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Interview : Jay Chandrasekhar

A member of the comedy troupe, Broken Lizard, Jay Chandrasekhar loses his usual cohorts to go it alone in "The Dukes of Hazzard". But as he explains to ROBERT SANCHEZ, his old friends are never too far behind.

How many members of Broken Lizard actually had cameos in the film?
All of us. We’re all in it.

How long after you got the gig did you start planning on bringing the rest of the guys in?
Well, we had an original script that was really a little, I don’t know, a little soft, and so, Warner Brothers wanted the movie to feel like Super Troopers, so I said “Well, we have to bring those guys in it to rewrite it then” so we came in and rewrote every line of dialogue uncredited, but then as we were going, the guys were like “Hey, are we going to get a part in this damn thing or what?” so I said “maybe” You know, I mean I didn’t want to force anything, and hopefully, we were able to find a part for everybody.

What did you think of casting Jessica? Was that your idea?
Originally, no, it wasn’t my idea. I was reluctant to put a pop star in the movie, because I don’t really care how famous somebody is, but to me, if you look at her, you say “well, she fits into the”…the goal was to try to cast as many Southerners as possible in the film. She’s Southern, and she’s from Dallas, and she’s got that beautiful mane of hair. She had the look down in my mind, which is part of everything we do in making movies. You have to have that look. Then there was the question of whether she could act. We auditioned a lot of different actresses and then she came in and you could tell, because it was her first time, she was very shy. And her first audition was, frankly, okay, and they said “Please, can she come back?” and I said “Yeah, yeah…what the hell? We’ll bring her back.” And we did a screen test with her, and she walked out and she had the Daisy Dukes on, and I started to melt. Look, we put her on screen and I was watching the monitor and it was like “she’s glowing” and she’s got a certain natural charisma to her that is undeniable, and then the first three takes were small again and quiet. And I said, “You know, you’re going to have to smile a little” I know what you think is the right size, but you need to go 200% bigger. And she did it and the fourth take was great, the fifth take was better, the sixth take was even better, and then I said “Okay, I think we can probably do it then” So we started talking a little further about it and I felt comfortable that she was going to be able to pull off what we wrote. And that’s the whole thing. If she can’t carry it off, then the movie is..you can’t have anyone carry it off.

Was part of the appeal of the movie to try to do everything that they couldn’t do on the show either because of the budget or censors?
I don’t know. The bottom line is that this is the Dukes of Hazzard, filtered through me and Broken Lizard. Whoever did it, it was going to be filtered through them. I happened to have been a huge fan of the show. I watched every damn episode, sitting in my pit couch in suburban Chicago. I had a Daisy Duke poster on my wall. In the throes of puberty, I was going through a lot of lotion with that.

Where did you grow up?
Hinsdale (?) outside of Chicago.

Oh, fun times…how did you get into filmmaking?
I was an actor in high school and college and kinda knew that my only chance of really continuing to act was to become a director and cast myself. So far it seems to be working, so…

Where did you go to high school?
Lake Forest Academy.

What was your first break?
Well, we…I was living in New York City at the time and I’d become a film editor and I went to work for this lawyer, this guy John Schloss, who represented Richard LInklater and John Sayles and Kevin Smith and Ed Burns. I thought, you know, if those guys can get 40 grand together to make a movie, then I could do that, too, so we made a movie called Puddle Cruise and…John sold it, yeah.

When you said that Warner Brothers wanted a Super Troopers feel to it, what does that mean?
What it really means is..when we made Super Troopers, we wanted to make a movie that had a certain feeling like Smokey and the Bandit did. I mean, that’s really the movie that when I first saw it, I remember counting the swear words and I was just totally blown away by how exciting it was…with that flying car. Super Troopers was somewhat inspired by Smokey and the Bandit and then the Dukes of Hazzard TV show was dramatically inspired by Smokey and the Bandit, not only the stunt style, but Burt Reynolds’ name in the movie is Bo and Boss Hogg is Jackie Gleason and there’s a dog. Sally Fields has little short shorts on. There are a million corollaries. And then there’s that original movie Moonrunners, which is really two cousins running moonshine. There’s an Uncle Jesse, there’s a Waylon Jennings doing voiceover. I wanted this movie to feel like those movies, so to say it should feel like Super Troopers is a mistake. It should feel like Smokey and the Bandit.

What was your worst mishap with the cars?
Yeah, I mean Sean is a great great great driver and we sent him through driving school, and he can drive a car straight and 180 in it and put it in reverse and drive it. He can drive it in reverse, 180 it and go the other way. He did a thing where he comes screeching out of Cooter’s garage and slides up to camera and goes into slow motion. And then what happened was that the brakes went out. And he and Knoxville were in the car and the car swerved left and almost went into a ditch and he barely saved it and then it went right and almost went into a ditch and he barely saved it. And then, he was on a straightaway with the brakes out and there’s a roadblock and all these fans sitting in the roadway. And he’s about to mow them over. The funny thing was that when they came out of the garage, they were hootin’ and hollerin’ “wooooo!!” and then you hear Sean go (whispering) “The brakes are out” and it’s just dead quiet. And they’re like screeching road to road and no one’s saying a damn word and Knoxville is like (makes face) and then you hear them in the car like “what are we going to do?” and then Sean took the car from drive and just stuck it in reverse and it just screeeeeched to a halt. Yeah, we got a new brake team on after that.

I guess It stripped the gears.
Yeah, that car had to go back to the shop.

How many cars did you use total?
Well, we went down there with 30 and we came back with 7.

Billy mentioned that Warner Brothers is interested in the new Broken Lizard movie, the Greek Road…trepidations?
Yeah, I mean, unfortunately for us, Club Dread opened against the Passion of the Christ. Here’s the thing. People showed up at the movie theatre and there were church groups who were giving out free tickets to the Passion of the Christ. We all got slaughtered and it was unfortunate.

