The Broken Lizard talks about joining the Happy Madison Team, taking on Sasquatch, and Super Troopers 2

Everyone's favorite Broken Lizard Kevin Heffernan is breaking away from his comedy troupe next month to star in the upcoming Happy Madison production Strange Wilderness. And it looks like he's squeezed himself into a winner. The film follows animal enthusiast and TV show host Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) as he and his film crew set out on a quest to find Bigfoot.

Faltering ratings and the demise of his beloved (by him at least) nature program is what sets this trek in motion. Zahn is accompanied by a stellar cast of comedic upstarts. They include co-stars Allen Covert and Jonah Hill, along with Ashley Scott, Peter Dante, Harry Hamlin, Robert Patrick, and Joe Don Baker. The film also includes Justin Long, Jeff Garlin, and Ernest Borgnine. It sounds to me like we have the New Year's first big comedy surprise on our hands.

The film has been described as the craziest Happy Madison production to ever shoot out of that cannon. And that is certainly saying a lot. To celebrate the release of the fantastic new Red-Band trailer for Strange Wilderness we got on the phone with a couple of its cast members. Yesterday, we talked to the always charming Allen Covert. Today, we are talking to everyone's favorite Sasquatch of comedy Kevin Heffernan (that's not to imply that he is overtly hairy or has abnormally large feet, I just meant that his laughs smash everything in site).

Here is our conversation:

Kevin Heffernan: Hey, Paulington!

Hey, Kevin. How's it going man?

Kevin Heffernan: Really good.

First things first, do you live in the Los Angeles area?

Kevin Heffernan: I do. Yeah.

Did you ever make it out to the Mission: Tiki when they were showing Beerfest?

Kevin Heffernan: No, what was that? Were there some special screenings outthere or something?

No, it's a Drive-In Theater out in Pomona.

Kevin Heffernan: Where is it?

It's off the Ten. Off Indian Hills boulevard. They were showing it for five weeks or more. Every time I went out there, it was crazy. People had kegs in the back of their trucks, and they were just having this big party.

Kevin Heffernan: Really. This is the first that I have ever heard of it?

It was a lot of fun. They were showing it with Jackass Number Two. And one time, they showed it with Nicolas Cage's The Wicker Man. That was kind of a weird double feature.

Kevin Heffernan: (Laughs) Warner Brothers would have liked that. That's some combo. Beerfest with The Wicker Man. But, no. I have never heard that before. How come I didn't get invited, man? Really? How come no one invited me to that?

I don't know. I would have invited you, but I have no way of getting in contact with you. The first thing I want to ask you about Strange Wilderness is, Allen Covert says that he's been trying to work with you Broken Lizard guys for quite some time. Did you have the same sentiments about working with the Happy Madison camp? How come this union took so long?

Kevin Heffernan: Oh, God. What is funny is that we had originally developed Beerfest with Happy Madison. When we originally put the idea together, we brought it there. We were psyched. We developed it with them. And Allen was involved. We brought it around town, and we sold it to Sony. We were going to make it at Sony with the Happy Madison guys. Then, Sony ended up stalling the project. So we went to Warner Brothers and they made us a deal. So, Happy Madison and Broken Lizard sort of went their separate ways. I'd always thought that would be the opportunity where we worked together. But then, right before we shot Beerfest, Strange Wilderness came together. And it seemed like a great opportunity to work with those guys. They are great. It's like this family that they have. The crew, the cast, just everybody moves from project to project. It was really great to be a part of that. I like that team.

How did the script for Strange Wilderness fall into your hands and what was it about the project that appealed to your sensibilities?

Kevin Heffernan: It came through my agent. I actually had the same agent as Fred Wolf, who is the director on the project. Fred Wolf and Pete Gaulke, the two guys that created it, were looking for a fun comedy ensemble. They wanted to take people out of different comedy arenas. And they liked our movies. So, they'd gotten the script over to our agent. I read it and thought it was hysterical. It is just off the wall, funny stuff. I said, "I'll definitely do this. It sounds great!" Then they put together a very funny ensemble of people.

