Grab a litre o’ cola and get ready for some shenanigans.
This summer marks the return of a group of unlikely heroes. An assortment of strong individual personalities who must band together for the greater good, despite clashing with each other from time to time. No, I’m not talking about Infinity War. This is about the tough-as-nails highway crusaders who sport mustaches in the face of adversity. That’s right, I’m talking about the Super Troopers.
Released in 2001, Super Troopers tells the story of a group of eccentric highway patrolmen who spend their days playing pranks on motorists and getting up to all kinds of shenanigans in a bid to cure their boredom. However, when real crime starts happening in their district, they’re forced to do some real police work in order to keep their jobs, which leads to a feud with their rivals from another police unit.
The film is a product of Broken Lizard, a comedy collective made up of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. The group met in college and turned their knack for stoner humor into a successful movie career. Meowadays, they write, produce, direct, and star in their own wacky comedies which, in addition to Super Troopers and the sequel, include Beerfest, Club Dread, and The Slammin’ Salmon. They’re all worth checking out if you enjoy laughter.
That said, as funny as Super Troopers is, the stories behind its creation are just as entertaining. From real-life encounters with the law to trying their damnedest to getting their movie funded against all odds, it’s a tale that’s both humorous and inspirational. If the film tells us anything, it’s that you don’t need big bucks and mega stars for a movie to resonate with people. Now, with the sequel here, what better time to revisit the film that started it all?
The Opening Scene is Based on a Drug-Related Story
The movie opens with our heroes pulling over a group of college kids who are driving under the influence. They’re also stashing a bunch of drugs for later, which they suspect won’t go down well with the approaching officers. Panicking, one of the fools eats an entire bag of shrooms and starts freaking out. It’s a funny scene that sets the movie’s tone perfectly, but did you know that it was inspired by true events?.
As the story goes, some friends of Broken Lizard were en route to Canada for a weekend of strip clubs, drinking, and getting high. Unfortunately for the party posse, though, they got into bother before the debaucherous festivities even began. While stuck in a long line of cars near the border, their car was searched by patrol officers and their marijuana was discovered. But the cops didn’t find their shrooms — enough to get at least ten people buzzed apparently. So, while the agents were distracted, one of the dudes ate the entire bag right there and then.
The drugs took full effect in lockup as the stoners were being individually questioned.
In the end, one of the guys took the blame for the drugs before the cops interviewed their tripping friend. They were banned from Canada for a year, with the exception of the noble knight who took the fall. He was barred from the Great White North for seven years.
One of the Actor’s Mothers Came Up with the Title
“Oh, you’re making a movie about the super troopers, huh?” That was the response from Kevin Heffernan’s mother when he shared the potentially life-changing news that Miramax (who later passed on making the movie) had accepted their pitch for a comedy about highway patrolmen.
In his book “Mustache Shenanigans: Making Super Troopers and Other Adventures Comedy,” Chandrasekhar recalls how his co-star’s parent wasn’t the biggest fan of Connecticut’s finest as they had recently pulled her over for speeding. Hearing that her son and his friends were making a movie about experiences she knew first-hand must have been difficult to accept.
This wasn’t the end of his mother’s involvement, though. Along with her husband, she had a cameo appearance. They play the couple who Heffernan’s character, Farva, pulls over and calls “chicken fucker.” The best part is that they had no idea what he was going to say prior to the scene being filmed.
It Was Nearly Set in the 70’s
After Miramax made the dumb decision to not finance the film, Chandrasekhar and co. had to shop around for a new studio willing to put up the funds. At one point Universal had shown interest and was willing to put up $5.5 M. The deal fell through when one of their producers couldn’t agree to his fee. After that, they pitched the idea to the Farrelly brothers’ development guys, Brad Thomas and Pat Healy, who suggested a 70’s backdrop.
They agreed to rewrite the script per the suggestion — partly because they wanted to get it made, but also because they were big fans of hijinks comedies from that era like Smokey and the Bandit and Animal House. The Farrelly’s loved the script, but they couldn’t raise the finances either.
The rejection didn’t mark the end of their fascination with a movie set in that era, however. Back in 2006, the filmmakers toyed with a prequel about their character’s dads called Super Troopers ‘76. According to Chandrasekhar, it would have featured “shaggier hair and mustaches.” Hopefully, we’ll get to see that movie someday.
The Actors Chugged Actual Syrup
The Broken Lizard guys are the real deal. While writing Beerfest, they spent their evenings getting drunk and playing beer pong to get those creative juices flowing. So it should come as no surprise that the syrup-drinking scene in Super Troopers saw them necking the sweet stuff.
Stolhanske confirmed the rumor once and for all in a Reddit AMA back in 2013:
“Originally the prop woman had iced tea in the bottles, but it didn’t have that glug, glug, glug thick look when we chugged it… so Jay and I said ‘we gotta do the real thing’ — then went into a diabetic coma on a dark floor while everyone else enjoyed their lunch.”
