It's tough to redefine yourself when the way you've defined yourself is through big, broad, raunchy comedies, but director Jay Chandrasekhar is trying to do just that--by making a big, raunchy comedy that also has some heart to it. "The Babymakers" stars Paul Schneider as Tommy, a guy happily married to Audrey (Olivia Munn). There's just one little problem--he can't get her pregnant. Turns out that over the years his sperm count has dropped, so he comes up with the only solution he knows of--he's going to pull a bank job. A sperm bank job, that is, stealing the stuff he donated years ago that he knows is, um, high-quality. He enlists his friends--Chandrasekhar's longtime collaborator Kevin Heffernan amongst them--and an Indian mobster (played by the director himself). The end result is occasionally sweet and often sickly sticky. And when we say sick, we mean it. Jay Chandrasekhar spoke with Upcoming-Movies.com about how his approach to comedy has changed a bit over the years--and how it's also stayed the same.
Upcoming-Movies.com: So, this seems different from your previous films. Can you put into words how and why that is?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I watched the entire "The Wire" and then I watched "Mad Men" and now I'm watching "Downton Abby" "Breaking Bad," and I find myself very interested in kind of real humanity, and I think that for me to go from like the style of "Beerfest" straight to a Woody Allenesque sort of funny real thing would be a bit of a huge transition, so I decided to try to make something in between. I hired Paul Schneider because we had such a good experience with Bryan Cox, a real actor who really made all of us look like real actors, and Paul Schneider does the same kind of thing, because he doesn't have this comedian's desperation of needing every second to be funny. He has an interest in making every second feel real. And I'm like, 'okay, great. Keep it real, speed it up 35 per cent, put a pause here and you know, let's make it real and funny.' The point is, when we used to look at a movie, if people were not laughing every 30 seconds we were like, 'let's cut the junk.' And now, I accept that you can be entertained without laughing. You can enjoy, you can be intrigued, and you can be concerned. To some degree, you're known for something and you should not turn your back on that, right?
That doesn't mean you can't transition.
Jay Chandrasekhar: You also can't just continue, because you know, we may go to the grave trying to make another movie as loved as "Super Troopers."
Sure. So you have to kind of still make comedy but shape it a little differently. Do you feel like your own aesthetic has changed over that stretch of time too?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Look, I always wanted "Super Troopers" to feel like "Smokey and the Bandit," which to me was, you know, the moments were real in that film. I mean granted, the scene was big and funny but you believe that can happen. I always felt like even in "Beerfest," we tried to make the most realistic team beer drinking movie ever made. Or at least that fits within this world. So, my aesthetic has sort of changed. I wrote a film called "Shotgun Wedding," and Olivia is actually – I brought her on as a producer and she's helping me rewrite the film and it's real, like super real. There will be really funny moments of it, a lot of them. It's comedy, but it's real, you know? So I want to do more of that as I go forward.
Do you think some of that has to do with a) getting older or b) we are seeing more of that on TV and you've got a lot of experience there too?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I don't know. It's not about being known. It's about, I think, that young male comics are totally afraid of emotion. I was one of them. My friends would call me a pussy, not that I act like that, so you know, we just pack in jokes, macho fights, action, jokes and it works. But I think that ultimately, you know, there's a whole intellectual crowd in this country that typically won't see those kinds of movies. And those people are my friends. And to some degree, I'm one of them, so it's not like I'm rushing out to see these totally straight up the line goofball comedies. I'm not.
Instead you're watching Downton Abbey.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah. Right? Where the big question is will Cousin Matthew marry Lady Mary, and you are like, 'oh God, I'm dying to know.' And you watch that and you're like, 'fuck.' Well, what we really want to do as humans is watch humans be human. It's age. I also think that watching comics age, if they don't evolve, tends to be a very sad prospect, you know? You've already heard that joke you know and when people told you a joke a million times, you're like, 'yeah, I've heard it.'
