Mon 30 Jul 2012
“The Babymakers” is a comedy starring Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn as a couple having problems conceiving a child. Eventually, Schneider is forced to plan a heist to steal his own swimmers from a sperm bank; with the aid of his friends (Kevin Heffernan, Nat Faxon) and a hired criminal (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directs the film).
Chandrasekhar and Munn came through San Diego to promote the film during Comic-Con, not holding an official panel but rather a screening of the film with Q&A afterwards. I was able to sit down with Jay beforehand and we talked about everything from “The Babymakers” to where the much-anticipated “Super Troopers 2″ is in the production cycle.
Sobering Conclusion: Are you excited for tonight’s screening and the Q & A afterwards?
Jay Chandrasekhar: You end when you go on these tours, you end up drinking a lot. So I’m just anticipating the whole weeks of drunkenness.
SC: That’s the good part, right?
Chandrasekhar: That is the good part. I love it. The first time you do it, it’s sort of confusing because you don’t really know, and why are you in hotel rooms, and oh, this is how it’s going to work. But I’ve done it now like seven or eight times and you’re like, okay, I’m ready for it.
I’ve seen the movie with a crowd five or six times, it plays so – I think with Club Dread we had seen it with a crowd and we knew that half the people loved it and half the people fucking hated it.
SC: I’m on the love side.
Chandrasekhar: Those are my favorite fans. The issue I think with that film is that people felt that we had done a pure comedy and then suddenly we had blood and guts.
SC: They didn’t understand that you had knowingly spun the genre a bit and weren’t prepared for it and were “we just want Super Troopers”.
Chandrasekhar: Right, just do Super Troopers again if you would be so kind. But this movie plays well, I love it, I’m happy.
Photo by Randall Michelson – © WireImage.com
SC: Great, and I’ve had the change to see it two times now, having been sent the screener preparing for this interview and I even think I liked it more the second time.
Chandrasekhar: Oh good, I think that tends to be true with movies I make, I mean ‘we’ make really – Broken Lizard. Kevin Heffernan was deeply involved in a lot of the joke writing on this. We try to pack it full of tiny moments, which I’m sure everybody does but we try to just jam ‘em into little crevices here and there.
SC: Which leads me into the question that this is sort of an evolution for you as a director because with all the other ones it was pretty much straight comedy or with something like Club Dread you were sort of looking at a genre; but it was still comedy. Whereas with this you have a very heartfelt story with a lot of comedic moments thrown everywhere you could put it without detracting from that story. Is that what drew you to it because I know you had the script for years.
Chandrasekhar: You know I felt like the way Hollywood handles romantic comedies typically is that they tend to be programmed for people who are umm, uhh, a little sensitive; almost that they’re for 13 or 14-year old girls. Nothing too edgy happens, the women have sex with their shirts on. There’s never anybody doing any drugs, there’s not really heavy swearing.
SC: This isn’t real life.
Chandrasekhar: Yeah, the reality of sex and relationships is quite another story. I think it’s much funnier and dirtier and more edgy often. So in terms of evolution, I find my interest to be in shows now; like I’ve watched the whole Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, I find that this human drama thing which is something as a younger filmmaker, I think we were scared of it really because if the audiences isn’t making any sound then we used to think we were kind of failing. And then as I watch this fucking Downton Abbey, the big thing of the show is will cousin Matthew marry Lady Mary? And that’s the thing and I’m totally transfixed. And you realize that as humans we just like looking at other humans being human. And so I feel like I’m confident that you can still be entertaining people without making them laugh every single second along the way.
Chandrasekhar: I also think that some people get tired of comedies that don’t connect with you in certain way.
SC: Where they’re just a series of gags with a story sort of thrown in.
Chandrasekhar: Yeah, and I’ll tell you this. I think that Super Troopers and Beerfest, I love those movies and they’re packed with jokes but we tried to make the moments within them feel real. I think in this case we actually had people “act”. In a film like Beerfest, all the drama is fake, it’s really just about drinking beer right? You gin up the drama and you put all this fucking music and big drums but it’s all a mock on other real dramatic movies. This movie is starting to move in another place for me.
Olivia Munn in The Babymakers.
SC: And this isn’t a Broken Lizard film, it’s just you and Kevin of the five main guys. Here you cast someone like Paul Schneider, and you and Olivia have worked now on three, four films? This is her first feature lead role and she’s known for being fearless comedy wise but she’s acting in this one; I mean, she’s having to emote and actually feel the pain of trying to have this kid and it comes off really well, so how did you approach it when that’s not been her forte yet. This is the beginning for her.
