It took 17 years and the financial support of more than 54,000 Indiegogo supporters, but this weekend (April 20) Thorny, Foster, Rabbit, Mac, and even
Farva will make their triumphant return to the big screen in “Super Troopers 2.”
And if a recent promotional visit (including packed engagements at Bauhaus Brew Labs in Minneapolis and Showplace ICON in St. Louis Park) is any indication, it appears the world is ready to embrace those characters, and the men behind them, all over again.
The morning after those aforementioned events, the Broken Lizard crew – Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske – sat down to chat about the success of the original film, their expectations for the sequel, and the future of the franchise.
The original “Super Troopers) debuted at Sundance in 2001, and got a theatrical release from Fox Searchlight the following year. It did a modest $23 million at the box office, but took off once it hit the home video market. In a 2012 Huff Post blog entry, Chandrasekhar estimated the film had done $65-80 million in DVD sales.
Despite that success, when the group approached Fox about a sequel, they didn't get the response they'd expected.
“Probably 95 percent of the people that saw the movie didn't see it in the theater,” Soter said. “So we can go to Fox all day long and say, 'hey, look, every day we go out and people are screaming about the sequel, and they're like 'we don't believe you.'”
“We were the DVD guys, at least in their eyes,” Heffernan added, noting that now that the DVD market essentially doesn't exist anymore, studios and filmmakers are still trying to figure out how to make up that revenue.
Negotiations for the second film started back in 2008, Soter said, but Fox Searchlight wasn't coming up with the money. Finally, the studio relented. Kind of. The crew was told that the studio would distribute the film, but that they'd have to raise the money themselves.
That, however, proved just as difficult.
“We found the financiers were kind of a little lukewarm on it, too, because time had passed,” Soter said. “[Crowdfunding] actually turned out to be our only option.”
Jay Chandrasekhar (Thorny), Steve Lemme (Mac), Erik Stolhanske (Rabbit), Paul Soter (Foster) and Kevin Heffernan (Farva) in the film “Super Troopers 2.” (Photo by Jon Pack. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved)
The crew enlisted the help of Ivan Askwith, who had successfully run crowdfunding campaigns for “Veronica Mars” and “Reading Rainbow.” They pitched the idea, he liked what he heard, and devised a campaign to get the movie made.
The result was $4,617,223 raised by a total of 54,609 Indiegogo supporters. Those numbers also gave them some ammunition with the studio.
“The success of the campaign also showed the studio that the fans were still out there, so they started to get excited,” Soter said.
“[The support] was surprising, because it could've been 100,” Chandrasekhar said. “Maybe people were like, 'we like the first movie, but we're not going to pay for the second one.' If that had happened, the movie would've never come out.”
While the number of supporters is impressive, that doesn't always mean the widespread support will be there when a movie hits theaters.
“54,000 is a lot of people, but you still need millions of people to see a movie,” Soter said.
However, as filming began and set photos and social media posts began getting 2-3 million likes, the audience support became a little clearer.
Still, that doesn't mean Broken Lizard is considering anything a slam dunk yet.
“It's nerve wracking because everything really does rest upon the shoulders of the opening weekend of this movie,” Lemme said. “They put the trailer out and it got 50 million views in a week, which is an incredible number. I wish we could relax and say 'that's great' – those numbers track with “Thor: Ragnorak” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” – so it sounds amazing, but we're so shell-shocked and have been kicked around a bit by the industry.”
Paul Soter, Jay Chandrasekhar, Jared Huizenga, Steve Lemme, and Kevin Heffernan at Bauhaus Brew Labs in Minneapolis.
Considering the original film is a favorite of stoners everywhere, its 4-20 release date (Google it if you don't know) should come as no surprise to anyone. The studio and Broken Lizard have embraced it, as have the fans.
It's kind of like a big, hazy, smoke-filled joke that everyone's in on together.
“We are and were, like, major stoners. We smoked a lot of grass back then … and now,” Chandrasekhar said, noting that the group uses marijuana to “unlock the joke machine.” “We organize these writing meetings that are sober and we figure out the story and the structure. Then we get high and write jokes.”
“I think the audience implicitly understand the state of mind we were in because they're in the same state of mind.”
“I also think there's five personalities in the group,” Lemme added. “Some people like wordplay, some people like physical humor, and dirty jokes. So if it's making all of us laugh, it's going in the script. And then you can pretty much surmise that some jokes are gonna reach all people.”
As for the future?
“We'll find out what happens on 4-20,” Heffernan said. “If it's successful, the future will be bright. If not, the decision will be made for us.”
If it does go int their favor, there's already an outline in place for a third installment. But they know they won't be able to let as much time pass as between the first two.
Despite the gap, the movie – and the characters – are probably more popular today than ever before.
“Seems like the movie is generational,” Heffernan said. “[We have] so many interactions where their uncles and fathers or whoever showed them the movie. A lot of kids in college that still love the first movie.”
“It's a family movie, I think,” Lemme joked.