Can you give me a little preview of what we can expect from your character in this?

Kevin Heffernan: Yeah, my guy is named Whitaker. He is a little bit more of a straight man compared to some of the others in the film. Like Jonah Hill? He is a crazy guy in this film. My guy is a car mechanic. This team needs an animal wrangler to go out on expeditions. So they interview people. They don't like any of the animal wranglers that they find, so they hire me instead. I've got no animal experience. Yet, they take me along for the ride. I have some alcohol issues. Little things like that. I get to hassle.

Were you involved in the wildlife scenes? I mean, did they throw you in there and actually make you wrangle some of these animals?

Kevin Heffernan: (Laughs) It is all done through movie magic. What is funny is that my hands never touch an actual animal. I think that is pretty funny. The cool thing about the movie is that Fred and Pete had all of this access to this old wildlife show.

Allen told me about that yesterday.

Kevin Heffernan: It is great. They cut in real footage of lions tackling gazelles. Shit like that. And they put a funny narration over the top of it. It has this really cool, very different visual feeling.

In the scene I just saw, in the new Red-Band trailer, you are driving the Winnebago. Is that part of Whitaker's duties?

Kevin Heffernan: That is part of my gig. I am the driver. Pete Dante starts out as the Winnebago driver. He meets with an unfortunate accident, and I step in. It was a lot of fun, and the studio was very professional about it. They take you out to Winnebago driving training. So I had to spend a whole day driving this Winnebago around Los Angles.

That sounds exciting.

Kevin Heffernan: I had to prove that I could do it.

That sounds kind of scary, actually. What is that like? Taking a Winnebago out on the streets of Los Angeles?

Kevin Heffernan: (Laughs) It was this big, humongous Winnebago that was hard just to drive around the corner. And there was this guy standing over my shoulder the entire time yelling, "Turn right! Turn left!" By the end of it, they gave me a little plaque. They said I could be a teamster if I wanted to be.

That's kind of funny. I was looking at some pictures this morning from the film, and I noticed that you've got a baseball jersey on and you are wearing the flipflop sandals. Is this a guy that is trapped between being a frat daddy and a stoner hippy? What is this guy's back story?

Kevin Heffernan: This is a guy that is totally unprepared to be out in the wilderness. Seriously? Why does he have flipflops on? He should be wearing jungle gear. The guy's back-story probably sees him drinking a little too much beer. And because of that, he got fired off his mechanics job. And that is why this team likes him. He is a low impact kind of guy. Yeah. That is definitely why they bring him along.

Now, were you guys out in the woods shooting this? Allen made it sound as if there were supermarkets and strip malls just on the other side of the clearing.

Kevin Heffernan: That is the amazing thing with this location. We literally shot in places that were right around the corner from where we are in Los Angeles. They were places that you would go, and they make you feel like you are in a totally different place. We shot a bunch of days at the arboretum. And we were out in the Pasadena area. There was a jungle, and a swamp. There were all kinds of things in there. Caves. We ended up shooting in all of that area. It makes you feel like you are somewhere else, but in fact you are right next door to a bunch of supermarkets and the racetrack.

Now, this film does have quite a unique ensemble cast, as you were saying earlier. How much fun was it getting to work with all of these different guys?

Kevin Heffernan: Oh, it was so much fun. From the moment we got the ensemble together. We did a little get together meeting. It was just a bunch of really funny people shooting the shit. These guys are really talented at improv. When you are in a scene with six or seven people, and they have those types of minds working together? Some really funny stuff tends to come out. You know? Jonah Hill and Justin Long are great improv guys. Every one was hysterical. This is simply one great ensemble cast.

Did you get to work with Ernest Borgnine at all?

Kevin Heffernan: I was there for half a day when he was there. He mostly worked with the other guys. It definitely was a little buzz when the legendary Ernest Borgnine shows up on the set. They put all the pictures up on the wall of who is going to be in the movie. And there was Ernest Borgnine up on that wall.

