there is dialogue issues, I have the means to make up for that. In comedy, I just have a comedic head. I can also detect straight away if something is wrong in comedy very easily. In drama, I can do the same but I usually need more time to figure it out. People say that comedy is so difficult but I find it comes natural for me, since it is just so much fun.

MG: Switches gears from comedy but sticking with Lizard, was it working with Paul Soter directing on “Dark Circles”?
PB: That was really great also. There is something about the horror genre that responds to me because it is so out of this world. A horror film is something that you think would never happen, so there is an element in there that is crazy. That is what really responds to inside of me. It is a bit out there like a comedy is out there. I like stuff that is sort of filtering on the edge. It was great fun working with Paul.

MG: What projects do you have planned next?
PB: I am trying to get into producing now. I’ve got two scripts going right now and one is with Paul, actually. Paul is an absolutely amazing writer. He has gotten to a point where he is pretty prolific. He is writing all sorts of projects, like dramas as well. This one is actually a drama/thriller. I work a lot in Germany, so I am trying to produce that there. So that is really it. Acting-wise, there is nothing right now but who knows…maybe tomorrow. You never know.

Kevin Heffernan talks about Broken Lizard, “Super Troopers 2” and “The Babymakers”

Kevin Heffernan is a member of the comedy group Broken Lizard.  He co-stars in the new film  “The Babymakers” along with fellow Broken Lizard member Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed.  Kevin is currently touring the stand-up comedy circuit with fellow Broken Lizard member Steve Lemme.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kevin about Broken Lizard, “Super Troopers 2″ and “The Babymakers”.

Mike Gencarelli: How was it working with Jay Chandrasekhar solo compared to a Broken Lizard production?
Kevin Heffernan: He is a total dick…no he’s good. It was great. It was a project we put together a while back. It was closed and then fell apart and then closed then fell apart. So it was great to finally do it. It wasn’t that different from shooting a Broken Lizard film. We used a lot of the same crew and it is sort of like family. I’ve worked with Jay a lot so it was really smooth. Smooth sailing.

MG: Tell us what you enjoyed most about playing Wade?
KH: It is kind of funny since that with some of the early reviews, it has been said that it is a bit of a departure from our Broken Lizard work and features more mature material. But the fact of the matter is that I got to play the “Broken Lizard” asshole character. So it was fun for me. I got to be a jerk and a dumb guy. It ended up not being too far away for us. We dealt with issues with having kids and stuff but I was still running around with my pants down.

MG: What was your favorite experience from “The Babymakers”?
KH: Jay and I haven’t worked on something together since “The Slamming Salmon”. So it was fun to get back into that. You kind of realize the more movies you do the more comfort you have. There is a lot of improv on this. We got to come up with a lot of funny stuff. The other nice thing was working with a guy like Paul Schneider. I didn’t know Paul before but he has a lot of indie film cred. He is a real actor [laughs]. Unlike us, you know. To spend time on a set with a guy who is that talented was different than hanging out with my college buddies.

MG: What do you like most about working in comedy genre?
KH: I think it is just the sensibility of it. Being on set is fun, the atmosphere is just very fun. It is the base instinct of trying to make people laugh. I guess I could do drama but I really don’t seek any of that stuff out. I just love doing comedy.

MG: After “The Slamming Salmon”, you plan to direct again?
KH: Yeah, I would love to do more directing. We got a lot of irons in the fire currently. We had a couple of movies that have come close in the last year and one of those I was going to direct for Broken Lizard. So I still want to do that. You just gotta ride the wave a little bit. We made this movie. Then Steve Lemme and I got the stand-up tour also, which we actually just shot for a special last month. So we are editing that together right now. I like doing multiple things, that way you don’t get bored but I hope to direct again soon.

MG: Tell us about your stand-up tour with Steve Lemme?
Steve told me you and him are working on a new Broken Lizard script, any details?
KH: We got a couple of things we were working on right now. One we really like where we (Broken Lizard) all play minor league umpires. So it is funny kind of “Bull Durham” movie…but with umpires [laughs]. That is kind of secondary though. The big push is really for “Super Troopers 2”. The hold up is just a negotiation with Fox right now. They own the first one and the rights to the second one. So its moving along just slowly.

MG: You guys also have a TV pilot in the works, any update?
KH: Steve and I actually just pitched a new idea to a few places including NBC. They seem to really be into a few of the new ideas we have, so I think we should have something moving forward soon hopefully.

Steve Lemme talks Broken Lizard, new film “I Heart Shakey” and comedy tour with Kevin Heffernan

Steve Lemme is known best for being a member of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard.  He has co-star in “Super Troopers”, “Beerfest” and “Club Dread”.  He is taking the lead role in the upcoming 3D family film “I Heart Shakey”.  Steve is also currently touring comedy clubs with Broken Lizard co-member Kevin Heffernan.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Steve about his new film and also his current comedy tour.