Chandrasekhar: I first met her on Attack of the Show and she told me that she and her brother didn’t really get along and then they bonded over Super Troopers. Meeting her was more than just “I’m a fan of your movie” – you kind of brought me together with my brother. We kind of kept in touch after that and I’d co-hosted the show when Kevin (Pereira) was on vacation.
And I tried to get her when Fox wanted to do a late night show on Saturday to sort of go against SNL and they called me up and ‘do you guys want to do something?’, Broken Lizard or whatever, and I said no but I want to bring this girl from G4, Olivia Munn. Let’s just do this. She’s a real renegade comic, she’s great looking, she’s funny, she has a huge fan base of guys who stay up late and watch tv and it didn’t end up going anywhere but we came up a with a bunch of ideas and we were starting to sort of grease the runway a little but.
And we produced a film called Freeloaders in which she played a part in the opening of the movie and I watched her and said, Fuck, she’s a great actress. A lot of times you see people act and they’re great looking and you realize: Well, they’re great looking and they memorized lines and they’re on time. If you’re on time and you’re great looking and you can memorize lines you can have a career. The first time I saw her, I said, Holy shit she’s got real talent. And when it came time to make this movie I already knew she could act and she sat down and she’s like, “I want that part” and I said yeah, you know I’d love to give it to you but your star is not exactly where I’d love it to be, you know I’m going to get grief for it and she said, “You know I can kill that part”, I said I know you can. We started to lobby the room and drop little hints as to how big she was really becoming. And when she showed up she’s one of those actors who had little notes on every single line, she had great jokes for other characters, she had thoughts about plot, and then she and Paul just blended in very nicely together.
With Paul Schneider, we kind of learned when we worked with Brian Cox, that putting a great actor in a movie makes everybody else look good. And he’s got a similar thing to Brian where’s he’s mostly dramatic, he’s done some funny, funny stuff but he’s done some very dramatic stuff as well. And when you make a hire like him, I mean I didn’t have him audition, when he shows up you hope he understands basic rhythm of jokes, which is take your dramatic lines and increase the speed 70 percent … pause … and come in. You know where to put the pause and you know you need to be speaking a little bit faster. And some people, they just put too many … pauses … in the middle … and then it’s not even funny and you can’t teach that.
SC: Right, and it very much reminded me of what Paul had done with All the Real Girls. Even though that’s largely drama, the comedic timing that has to hit every once in a while, especially in a role like this –
Chandrasekhar: Yeah and I called David Gordon Green (director of All the Real Girls) because he and I are pals, and he went to college with Paul and he said he’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met. And I said I know who you’ve worked with, and he goes, “No this guy is amazing”.
SC: Considering the slippery incident that Wade (Kevin Heffernan’s character) gets into, is there anything you can’t get him to do on film? After powdering him with sugar and hosing him down in Super Troopers and now this, it seems like he’s losing bets or something.
Chandrasekhar: It does seem like he’s losing bets. In Super Troopers, we were shooting basically the scene from Rambo where John Rambo is caught by the police and he’s up against the wall buck naked and they’re shooting him with a hose and we wanted to do that but do it with a garden hose and thought that’ll be the gag.
So we didn’t know much about show business and there’s a thing that you can put on your cock that’s a little sleeve so people don’t see it right? We didn’t know that, we didn’t have that, and I was like we need to see your naked butt or else it won’t fit what Rambo did. And I said, when you turn, we’ll be above you, don’t worry about it and what happened was he turned and the cameraman, he just hadn’t seen it yet and so he didn’t anticipate that he’d find it funny. And what happened was is that the camera dipped because he was laughing and we caught a glimpse of his cock and then we got into the edit room and Kevin and I were cutting the film and he said it’s obviously funny but it can’t go in the movie. Here we are, we’re two democrats, we’re liberals, we’re showing women with their tops off, let’s have a little equality pal. Let’s be true women’s libbers and somehow he went for that argument and I convinced him but it cost me because in Beerfest of course I was naked, I didn’t show my cock but then again I’m the director. In Slammin’ Salmon I had to show my ass again, it keeps coming at me.
And then what happened with this, we shot this movie and we thought, you know people when they think of us and they think of a movie about a sperm bank heist they’re like “oh those guys” and when we first shot it, we were like we’re going to be classy, we’re not going to fucking shoot this big sperm scene even though we’re both thinking it, the writers were thinking it, we were just like we’re not doing it, we’re going to be above it. And we show the film and we were just like, God it could really use a big fucking sperm scene and we just mentioned it to one of the producers and he goes, “Why didn’t we shoot that?” And we go well, we actually wrote it and we said fuck it, let’s shoot it. And so we did a reshoot and shot that scene and you know as always with him (Kevin), if we’re going to do it, let’s do it, let’s go for it, cut it back if we have to do but let’s just you know, do it.
