The story of SUPER TROOPERS begins with the story of Broken Lizard, the five-man writing, acting comedy group that made it all happen. Accounts differ on Broken Lizard's origins. Erik Stolhanske insists, "We all started as freedom fighters in Sierra Leone and just saw a lot of tragedy. " To ease the tension of all that freedom fighting, Stolhanske said the five decided to form a comedy group. "It's a lot easier than freedom fighting. "
Jay Chandrasekhar, director of SUPER TROOPERS and founding member of Broken Lizard, remembers it differently. He says the group first came together as college students at Colgate University (nowhere near Sierra Leone). Chandrasekhar, who showed reluctance at first, became the group's leader because he had experience doing stand up and some improv during a semester spent in Chicago with the Second City spin-off group. Once he agreed to the task, Chandrasekhar laughingly recounts, "I called up a bunch of people who I thought were really funny. Could they write? Who the hell knew? Could we write? Who the hell knew?"
The original group - then named Charred Goosebeak - consisted of Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan. In their initial semester performing together, the group became a big campus hit, which then drew the attention of the remaining two members, Paul Soter and Stolhanske. The group later changed their name to Broken Lizard.
The Lizards' concept for SUPER TROOPERS evolved out of long hours spent on road trips. One such road trip was to a wedding in Vermont, close to the Canadian border. Chandrasekhar remembers, "When we drive around in a car a lot, it's just charged in there. Everyone's trying to one up the other one. .. And you pass a lot of cops. We started to riff on different ideas and eventually someone said, 'Hey, we should do a movie where we're highway patrol. '" Soter continues, "Man, there's so much weird, goofy stuff you see when you're on the road. .. If this was your job it would be kind of weird, kind of funny if you had all sorts of strange things that you dealt with. " Speaking of weird things on the road, Lemme adds, "We were just driving all around the country together and at some point, somebody said, 'Could you imagine what it would be like if you saw somebody f**king a bear by the side of the road?'". .. . and a storyline began to form.
In developing SUPER TROOPERS, the group turned to favorite films like ANIMAL HOUSE, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, CADDYSHACK, THE BLUES BROTHERS, CANNON BALL RUN the Monty Python and National Lampoon films and "Saturday Night Live. " Stolhanske says, "We always loved high-action, '70s chase scenes, so we thought it would be great to make a comedy that involved driving fast cars, chasing women and abusing authority. "
As they did with their first feature film, PUDDLE CRUISER, and other skits and sketches that they have created, the Lizards started throwing ideas into the mix. Heffernan describes, "Over the years, we've gotten our writing technique down to a pretty well-oiled machine. " Stolhanske seconds, "a lot of the stuff just comes up organically because we hang out, we're great friends, we've all lived together. " Lemme continues, "We have various states of mind for our riffing sessions. .. Somebody will say something funny and then another joke gets piled on top of that and so on. Since we're such good friends, we spend all of our non-work time hanging out with each other. A lot of it comes from that. "
Chandresekhar said that each member of the group has his own best quality. "Lemme is a genius at the really dirty stuff. Heffernan is amazing at structure. Soter is great with really peculiar off the wall jokes. When we need that really great line, Erik comes up with it. " The group is diplomatic, Lemme says, when there is disagreement about what is or is not funny. "If you are really being hardheaded about something, we'll say, 'Fine. Perform it, do it, make us laugh. '" Ultimately, Heffernan estimates that more than 20 drafts of the SUPER TROOPERS script were written as more jokes were added. "We try to do one joke every six seconds," he says.