Are you someone that is well versed in Bigfoot culture?

Kevin Heffernan: When I was a kid I used to watch all of that Leonard Nimoy In Search of... shit. And I was a big fan of it. That's why I thought this was funny. I don't know if it's taken on a new angle in this internet age. Has it? Is there new rough footage of guys walking through the woods in furry suits?

Allen was talking about this yesterday. There is such a resurgence of Bigfoot right now. I read an article about it in Entertainment Weekly. Why do you think people are attracted to Bigfoot all of a sudden?

Kevin Heffernan: It is real, and it is reciprocal. He has come out of hibernation. People are once again seeing him out there.

So, do you think the government is using projects like Strange Wilderness to bring him back into the public eye? To make us unafraid when he actually shows up on our doorstep?

Kevin Heffernan: Yeah. They are trying to bring Bigfoot into the Internet age. They are trying to bring him into a post-911 world.

I noticed that you were born on May 25th, 1968.

Kevin Heffernan: That is true. Were you?

No, but that is the date of the most infamous Bigfoot sighting in Illinois history.

Kevin Heffernan: No shit. Really?

Yeah, is that just a coincidence? Or is there some sort of meaning there. Are you somehow tied to this material cosmically?

Kevin Heffernan: I have goose bumps now.

You do not.

Kevin Heffernan: Maybe there is some sort of cover-up. I didn't even know that was true. Was that one of the ones where they have a film of a guy tromping through the woods? That would be pretty exciting.

No, but they had pictures from the sighting. And the guy that claims to have witnessed this went out and did some of those plaster castings of the foot imprints that you see all the time.

Kevin Heffernan: Oh, shit. Really? Okay.

Yeah, I did some research this morning. I was looking up stuff on Bigfoot and found that in there.

Kevin Heffernan: Wow! I did not know that. You are totally changing the whole outlook on my life right now.

Are you someone that likes to go camping? Or are you someone that is scared to go into the woods?

Kevin Heffernan: Yeah, I am not a camper. I don't like to go into the woods. My wife is a big camper, though. The last time I went, I was in a tent with her. I woke up in the middle of the night. I heard something walking around outside the tent. I literally made a girly shriek. And I tried to get into the sleeping bag with her. I'm a sucky camper.

Now, doing a project away from the Broken Lizard Group...Is that kind of hard to stray away from those guys?

Kevin Heffernan: Those guys suck.

Do they?

Kevin Heffernan: Its fine, and we all do it here or there. It is fun, because it actually helps you go out and meet other people. Then it all comes back around again. In doing this movie, I got to work with Fred Wolf and Peter Gaulke. They have both had scripts that we tried to get going as the group. It helps everyone when you go outside and you start working with other people. When you find other people to work with, that is great.

Are Fred and Peter two guys that you plan on working with more in the future?

Kevin Heffernan: I think Gaulke has a script that we were working on for Broken Lizard. Jay would direct that, and I would have the lead. It is called The Baby Maker. It is semi-autobiographical. I think I am allowed to say that. It is about a guy that is trying to have a baby. But he is shooting blanks to his wife. He remembers that he has donated batches of sperm to a sperm bank back in college. He is trying to get that, and the sperm bank wont give it too him. So he and his buddies plan this elaborate sperm bank heist. To go get his stuff back. It is kind of like Ocean's Eleven with sperm.

That sounds awesome. That is based on a true story?

Kevin Heffernan: Who knows? I think Gaulke did go through that a little bit. I don't figure he had an Ocean's Eleven sperm bank heist experience. I think this was just a thought he had. You go through these things when you are trying to have a baby with your wife and it doesn't happen. It is based on those funny things he went through to get to that point.

I noticed in Strange Wilderness, Steve Zahn's character is named Pete Gaulke.