SC: You can edit out, you can’t put in.
Chandrasekhar: That’s right, and so I watch it with a crowd and of course they loved it and then I’m certain that people will be like – Look, as a filmmaker we’re all so fucking sensitive. Anyone writes anything bad about you it’s the only thing you care about and so I just don’t read any of it. I’m making movies, luckily, I’m just going to keep doing that until they pull it away from me.
SC: And you get the fan reaction and you know people love your films.
Chandrasekhar: Absolutely, on every movie it seems one of us will just sit there and go, ‘there goes the New York Times review’. That’s the paper I read, a fun ritual I enjoy, getting trashed by my own paper.
Jay Chandrasekhar in The Babymakers.
SC: Now, There’s no screenwriting credit but you were saying (before the interview) you were kind of writing in the jokes as you go.
Chandrasekhar: Well Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, they wrote it, we developed the script with them at Warner Bros for – we probably made them do 10 drafts of it so they made it great and then we added jokes. Gaulke was there some of the time, he came up with some really good – because he went through this. He actually did at one point donate to a sperm bank. He didn’t break into a sperm bank, but he had to go through all the fertility treatments. Those guys are very funny.
I mean, Heffernan and I are always writing jokes, we wrote a ton but by no means did we do the heavy heavy lifting. You know look, you watch the film, it will fall in rhythmically with our other movies. What I mean by that is how jokes are cut and timed, to me it feels at least in the comedy scenes, like the timing of our other movies.
SC: I totally agree, the only reason it’s not a Broken Lizard film is that all of the guys aren’t there. Comedy wise, you can instantly recognize it even when you and Kevin aren’t on-screen.
Moving to other casting, how did Constance Zimmer get involved? You were both on Royal Pains and she’s credited as a doctor and your UPS character contracted Legionarres disease? Was her casting an excuse to treat your fictional disease?
Chandrasekhar: (laughs) No, we weren’t on the same episode. I got to know and love her work on Entourage. She’s just funny and a good actress and knows where the joke is.
SC: You got a really nice chemistry among the girls, they each brought their own thing to the table and if anything, I would have wanted more scenes with them.
Chandrasekhar: I did too. As I met them all together, I was like, if I had to do this over again knowing what I know, I would have made more of that. I even said to them, we should just do a movie with the four of you.
SC: Next up for you is Shotgun Wedding? Where are you with that?
Chandrasekhar: Yeah, Olivia has come on that movie with me and we’re doing a rewrite. And then we’re going to start to put the cast together. She happens to have a real analytic mind for scripts and more specifically for edits – a very good sense of where to cut and an alt way to look at something. I used her quite a bit on the edit of this movie. And then I gave her the script (Shotgun Wedding), tell me what you think, and said why don’t you come on a produce this with me? And she’ll be in it and I’ll be in it and we’ll hire some other dude and we’ll figure it out.
SC: Is that one going to be Broken Lizard?
Chandrasekhar: That one’s not Broken Lizard. The next Broken Lizard movie, if we clear the audit that needs to be resolved on the first Super Troopers, and if they (Fox Studios) decide it’s okay for us to make it, will be Super Troopers 2. We’ve already written the script, we have financiers who’ve said they’ll pay for it.
The Broken Lizard troupe in Super Troopers.
SC: It’s tricky because people love it so much, I’ve asked myself, as a fan do I really want to see a sequel to that?
Chandrasekhar: Right, I don’t know. You don’t want to fuck it up. You can only fuck it up. Lethal Weapon 2 was as good as the original. The Empire Strikes Back was better.
SC: Godfather Part 2. There are some clear examples where sequels don’t suck.
Chandrasekhar: I’ll tell you this, we had a great idea for the second movie that I think is awesome and so we wrote another one and kept it stripped down like the first one. I know, that movie for me, I was trying to make something in the vibe of Smokey and the Bandit. If we get a chance to make another one, there’s not going to be some big glitzy Hollywood bullshit.
SC: That’s where the mistake comes, oh now I have a budget that’s four times as large.
Chandrasekhar: Right, The audience that wants to see explosions, they’re not going to get to – unless we want them. It’s going to be the same kind of movie, everyone’s got to get in the same weight class as they were, I need about three and half weeks for the mustache and then we’ll be ready to go.
SC: Is there some type of maple syrup detox that has to happen beforehand?
Chandrasekhar: Never again.
SC: I can only imagine. I had told myself, I should try to bring travel-sized bottles of maple syrup to bring to the interview but that didn’t happen.
Chandrasekhar: People do that. I’ll never take it down again. If you ever end up in the situation: sugarless maple syrup. The other stuff, it could kill you.
“The Babymakers” opened August 3rd. The full review can be found here.