Greek Road?
Yeah, Kevin Hefferman who plays Shiev (?) in the movie, is playing Plato, who is a Freshman wrestling recruit at Athens University and he’s going to wrestle for them in the Olympics, but he’s failing his class, Basic Thought, and so they hire Socrates, who’s a senior, to tutor him, but Plato’s a little thick and he cheats and he passes. The two of them road trip to Mt. Olympus in a chariot so that he can wrestler there. Now, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades who are fans of wrestling, sort of make bets to whether they’ll make it or not and they get in the way.

Is it modern day?
No, no…it’s a hard R rated movie set in Ancient Greece.

Who else is in it?
Just us so far?

You said that Super Troopers was inspired by the Smokey films. Do you think Reno 911 was a straight take from Super Troopers.
You know, we wrote a… Super Troopers originally started as a TV show that we wrote for Fox, and..um..it was set in Reno and they made that show, they had the same producer on it… I don’t know, man. Look, we can sit around and complain about that shit. It’s unfortunately rampant in the comedy biz.

Have you seen Reno 911?
I’ve seen it and I thought it was funny. Here’s what I wish. I wish they hadn’t used the same outfit colors. Whatever. Whatever. We made a great movie. I hear their show is going well. What can you do?

Are you guys signed for a Dukes sequel?
Ah, nobody…nah, we’re all too superstitious for that. We hope it does well. I mean, shit, you never know.

What about Burt?
Yeah, love him. He’s the reason I made the movie. I went in there and said I’ll make the movie but we have to have Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg and Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse and then I’m in.

That was a Super Troopers ref when you walked up to the car…
Yeah, of course, it’s right out of the opening scene.

What’s your best Burt story?
Um, you know, he tells the greatest show biz stories ever. I have two Burt Reynolds stories. One is that he tells these stories and that he starts at full volume, and you always see four or five people around him, and they’re always about Frank Sinatra or the time he got into a fist fight with Mario Andretti, but then he slowly dials down his volume and you see people just barely trying to…there’s a point where your ear is almost touching his lips and he’s just mouthing words. He’s got this..it’s a power move. It’s hilarious. It’s great. Burt is such a great guy. He’s funny and he’s been in so many great movie, but he also hates authority and I think that’s one of the cool things about him and why we loved him in that movie. He’s so anti-authority. And when you’re the director, you’re the authority, so he tests you and he gives you a lot of shit and he and I had some pretty funny battles, one of which he was lecturing me on respect. And I’m the guy who loves him more than anybody who said I wouldn’t make the movie without him. At the end of it, he tosses a DVD at my chest and it says “Why May Back Hurts by Burt Reynolds” Two and a half minutes of him doing every stunt he’s ever done and falling off of buildings, driving onto a tree, the tree limb breaks and slams to the ground, crashing cars, rolling downhills, set to a beautiful piece of music. You know, the guy is so funny. I love him.

That was your parting gift?
Tossed in my chest, too. Take a look at this!

How many pairs of shorts did Jessica go through before you found the right ones?
We went through probably… I went into the short trailers and they was literally…. There are shorts from there to…all the way around…so many shorts.

How many would you say were in there?
Yeah, there were 50 shorts.

How did you know which was the right one?
You know, it was a feeling. It was a feeling I had when I saw Daisy Duke, you know, deep in your loins. (laughter) You know what’s right when you see it. When Jessica walked in, I said those are them. Let’s make as many of those as we can.

How’s her husband about the shorts?
Oh, I think I’d be happy to be married to Daisy Duke. Her husband had a great idea for the sequel, which was let’s shoot it in Texas and call it Dukes 2: Daisy Does Dallas.

Was that your idea to get Lynda Carter into the movie?
I’m friends with Lynda Carter from Super Troopers, and so whenever I can find something for her, I love to use her.

When will we see a Broken Lizards superhero film?
You know, we haven’t written one yet but actually, that’s a pretty good idea.

Willie is pretty outspoken about his marijuana use. Did you write that pot joke for him specifically or was that in the script before he came on board?
We had originally written a joke where he was smoking out of an apple, because somebody in Holland or Australia had been smoking out of an apple and he saw that and thought that really funny. We couldn’t…it will be in the R-rated DVD. We had to reshoot that scene.

NO drug use can be in a PG-13 movie?
There’s a little bit because the sorority girls are smoking, but no, a main character cannot inhale, so we created this scene where they’re smoking meat..and not smoking grass. I dunno. He’s such a funny guy and he’s your dirty old granddad, and he just tells you jokes and gets you on the bus and tries to get you in trouble.

Did he write the jokes that he tells or did you write them for him?
He wrote them all and he has hundreds of them.

Is this really the summer’s tackiest movie?
Trash!? Is that what it says? You know, the thing about getting reviewed in the press is that it’s just..it’s sometimes wonderful and it’s sometimes hilariously abusive. We worked extremely hard to try to make it, you know, good…and to try to make it funny…and to try to make it visceral and to make it feel…remind people of the show. People will write all sorts of things about it. Many good and many bad. That’s the way it goes. I’m going to frame that.

Who’s worse for you, do you think? The online press or the print press?
I don’t really know. I mean, online press is hard to tell because the boundaries are down now. If you haven’t held that magazine in your hand, you have a different sense for it. I think the online press can be…you know..there are all sorts of people who are…well, how do you define press? I think obviously the print press and the tabloid stuff is rough.

It’s gotta be rough on Jessica, do you feel sorry for her going through all that?
I mean, I’m not going to say everything’s a lie, but a lot of it is a lie. They get a great picture and they make up a lie about it.

DUKES OF HAZZARD starts Friday

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