Chandrasekhar describes the SUPER TROOPER philosophy as, "There are any number of games we will play with a driver. Mostly we're exploiting our power over them in a benevolent way. We're not beating anyone, unless they offer resistance, in which case we may have to beat and throttle them, but always by the book. " Lemme adds, "It's anarchy in a police station. It's boredom in police. "
Stolhanske describes a typical SUPER TROOPERS bust, "You pull over somebody for drinking. You know there's a perfect opportunity to scare them into not drinking again. You have to get to the root - the psychological more than just the physical. So maybe you make everyone in the car have a Breathalyzer except the driver, knowing the anticipation is what's going to get them the most. "
Heffernan says that during the process of writing the script and speaking with police, the recurrent theme was rivalry between local and highway police. "It made a lot of sense in terms of conflict throughout the script. And then in the vein of some of the '70s movies like ANIMAL HOUSE, there always has to be the threat of a shutdown. " With a shutdown looming, Soter describes the Trooper attitude, "Well hell, if we're going to lose our jobs any day, let's see what we can get away with. " He continues, "These guys don't want to get shut down, but it's just so hard to not screw around when you do it as much as they do. "
And the local cops - described by Lemme as "a pack of hyenas" or, better yet, "jacked-up geisha girls" - don't make playing by the rules any easier. Soter adds that the local officers are "our bizarre equivalents. They're sort of not-quite-wired-right guys who are very much like us, but don't seem to get any of the subtlety of what we do. Whereas we try to be cheeky and fun, they're just mean and like to pick on people who are not particularly smart. "
When developing the characters, the script comes first, then the casting. Heffernan explains, "We do that so that everyone is writing for all the characters as opposed to, I know I'm Farva, I'm just going to write his jokes. " Once the scripting process begins though, each Lizard seems to be drawn to a particular character. Heffernan notes, "Everyone would read everyone else's parts and then you kind of get a feel for whose personality fits into each. So, I guess I'm a jerk in real life, so I'm Farva. "
Chandrasekhar plays the role of Arcot Ramathorn, aka "Thorny," the ringleader of the SUPER TROOPERS. (The name Arcot is actually Chandrasekhar's father's first name). His character - the "Indian Billy Dee Williams" - is supposed to exert a mature influence over his rookie partner Rabbit. He prefers, however, to teach him the finer points of patrol work. .. how to outwit the dumb wits. Rabbit, who is reminded constantly of his position on the Trooper food chain, is played by Stolhanske. Foster, played by Soter, is described as "a cop by default. " Stolhanske explains, "He puts a dummy in the car and goes off fishing. " Mac, played by Lemme, is characterized by Chandrasekhar as "the M80 of the group. Throw him into a situation and you know he's going to explode. " And then there's Farva. .. .Lemme describes Farva, who is played by Heffernan, as the shark. "When he eats, the membranes of his eyes go back in his head and he's completely without conscience as he tears into a piece of meat. You might find a license plate in his stomach were you to cut him open. "
The atmosphere on set could only be described as fun Soter says. "Five good friends playing five close friends. We have to our advantage when you turn on the camera that it really looks like this is what we do normally because it pretty much is what we do normally. Hang out, screw around, have fun. "
As the SUPER TROOPERS duked it out on screen with their local cop rivals, a similar battle was unfolding behind the scenes. A dispute arose between state and local forces over a shoot on a 7-mile stretch of highway. Whose jurisdiction did the highway fall under? Who should block the traffic? In the end, the highway cops won.
That same stretch of highway also taught Chandrasekhar the power of the uniform. .. "Shooting a movie when you're dressed as a cop is great," he jokes. "People are used to following orders from people who look like me. " Not only did this work well for him as a director, it helped to keep the production on schedule. Chandrasekhar had instructed the PAs to stop traffic during one particular shoot, but cars were blowing past them at 60 mph. Simple solution - he sent Heffernan, dressed as a cop. Chandrasekhar laughs, "It's impersonating a police officer, yes. "
Heffernan wasn't the only one who could be charged with impersonating a police officer. Lemme describes driving around "in the police car with a mustache and a uniform" and getting "respect on the highway. " And even though he promised he wouldn't, he couldn't help but flash the rollers at one woman who cut him off. Stolhanske actually got caught for using his rollers while driving 100 mph, but claims he didn't realize they were on.