I've never met Paul, but I always think of him as being a very serious actor. How did you get him on board with this?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I had to convince him, because he's like, 'I don't want to do this super screwball cum-loaded comedy,' and I'm like, 'I don't either.' I said this movie happens to be about a sperm bank heist, but I want you guys to act. And we shot this fight scene between them first, and it was dramatic. It was at least as dramatic as I've gotten. I said, 'I promise you the gags will fit.' I always look at movies and say the best ones work within a bandwidth where there aren't jokes that go above it or below it, you know. Nothing is too slow, too serious and nothing's too big or too fake. You try to fit it in. "Beerfest" had it's own bandwidth. It was a higher bandwidth up here, it was fake drama and certain gags were big but they were all still in that range. There wasn't suddenly this weird dramatic scene in it. So this movie I had to sort of fit that dramatic fight in with the slipping around in cum.
It must be a fine line, though, because you don't want to hold back in terms of the jokes.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Well, we shot the film and Kevin Heffernan and I were like, 'we shoot a movie about a sperm bank heist and people are going to be like, "oh great, here we go, these guys and this fucking cum,"' so we decided to make the classy version of it, and there was going to be no slipping around in sperm thing. We watched the film, watched it with an audience and we were like, 'we need a fucking slippery slide sperm right there, we need one.' And the audience too was like, 'I wish there was a huge scene,' and we're like 'we know, we've written the scene, we just chose to be sophisticated.' Then we started shooting it and I'm like, 'fuck it, we're shooting it.' We took it out of the thing and were like 'all right, here we go, let's go,' and when he started slamming and slipping and sliding, I was talking to the producer and I said, 'there goes the "New York Times" review.' But, I mean, it was also obviously right. The really great films, comedy films, go where the joke is and they don't run away. That's why Sacha Baron Cohen is so interesting, because he shows his cock and he's hairy and that's the actually the funniest version of this joke, so that's what you get. It's an R-rated movie. See the rating. It's not a PG-13. We're not going to fucking say, 'gosh darn it, I'm tuckered.' You're going to hear fucking swearing, and so you also have to keep a leash on that and say we're not going to make every single cum joke in the world. But we're going to make 80 per cent of them. We're going to make the smartest one we can, but we're still making cum jokes. The movie is about a sperm bank heist, okay? If you don't like that, don't get involved, because we're not afraid of that.
So what was it about Paul, what made you think of him for the project?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I liked him in "Lars and the Real Girl," and then I watched him in "Parks and Rec," and that show was so understated at the time that it didn't move me one way or the other. I watched him in "Jesse James" and he was terrific. He looks like a coyote in that movie. The thing that kept occurring to me was this dude is always different. He did the craziest, weirdest character in a movie called "Bright Star." He may have a certain facial structure and eyebrow structure that makes you think he's all serious but you hang out with the guy and he's like a funny Southerner.
Well what about Olivia?. Where does she come into this?
Jay Chandrasekhar: She and I became friends because I was a guest on her show and she and her brother bonded over "Super Troopers," so we really hit it off. Then I tried to get her a late night talk show on Fox and they were like, 'we love her but she's nobody, she's not a stand up.' And I'm like, 'she's as good as any stand up.' We became friends though, and she was in a film I produced called "The Freeloaders." She had one scene and she blew it away. So when this movie came up she's like, 'I need to be in that movie,' and I'm like, 'you do.' There will be resistance, but let's start manipulating people and see what we can do. We pulled it off and luckily, it happened at a time when Soderbergh and Sorkin had done their thing and suddenly –
She's on "The Newsroom."
Jay Chandrasekhar: It's great. She's a great actress.
Greg Kinnear and Joel McHale have made this leap, so it can definitely be done.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah. I have a film called "Shotgun Wedding" that I brought her on as a producer, and she's really great with comedy and dramatic notes. What I can't do ultimately is perfectly write a woman's role. I can try, but I always take it up to a point where I say to the actress, 'take it home for me because I don't know all the greatest jokes about this bra. I know you have jokes about this bra.'