Interview: Kevin Heffernan Hears the Cry of the Cougar

Kevin Heffernan

Around here, we’re unabashed fans of Broken Lizard. We’ve been with them through the good times, the bad times and that time they released Club Dread. And any time we get a chance to sit down with a member of the famed comedy troupe that gave the world Super Troopers, we don’t pass it up. Which is why you’re about to read our second interview with The Slammin’ Salmon director Kevin Heffernan, who you’ll know from his iconic characters like Farva and Landfill (Beerfest). And of course, his most famous role as Landfill II.

After chatting with him right before the theatrical release of The Slammin’ Salmon, we decided that he’s our kind of guy. So we’re back for more. And to celebrate the release of The Slammin’ Salmon on DVD and Blu-ray (it’s in stores now), we sat down to once again pick the brain of the first-time director. You should read what he had to say, then go pick up his movie. We’re confident that you’ll find pleasure in both tasks.

FSR:  I was able to watch the featurette on the DVD.

Kevin Heffernan:  Oh, cool, the interview thing?

Yes. And for those who haven’t been able to see the movie yet, where did this film come from, conceptually?

It’s based on the fact a bunch of the guys, as a lot of us do, waited tables for year.  And, you know, when you wait tables, you always say, you know, you gather up your good stories and say they make a great movie.  And so over the years, I think the guys just kind of gathered up these stories.

And we ended up writing this movie a couple years ago and holding it kind of in our back pocket.  It was kind of a lower budget idea movie, and we knew that, you know, if we had free time there would be the opportunity to raise some cash and go and shoot this movie the way we shot Super Troopers, kind of, you know, low budget on the fly.

And so we just kind of worked on it for a couple years and the opportunity arose and we went out and did it.

With some of the earlier Broken Lizard films, there wasn’t too much of a female presence, whereas with this film, you have two prominent females.

Yes, yes.

How was that different, as a writer, being able to bring that to the mix?

Well I think it is good.  We always try to do that.  We always wanted to be able to accomplish that.  For some reason it didn’t happen.  We had five guys who were doing the writing, you know.  And I think this world, obviously, it lends itself well to that in having, you know, guys and girls kind of working together in the same environment.

So I think we tried hard to write for the women this time, and I think to be able to cast the two of them we had.  It’s Cobie Smulders from “How I Met Your Mother” who is awesome, and then kind of a newcomer.  Her name is April Bowlby.  And they were just really great comic…You know, on top of being beautiful, they were great comic women and it just made it easy for us to have them be able to do the material.

So now with this film being your first opportunity in the director’s chair…

My debut; my directorial debut.

What would you say is the best part of being a director?

Power, man!  Power.  [laughs] I mean it was fun to call the shots. But, you know, it is a process that…we are always very collaborative anyway.  It is hard to create an environment where you work with five guys on equal footing, and we’ve been doing it for a little while now.  You know with past movies that Jay directed, it has always been very collaborative and people have been able to share their thoughts and stuff like that.  So that was the same environment.

And it is not that hard for me because it is all the same crew we work with and a lot of the same actors we work with.  So I wasn’t necessarily thrown to the wolves, so it actually was a very kind of pleasant, kind of fun experience.

That’s good.  So now that you know the plus side, what is the worst part of being a director?

[laughs]  The worst part of it is having guys who are also directors standing in the corner and second-guessing you.  [laughs] No, like, we make jokes about it.  Jay…Paul has directed a movie…Paul Soter directed a movie called Watching the Detectives just prior to this one, and Jay had directed a bunch of movies.  So it is kind of fun to have those guys who have that experience watching you, making sure you are doing the right thing.  So that was always kind of a source of humor for us — them criticizing my directorial choices.

How did some of the supporting cast come together, like Olivia Munn, and Jim Gaffigan, and Lance Henriksen?

Well, it’s kind of interesting.  We definitely went to, like, people who we’ve worked with in the past, like Jim was in Super Troopers.  And Will Forte came on board.  He was in Beerfest.  So we had relationships with some people.

The other kind of interesting part of it was the fact that when we shot this movie, it occurred kind of during the writers’ strike, the Writers Guild strike.  And so a bunch of television shows were shut down and a lot of actors were kind of sitting on their hands.  And it allowed us to go out and get some of these people who weren’t…who normally, like, had a TV show and weren’t working at the time because of this writers’ strike.  So Jim Gaffigan was one of them, and Cobie was of them, and Will Forte was one of them.