The members of Broken Lizard were joined on screen by a cast of characters ranging from the Shakespearean-trained, Emmy Award®-winning actor Brian Cox, to the ever-so-stern Daniel VonBargen, to rising star Marisa Coughlan, to female superhero icon Wonder Woman aka Lynda Carter.
On casting Coughlan, Chandrasekhar said the group was looking for someone who would be believable as a cop. They weren't interested in hiring "a model who would sashay around in a cop suit. " He said they began pursuing Coughlan after seeing a scene in TEACHING MRS. TINGLE in which she imitates THE EXORCIST. "It was flat out genius and we said, 'done, we've got to get her. '" Soter, who plays the romantic lead opposite Coughlan blushes, "She's so likeable right off the bat. It was no problem to play a guy who's got a huge crush on her. "
Lemme describes the scene when Lynda Carter first walked on set, "Wonder Woman. .. those were very formative years for us. It was almost Pavlovian when she showed up. Everyone's ears started to get red and kind of flushed in the cheeks. It was a lot of 'Hello, Ms. Carter. I'm Steve. '"
As director of the film, Chandrasekhar is humble, "We're very much a collaboration. I can write a script and it's not going to be as funny if there's not a group of people working on it; this particular group of people. "
Once the film was made, Broken Lizard headed to the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Having been there the year before with PUDDLE CRUISER, which was not immediately picked up, they arrived with their expectations in check. As they had never seen the film with an audience of anyone other than friends and family, the group was thrilled by the reaction at their midnight screening. On day two, SUPER TROOPERS was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
ABOUT THE CAST
BROKEN LIZARD (Writers/Actors)
SUPER TROOPERS is the second feature-length film written by and starring five-man comedy group Broken Lizard. The group - which consists of Jay Chandrasekhar, who directed the film and plays Thorny; Paul Soter (Foster); Erik Stolhanske (Rabbit); Steve Lemme (Mac); and Kevin Heffernan (Farva) - has written and performed together for the past seven years, creating stage, film and television material.
The five originally joined forces as Charred Goosebeak while attending Colgate University and later enjoyed great success in New York City's comedy clubs with extended runs of sold-out shows. In the tradition of Monty Python, Broken Lizard wrote and performed their first film, THE TINFOIL MONKEY AGENDA, a 30-minute short, that achieved film festival acclaim for successfully integrating film narrative with sketch comedy. THE TINFOIL MONKEY AGENDA became a launching pad for the group's first feature film, PUDDLE CRUISER.
PUDDLE CRUISER screened at The Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, and the London Internation Film Festivals and was awarded Grand Prize for Best Film at the Hamptons Film Festival. Broken Lizard and their PUDDLE CRUISER college tour are the subject of the upcoming feature-length documentary, RODEO CLOWNS, currently in post-production.
Broken Lizard is currently in development with Fox Searchlight Pictures on their next feature, CLUB DREAD, which is slated to film in 2002.
BRIAN COX (Captain O'Hagan)
A prolific Scottish actor, Brian Cox's feature film credits include: THE MINUS MAN, FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME, RUSHMORE; THE CORRUPTER; THE BOXER; THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT; the Academy Award-winning BRAVEHEART; Academy Award nominee ROB ROY; HIDDEN AGENDA (Special Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival); as well as originating the celluloid Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann's cult classic MANHUNTER. His film, LIE (official
selection of the 2001 Sundance Film Festival), was released in September to
critical acclaim. He recently completed filming MORALITY PLAY with Willem
Dafoe, THE BOURNE IDENTITY with Matt Damon and THE ROOKIE with Dennis Quaid.
In 2001, Cox won the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a
Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his portrayal of Nazi
war criminal Hermann Goering in the TNT original film "Nuremberg," as well
as receiving SAG and Golden Globe Award nominations.