Mike Gencarelli: “I Heart Shakey” looks like sweet family film and a sharp right turn from your work with Broken Lizard, what did you enjoy most about it?
Steve Lemme: Actually, I can honestly say it was the best acting experience I have had. When we made the Broken Lizard films, it’s been an ensemble. Right off the bat, we got to the set and I got to rehearsals and realized I had 90 pages of disalogue to learn. Suddenly I had a much greater responsible because I was “the guy”. It then became aware to me that I would be acting with only a 9-year old girl and a dog. The conversation I had with the director was that I was going to have to be pillar of strength and experience here. In someway, I think I grew up a little bit. With the Broken Lizard movies, you always have to be improving and acting on your toes. I think you have to be more so with this film. You find yourself right in the middle of your lines and all of the sudden the dog pulls you off in a different direction. You have to put a greater amount of focus into this. It is also harder not to do comedy certain times. Overall it was just a great experience.

MG: As a new parent yourself, did that contribute to your playing J.T. O’Neil?
SL: The truth is we did the movie before my baby was born or my wife was pregnant. So some people have said that this experience gave me the desire to be a dad…and I wouldn’t deny it. The girl that play my daughter in the film, Riley, after a week or two I became very naturally protective of her. We were spending 14 hours a day together and we bonded. So the running joke is she made me want to be a dad.

MG: You’ve known director Kevin Cooper since college and collaborated with Broken Lizard, how was it reuniting?
SL: We met when he was in NYU film school and Broken Lizard has just started. I acted in his first two student films. He went to Hollywood then and worked for Michael Bay and Jim Cameron. He then moved back to Chicago and became a professor of film production at Columbia College. When we were kids we always talked about making our careers about working together and makings tons of movies together. We just bonded in that way. He called me up a few years ago and sent me the script for “Shakey” and asked me to play the lead. It is a kids movie and so far from the stuff I have done. Overall it was a great experience for me and also a challenge. It was a low-budget feature being shot in 3D and with a dog.

MG: How was it shooting your first film in 3D?
SL: I had mixed feeling about it honestly. In terms of the distribution of the film, since 3Dmovies are so popular right now. But what we are finding it is actually hindering our distribution. Then people are thinking to themselves it was going to cost much more to market and cost the audience more as well. You are then going to be competing with the Pixar movies for 3D screens and be bumped in a heartbeat. On a shoestring budget, shooting 3D is such a time constraint. You are really at the mercy of the 3D cameras.

MG: Was it exciting to work 80’s legends Steven Guttenberg and Beverly D’Angelo?
SL: Well I only got to work with Beverly for one day. In the film her character and my character don’t get along, she doesn’t like me. So I think she was a method actor…so in between takes she would just sort of glare at me [laughs]. So I didn’t enjoy my day with Beverly very much. But Guttenberg and I, we had a great time shooting together. We are both very immature guys. He was in “Police Academy” movies and I was in “Super Troopers”. We really had a blast working together.

MG: You also reunite in this film with Philippe Brenninkmeyer from “Super Troopers”; planned or not?
SL: They were looking for local German actor, who has a good sense of humor. I told them I knew a guy but they were going to have to bring him down from Los Angeles. He showed up on set and just nailed it. He is one of the best characters in the movie. Of course awesome to work with again.

MG: Tell us about your currently comedy tour with Kevin Heffernan?
SL: Broken Lizard started off as a stand-up comedy group. We wanted to do more of that with sketches and that culminated a few years ago with a Comedy Central special. Kevin and I decided afterwards that we liked it so much that we wanted to do more. The problem with the Broken Lizard tour is that we each only got like ten minutes of time. I felt I had a lot more to say and Kevin felt the same. Jay wanted to get back to directing TV. Paul was going off to direct a script he did. Eric was focusing on doing motivation speaking. Kevin and I decided to put together this show and have been touring for the last year and a half. We are going to shooting this show as well for a special during our stop in San Francisco. We are having a blast.

MG: What do you have planned next either solo or with Broken Lizard?
SL: Kevin and I have been writing a lot together. We just sold a show to NBC for us to act/write in. On the side, when the group is not together, Kevin and I have taken it up to write a new Broken Lizard script. Our agent is telling us we are going to hit every comedy club in the country. So after a year and a half, we still haven’t been to the same place twice. So we are just building our stand up reputation and really enjoying it.

Interview with Broken Lizard

Broken Lizard consists of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske. They have made the films “Super Troopers”, “Club Dread”, “Beerfest” and the recent “The Slammin’ Salmon”. With many projects planned for the future Broken Lizard is just getting started. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk to the group and discuss their movies and their plans for the future.