And then, it was also kind of interesting because the studios were shut down movie-wise, so there were these really cool actors who were available out there for independent films.  And, you know, a guy like Lance Henriksen is a guy we always loved, and we always wanted to work with him.  We tried to get  him in Club Dread and it didn’t quite work out.  So we’ve always been kind of wanting to work with him and we were able to get him to come do a part.

The other nice thing was this was the first movie we shot in Los Angeles.  Usually, we go out and we shoot on location.  Well, you know, in Los Angeles, it is kind of interesting because you have access to the actors because they are here.  So you can call people up and say, “Hey, can you come do a day?” and they will come up and do a day in your restaurant [laughs] movie.  And it gives you a great opportunity to have people like Lance, or Vivica Fox is another example, or Morgan Fairchild.

I don’t want to spoil anything, like I said, for people who haven’t had a chance to see it, but the joke that was kind of daunting in the entire movie and, I think, came together in the most magnificent way in the ending.  Was the twin bit put together solely for the intent of the final joke?

No, you know what?  The twins bit was kind of funny because what happened was in the writing of it, we had these two characters that we wrote, you know, and one was a chef and one was a new busboy.  And we started writing these characters and we didn’t feel like they were, as stand alone, they were big enough.  And so we were like, “You know what? Let’s do something fun and we will just combine them, and then one of us can play these two guys as twin brothers and we can create as dynamic two brothers.”

And then the jokes grew from there.  It just became kind of fun to be able to do that.  And Freaky Friday stuff and, you know, like you said, that kind of end joke thing.  And so it was actually…yeah.  It was a function of us wanting to have more for certain characters, and so we combined the two.

That’s awesome.  I’m glad I got to see it on DVD, because I had to pause it at that part.

Yeah.  That is a good laugh.  And like I said, the other fun stuff was doing that traditional, like, split screen twin thing.  It is fun to do that stuff. [laughs]

I have to ask, because like right at the end, the very last image, does a painting actually exist for that?

It does, yeah.

Oh, man!  [laughs]

Yeah, it does.  Actually, it was my brother who is an artist; he is a painter.  And he did a bunch of big portraits for us for Beerfest.  In our Beerfest hall, we had like old-timey German paintings.  And so we wanted to create that kind of LeRoy Neiman, end of Rocky 3, painting.  And so he did that for us, yeah.

That’s awesome. [laughs]  I thought that was hilarious, too.

Yeah, it was really fun because he just went and kind of recreated that style, you know.  And then what we did is we tried to get “The Eye of the Tiger” song for the closing credits and we couldn’t afford it on the budget of our independent film.  And so we wrote our own song, and it is called “Cry of the Cougar.”  And so if you’ve listened to the closing credits, it’s a song that we wrote.

I was going to say, it is sort of Survivor-esque right there at the end.

Yeah, to essentially rip off Eye of the Tiger, we did Cry of the Cougar.  [laughs]

What is one thing that you haven’t had the chance to talk about, as a director or part of Broken Lizard that you would like people to know?

In terms of the movie or in terms of the big picture?

Anything.  Whatever you want to throw out for our audience.

You know what, people have been asking about the upcoming movies, I think, the most.  That’s a question that we’ve gotten from people.  We actually…I’m tried to think of what the best thing to reveal is here.

We are actually…We get a lot of questions about what we are going to do next kind of thing, and one thing that we are working on is Super Troopers 2.  It is something that we debated whether to do or not, and now, recently, we’ve come up with an angle that we really like.  And so we are just trying to get the…We let people who have been asking the question that we are going to do a sequel to it.

Do you guys have anything big in mind for it, sort of, or is it pretty much still in the writing process?

We are about four drafts in, but we are going to pretty much pick up the last movie where we left off.


Yeah, so we will just kind of pick up the story from there.

Do you have any personal reject moments, or do the Broken Lizard guys as a troop have any reject moments that you think would be pretty funny?

You know, Chandrasekhar actually applied to film school; a bunch of them, I think.  And he got rejected from all of them.  And then we decided that we would go shoot our movie anyway and we shot the movie Puddle Cruiser.

But Super Troopers got rejected all over the place.  Super Troopers we had for like two years.  Every studio rejected it.  And that is why, ultimately, we had to go and just make it ourselves.  And then we made some folks some money off if it.

But yeah, we’ve had a lot of rejection [laughs] in our careers!  That’s the nature of the film biz, you know?


You just keep plugging away.

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