Cox has received Best Actor Olivier Awards for his performances in "Titus Andronicus" at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre and "Rat in the Skull" for the Royal Court in London and New York. He recently returned to the London stage to star in the world premiere of Conor McPherson's "Dublin Carol," which opened the new Royal Court Theatre. Recent New York theater credits include "Art" on Broadway and "St. Nicholas" at Off Broadway's Primary Stages (Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Actor; Drama Desk and Outer Critic's Circle nominations). Additional theatre credits include "St. Nicholas" at the Bush Theatre in London and the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles; "King Lear" and "Richard III" at the National Theatre in London, and "Skylight" at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
Cox recently made his television directorial debut for the hit HBO prison
drama "Oz. " He is the author of two books, "Salem to Moscow: An Actors
Odyssey" and "The Lear Diaries. "
DANIEL VON BARGEN (Chief Grady)
Daniel Von Bargen's feature film credits include SHAFT, directed by John Singleton; the Coen Brothers' OH, BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?; THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER, directed by Simon West; Scott Hicks' SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS; AMISTAD, directed by Steven Spielberg; Tony Scott-directed CRIMSON TIDE; Jonathan Demme's PHILADELPHIA; RISING SUN, directed by Phil Kaufman; and Paul Verhoeven's BASIC INSTINCT.
Von Bargen's television credits include recurring guest starring roles on "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Seinfeld" and guest roles on "The Practice," "Party of Five," "The X-Files," "Arliss - The Art of the Sports Superagent," "The Pretender," "Law & Order," "NYPD Blue" and "New York Undercover. " He has also appeared in numerous television movies including "Truman," "Citizen Cohn" and "Heat Wave. "
Von Bargen's stage credits include Broadway's "Mastergate" and Off-Broadway productions "The Treatment," "Angel of Death," "Beggars in the House of Plenty," "Macbeth" and "Missing Persons. "
MARISA COUGHLAN (Officer Ursula Hanson)
Marisa Coughlan's most recent role is opposite Christina Ricci in the Francis Ford Coppola-produced dark comedy, PUMPKIN, which is scheduled to release in July 2002 and will be in dramatic competition at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Previously, Coughlan starred as love interest to Tom Green in Twentieth Century Fox's feature comedy FREDDY GOT FINGERED. She recently wrapped production on the feature NEW SUIT, in which she plays a cutthroat Hollywood agent.
Coughlan was a relative newcomer when she starred in Kevin Williamson's directorial debut TEACHING MRS. TINGLE as Jo Lynn Jordan, a sexy, witty and energetic high school senior who is much less concerned with class ranking than she is with having a good time. Subsequently, she led the cast of Williamson's WASTELAND, in which she portrayed Dawnie, a charming, virginal and somewhat neurotic twenty-something who converges with five of her former college friends several years after graduation.
Coughlan also recently starred in GOSSIP for producer Joel Schumacher. She portrayed "Sheila" who sprinkles some comedic relief in the otherwise dramatic film about a college communications experiment gone awry.
LYNDA CARTER (Governor Jessman)
Lynda Carter's career in entertainment runs the gamut from acting in numerous popular television series and films, hosting award-winning television variety specials, live stage performances and television movie production.
Soon after winning the Miss World pageant in the 1970s, Carter was cast as the lead character in television's "Wonder Woman. " The show, which became a big hit, enjoyed a five-year run and still airs worldwide in syndication. In 1984, Carter starred opposite Loni Anderson in another well-received series, "Partners in Crime. "
Carter starred in the feature film LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE opposite Dee Wallace Stone, Martin Kove and Matt McCoy. She has also played the lead in many television movies including: "Born to be Sold," a story of unregulated chemical pollution in the U. S. ; "Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess," in which Carter was the title character; "Posing" and Danielle Steele's "Daddy. "
In the 1980s, Carter produced and starred in numerous television specials including the Emmy Award-winning "Lynda Carter Celebration," which was one of the highest rated specials of the year; "Lynda Carter: Body and Soul," which received two Emmy nominations; and "Lynda Carter: Street Life. " She also performed these shows live on a national tour.