Kevin Heffernan: Yes. That was very confusing. Covert's name in the movie is Fred Wolf. These two real life guys were the creators of the movie. I hadn't met those guys before I went in to talk about the movie. You read the script and you see Fred Wolf and Pete Gaulke. Then you go in for the meeting, and this hand comes at you, "Hi, I'm Fred Wolf" And, "I'm Pete Gaulke." How does this work? Are these guys playing me? It was funny. They just wanted the characters to be them. And on the set it became very confusing. You would call Covert by his character name, and Fred would think you were talking to him. It was kind of weird.

Now, in the Baby Maker, is the main character once again named Pete Gaulke? Is there some kind of strange tie to this film and that one?

Kevin Heffernan: (Laughs) No, no. He held off from putting his name in that one. Ha, yeah, That is their shtick. To name all of their characters after themselves.

Now, you're next film with Broken Lizard is Slammin' Salmo?

Kevin Heffernan: Yeah, we start shooting that on January 7th.

What is that about?

Kevin Heffernan: It basically takes place in one night at this high-end seafood restaurant. And it deals with the wait staff. The restaurant is owned by this former heavyweight champion that is crazy like Mike Tyson. He is bipolar. He comes in one night, and we discover that he owes a shitload of money to the Yakuza. His restaurant has to earn twenty grand in one night. So he enters his waiters into a contest. To see who can earn the most money. It turns into a Glengarry Glen Ross situation.

How did the decision to direct this yourself come about?

Kevin Heffernan: We've had the script kicking around for a while. It is fairly small, and low budget. We knew that we would have to raise some independent financing. We wanted to make it ourselves. We though that would be the route to go. It was always strange. We knew the strike would be happening. And the studios were shutting down a while ago. We had to go into huddle mode, because it was getting difficult to get things done. We had to get our own financing. So we put together the money through our investor. He said, "I'll write the check right now. Lets go!" So, Jay had an obligation to Warner Brothers as a director. And he couldn't just jump onto this. So, I figured I would do it. And all the guys were behind the decision. They said, "Yeah, lets just do it."

That's just cool.

Kevin Heffernan: So, yeah. I've got the reigns. And I hope I don't fuck it up.

I don't think you are going to fuck it up.

Kevin Heffernan: It has been going great, actually.

Now, you had Bill Paxton come onto the third one, Broken Lizard's Club Dread. Are there any actors that we should be aware of that will be appearing in this?

Kevin Heffernan: We are talking to people right now. Paxton is actually going to do it again. He has a part in this new movie. We are in talks right now with a couple of other people. I'm just not allowed to share until the contract is signed. I know we have Paxton. And we will have some of our friends that have been around in the past movies. It is a family. And this is sort of like a stage play. We are building a restaurant inside of a soundstage. We are going to go in there for twenty-five days and shoot.

Is there anyone from the Happy Madison camp that will be appearing? Or is that something you can't talk about?

Kevin Heffernan: Not yet. We haven't approached any of those guys yet. We aren't in that mode yet. We are trying to land some of the bigger roles first. We'll then start to fill out all of the cameo stuff.

I noticed that on IMDB, it says a Super Troopers 2 is in the works. Is that true? And what is the deal with all of the characters being named "Father" of your original characters?

Kevin Heffernan: God, that was a rumor that started at some point. I don't know if one of the other guys said it. "Maybe we'll all play our own characters' fathers." That is not necessarily accurate. It has been sort of a little dance with Fox Searchlight. Where they said they wanted to do it. We were getting ready to make Beerfest. And then maybe a year ago we said, "Let's do it." We took the outline, and we went in and pitched it to them. They were like, "Great." We started to enter into some negotiations. Then the strike stuff hit. And now it is all in talks. We were going down that road. But it all got stalled.

Well, that's my time. I was just going to reiterate that if you guys have another premier, you should look into doing it at that Drive-In.

Kevin Heffernan: You said that was called The Mission: Tiki theater?

Yeah. That place is awesome. You'd love it over there. Anyway, thanks for talking with me today. I am really looking forward to seeing you in this film.

Kevin Heffernan: Great. Thanks Paulington.

Strange Wilderness opens February 1st, 2008.

Cinemark Movie Club
B. Alan Orange