It Was Nearly a TV Series
Back in 1998, when they were still trying to turn their prankster cop vision into a reality, Fox proposed that they make it a TV show instead. Taking Fox’s advice on board, they wrote a pilot treatment, which changed the location from Vermont to Reno, Nevada. A cop comedy show set in Reno? Produced by the Fox Television network? That sounds very familiar…
The similarities with Reno 911!, which premiered a year after Super Troopers was given a wide release, ultimately killed any chance of a small screen iteration for Broken Lizard’s own band of law enforcement officers. Additionally, in his book, Chandrasekhar basically ruled out the possibility of it ever happening. “Reno 911! and Super Troopers are owned by Fox, and they weren’t going to do two shows about cops in tan uniforms.”
But there are no hard feelings between the Troopers and their Nevada counterparts — in fact, Chandrasekhar is a fan. In the book, he also states that Reno 911! is “great and very funny.” I don’t know about you guys, but I think there’s a market out there for a Super Troopers series as well.
A Friend’s Dad Funded the Movie
After failing to acquire financing from studios without compromising their original vision, they were ready to put the project on the shelf and accept that it just wasn’t meant to be. Broken Lizard was on the verge of breaking up, but fate wasn’t about to let that happen.
One day, a chance phone call with an old college friend led to their dreams coming true. She called Chandrasekhar to ask if he could read a script her dad was working on. Chandrasekhar agreed, but he had to send some of his work in return to prove he was the real deal. The comedian described the experience as auditioning to read a script he didn’t want to read.
Coincidentally, his friend’s father was also a retired investment banker and he thought Super Troopers was funny enough to go places. So he gave them the money to make it happen and the rest is history.
It Allowed Brian Cox to Branch Out
Brian Cox is a really good actor, but back then he was mostly known for his serious roles. When he read the script for Super Troopers he loved it, but he also saw it as the perfect opportunity to exercise his comedic chops. It worked out pretty well because he’s a hoot in the movie as the team’s boss, Captain O’Hagan.
But it was a match made in heaven for all parties involved. In his book, Chandrasekhar recalls how Cox accepting the part gave the film a “much-needed respect boost”, which in turn made it easier to attract respected actors like Daniel von Braten. On top of that, the Broken Lizard guys were already massive fans of Cox because of Rushmore, Manhunter, and — their personal favorite movie — Braveheart.
Marisa Coughlan’s Character Was Named After Their Buddy
Prior to adopting the Broken Lizard moniker, the collective was called Charred Goosebeak and they performed sketch comedy at Colgate University during the early 90’s. One of the members of their group was a woman named Ursula, so to honor their old friend they named the film’s only female officer after her.
As for Coughlan, she got the part because the gang loved her in Kevin Williamson’s dark comedy Teaching Mrs. Tingle, particularly the scene where she impersonated the possessed girl from The Exorcist. Their mutual friend Amy Cohen convinced Coughlan to work with them and suffice to say, it all worked out well in the end. Coughlan’s character is the only sensible person in the entire film, and the actress shines in every scene she’s in.
They Abused Their Authority
One of the most famous experiments in the field of psychology is the Stanford Prison Experiment, a role-playing exercise that was conducted to find out how readily participants would conform to the roles of guards and convicts in a simulated prison environment. The results showed that these new roles basically went to people’s heads. The same can be said for the cast of Super Troopers.
During the shoot, they needed to stop nearby speeding traffic in order to film a scene. When the production assistants failed to make this happen, they ordered Heffernan to impersonate a real police officer. Of course, this isn’t legal in the real world by any stretch of the imagination, but time is money and they had a tight schedule to work around. Sometimes breaking the law is for the greater good after all.
They also had fun abusing their perceived power. Lemme recalls driving around in his cop car, wearing his uniform, rocking his mustache, and feeling like he was respected on the highways. He even flashed his rollers at a driver who was in a hurry. Long story short: make people believe they have power and you can rest assured they’ll use it.
Real Cops Love the Movie
The Broken Lizard collective has an interesting history with the five-o. On one hand, Super Troopers was born out of their road trip experiences being pulled over in their mid-twenties, but the gang also has first-hand experience partying with cops. This inspired them to explore the fun side of law enforcement and meowadays their infantile comedy is a beloved favorite among their real-life counterparts.
In an oral history with Rolling Stone, Lemme recalled how a group of Utah State Police officers came up to them after a screening and thanked them for showcasing the profession’s more playful side. “Usually in movies, either cops are portrayed as dicks or they’re just idiots.” However, the cops loved the movie because it “captured what it’s like to be a police officer.”
That admiration doesn’t even end there. In the same interview, Lemme recalls one particular incident where a cop stopped him for driving like “an asshole” but let it slide in exchange for an autograph and a selfie.