Intent on developing compelling projects with strong female leads, Carter formed Lynda Carter Productions, which produced her award-winning specials as well as television dramas like "Stillwatch," based on a Mary Higgins Clark novel, "Born to be Sold" and "The Last Song," among others.
AMY DE LUCIA (Bobbi)
In addition to SUPER TROOPERS, Amy de Lucia's feature film credits include FEVER, a 1999 Cannes Film Festival official selection; SIXTEEN YEARS TO EARTH, winner of the 1998 Silver Hugo Award for Best Short Film at the Chicago International Film Festival; AUTUMN DREAMS and CELEBRITY.
De Lucia's television credits include "Sex and the City" and "One Life to Live. " She has performed in a wide variety of stage productions in New York and regional theater including: "How I Learned to Drive," "The Ball of Roses," "Cellophane," "Baby with the Bathwater," Tolstoy's "Redemption," "Venus at Lespugue," "Six Characters in Search of an Author" and "Richard III. "
JOHN BEDFORD LLOYD (Mayor Timber)
John Bedford Lloyd's feature film credits include the Penny Marshall-directed RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS; Oliver Stone's NIXON; FAIR GAME, directed by Andy Sipes; Tim Metcalf's KILLER; the Jonathan Demme-directed PHILADELPHIA; DIARY OF A HIT MAN, directed by Roy London; PRIMARY MOTIVE, directed by Dan Adams; Chris Monger's WAITING FOR THE LIGHT; James Cameron's THE ABYSS; CROSSING DELANCEY directed by Joan Micklin Silver, SWEET LORRAINE directed by Steve Gomer and Norman Mailer's TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE.
For television, Bedford Lloyd has guest starred on "Deadline," "Spin City (2000 Season Finale), "West Wing," "Now and Again," "Law and Order" and "Noah Dearborn. " Additionally, he was a series regular on "Remember Wenn" and "Kiss and Tell" and has starred in several movies of the week including "Aliens in the Family" and "Flying Colors. "
Bedford Lloyd's theater experience includes "The Winter's Tale," "The Rainmaker," "Good Will," "Rum and Coke," "Richard II," "Flaubert's Latest," "The Incredibly Famous Willy Rivers," "Vieux Carre," "The Jungle of Cities," "As You Like It" and "Love's Labour Lost. "
JIM GAFFIGAN (Larry Johnson)
In addition to SUPER TROOPERS, Jim Gaffigan's feature film credits include: FINAL, THREE KINGS, ROAD TRIP, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, ENDSVILLE, PERSONALS, NO SLEEP 'TILL MADISON, ENTROPY and 2001 Sundance official selection THIRTY YEARS TO LIFE.
Gaffigan began his entertainment career as a stand-up comedian appearing an unprecedented five times on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and also making multiple appearances on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "The Late Show with Craig Kilborn" and Comedy Central's "Dr. Katz. " As a result of his first appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman," Jim developed and starred in Worldwide Pants' sitcom "Welcome to New York," which debuted to critical acclaim and included a cast of Christine Baranski, Rocky Carroll and Sara Gilbert.
Gaffigan is a series regular, along with Cloris Leachman, Martin Mull and Ellen DeGeneres, on CBS' "The Ellen Show," which was nominated for two People's Choice Awards. Previously, he was a cast member on VH1 sketch show "Random Play" and played parts on "Sex and The City," "Law & Order," "Third Watch," "Lateline," "Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit," "Soul Man" and "Conrad Bloom. "
Gaffigan starred in his own half hour special on Comedy Central entitled "Comedy Central Presents: Jim Gaffigan" and has performed at both the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and the Just For Laughs International Comedy Festival in Montreal.