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Mike Gencarelli: You guys recently toured the country with a comedy show, was that fun?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It was incredibly fun. We started out performing on stage in New York. Back then we used to hand out fliers in the street to try and get people to come. It was exciting to show up in these 1200 seat theaters and see big crowds and their excitement. It was fun and we had a blast. Plus we got to hang out every night after the shows so it was great.

Mike Gencarelli: In case anyone missed the show was it taped for TV or DVD? Are you planning future tours?
Steve Lemme: We actually filmed something for Comedy Central. It airs this September and we are definitely planning future tours, now that we got a taste for it. We are ready to hit the road a lot.

Mike Gencarelli: Kevin, “The Slammin’ Salmon” was your directorial debut, how was it stepping behind the camera, as well as starring?
Kevin Heffernan: It was great. We kind of work as a family, we use the same crew a lot and same actors. It was a very comfortable situation. There were no curve balls or anything. It was a fun way to direct your first movie. With “Salmon” we filmed it independently without a distributor. Then you kind of scramble and get people to put it out there. Since it is on DVD now, I think now people will be able to see it, discover it and it will be great.

MG: After doing the studio film “Beerfest”, how was it returning back to indie roots with “Salmon”?
Kevin: It was great. It was fun going back to the way we did “Super Troopers”. We did that independently. It was a really fun experience. You took away layers of people giving you notes and stuff. We were able to do a lot of what we wanted to do.

MG: Paul, I know you directed 2007’s “Watching the Detectives”, how did you land that gig and any plans for you to direct more?
Paul Soter: Probably right after “Club Dread” came out, I started writing a script. It was a little indie script, to see if I could do one by myself. I thought from watching these guys it seemed like a fun thing. I wanted to see if I would be able to direct. I wrote it and sent it around. It took about a year of going around to production companies until we found a producer for it. We shot it right after we wrapped “Beerfest”. Yeah it was a great experience and it was a fun little indie. I am just going out with the next script I am going to direct. I am talking to producers in the next couple of weeks, so we will see what happens.

MG: Steve and Erik, how about you guys planning to direct anytime soon?
Steve: I am directing Erik in the “The Erik Stolhanske Story”
Kevin: I can play that part!
Erik Stolhanske: I am directing Steve in “The Erik Stolhanske Story” project, it will be a two part series.
Kevin: I play Steve.

MG: Here is the most important question though…Will it be in 3D?
Steve/Erik: (Simultaneously)…. 4-D

MG: Jay, you directed “The Dukes of Hazzard”, that was a high profile studio film, how did it differ from let’s say “Super Troopers”? Did you have creative control?
Jay: The film was PG-13, so we had to sort of keep within that box. We did do an R-Rated version for the DVD though. The good thing about “Dukes of Hazzard” was we had a garage running 24 hours. We would crash the cars during the day and then take them in and fix them in the night. The next day we take them out and crash them again. We had fifty cop cars from Batman and twenty five General Lee’s. We had an entire stunt crew shooting. We shot 50 days, they shot 25 days. It was substantially more action going on in the background. “Super Troopers” was a blast too. They have all been really fun to make. We really worked hard on the scripts and get them to a certain point when it is fun to go and execute those jokes.

MG: I got to ask, how much beer was actually filmed during the making of “Beerfest”?
Jay: A lot. There was a lot of real beer and then we couldn’t get enough work done. We switched to fake. We drank more real beer during the afternoons and more fake in the morning.

MG: Out of all the films you have made so far, what has been your favorite?
Jay: “Super Troopers”
Paul: “Club Dread”
Steve: “Beerfest”
Erik: “Puddle Cruiser”
Kevin: “The Slammin’ Salmon”

MG: Has there been one film that has been the most challenging out of all of those?
Kevin: I think different ones for different reasons. “Puddle Cruiser”, since we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. “Super Troopers”, since we made the movie on a small budget that had a bigger scope. “Beerfest” has been the largest scope, I think so far. They all have their own elements.

MG: How much improv is actually used on the set?
Steve: We like to start off with a strong script. We will do a few takes as scripted and now that the budgets have gotten a little bit bigger, we have more time to improvise. In the beginning we didn’t have the money to just burn film and free form it. I think we really started during “Beerfest”.

MG: You currently have numerous movies listed in development, what is actually getting made and what is just rumored?
Jay: We are writing “Super Troopers 2”. We are also writing a film called “Rogue Scholars”, which is at Universal. We are under contract to write a movie called “Pot Quest”, which is also at Universal.
Kevin: “Rogue Scholars” is kind of a twist on “Animal House”. It is a college comedy in which we play professors that are in a war with the students. It is a funny different twist.
Steve: We already mentioned our comedy tour on Comedy Central that airs in September but it will be on DVD also after it airs.

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