The star of numerous commercial campaigns including those for Fleet Bank, ESPN, Saturn and Rolling Rock, Gaffigan was named "Salesman of the Year" in 1999 by "Business Week. "
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
JAY CHANDRASEKHAR (Director/Writer/Actor)
Named one of Variety's 10 Directors to Watch in 2001, Jay Chandrasekhar is an accomplished filmmaker, comedy writer and performer, and serves as the director of the Broken Lizard Comedy Group.
SUPER TROOPERS marks the second feature film directed by Chandrasekhar, who also plays the role of Thorny. The day after being featured at a midnight screening at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, SUPER TROOPERS was picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Chandrasekhar's directorial feature film debut, PUDDLE CRUISER, was the winner of the Hamptons International Film Festival Grand Prize for Best Film and screened at the Sundance, London International and South by Southwest film festivals.
Following PUDDLE CRUISER, Chandrasekhar directed "Safety School" a primetime pilot for NBC Television created by Broken Lizard. In addition to his Broken Lizard work, Chandrasekhar recently directed three episodes of Fox's critically acclaimed new primetime hit, "Undeclared. " He has also directed several commercials for both Coca-Cola and Nike.
Chandrasekhar has also edited several independent feature films. In addition to completing the New York University - Tisch School six-week intensive Film Production program, Chandrasekhar has studied at the IMPROV OLYMPIC with Del Close, founder of THE SECOND CITY.
RICHARD PERELLO (Producer)
Richard Perello, founder of Cataland Films, produces a variety of independent feature films and projects for network television.
SUPER TROOPERS was the second feature film Perello produced with comedy group Broken Lizard. The first feature with the group was PUDDLE CRUISER, which was the recipient of the Grand Prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival, and was an official selection at Sundance, London International, South By Southwest and Berlin International film festivals. PUDDLE CRUISER recently aired on the Sundance Channel.
Another recent project Perello produced was WAY OFF BROADWAY, Dan Kay's feature debut, which premiered at the 2001 Method Fest and won the audience award at the Stonybrook Film Festival.
Current Perello-produced projects include: RODEO CLOWNS, a feature documentary now in post production, which explores the state of independent film; Brian Lynch's BIG HELIUM DOG, now in post production, which is executive produced by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier (CLERKS, DOGMA, CHASING AMY); and HIDE, Sooz Hewitt's critically acclaimed independent feature, which is now in limited release.
Perello also produced "Safety School," a prime-time pilot for NBC Television, and has produced episodes of "Blues Clues," "Saturday Night Live" and many more.
PETER E. LENGYEL (Executive Producer)
SUPER TROOPERS is the first feature film Peter E. Lengyel has executive produced. A retired investment banker, Lengyel first learned of Broken Lizard and their burgeoning film through his daughter, who was a classmate of the Lizards at Colgate University. Lengyel is currently working on writing and producing two feature films, one of which he is co-writing with Broken Lizard member Kevin Heffernan.
JOAQUIN BACA-ASAY (Director of Photography)
Joaquin Baca-Asay has been a cinematographer since his graduation from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1991. While at NYU, he photographed the Academy Award-winning short film THE LADY IN WAITING for Christian Taylor. For his work on that film, Baca-Asay was awarded Best Cinematographer at the NYU Film Festival.
In addition to SUPER TROOPERS, Baca-Asay's credits include photography for: SHOWBOY, directed by Christian Taylor and Lindy Heymann and executive produced by Alan Ball; THE TWO NINAS starring Amanda Peet; and COMING SOON starring Mia Farrow.
Commercial director and filmmaker Mike Mills selected Baca-Asay to photograph commercials for Nike, Adidas, Mastercard and Citibank and to shoot his short film, THE ARCHITECTURE OF REASSURANCE, which screened at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and as part of the Museum of Modern Art's New Directors / New Films Series. Baca-Asay is also cinematographer on Mills' upcoming documentary PAPERBOY.