Released in 2001, Super Troopers is the second feature from Broken Lizard, the comedy group made up of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske—all of whom wrote and starred in the film (with Chandrasekhar directing). The movie focuses on five Vermont state troopers who spend most of their time messing with each other and the people they pull over, until potential budget cuts force them to engage in actual police work.
After making $23,182,223 at the box office, strong word-of-mouth and frequent cable airings led to impressive DVD sales and a quick cult comedy status. The film has become so popular that within the last few years alone, professional athletes have played the movie's “meow game” on unsuspecting interviewers, making last year’s filming of a sequel inevitable and majorly welcomed. Here are some facts behind the movie’s shenanigans.
1. HARVEY WEINSTEIN SAID HE WOULD BUY THE SCRIPT, BUT THEN HE COULDN'T TELL IF IT WAS FUNNY.
The film was developed with Miramax, after Broken Lizard impressed head honcho Harvey Weinstein with their first feature, Puddle Cruiser (1996). Paul Soter told Rolling Stone that a Miramax executive told them to approach the film “as if you'll never get to make another movie again. Lay everything out as if this is the only chance you're going to get from now on.” Despite following through, Weinstein read it and, according to Chandrasekhar, reportedly said, "Eh, I don't know. Maybe I just don't know comedy. I don't know. It's funny, but I don't know." Still, Weinstein played a key role in getting the movie sold.
"[Weinstein] comes up to me and says, 'I'm going to do you a favor. Come meet me at the bar,'" Chandrasekhar recalled. "We met up at the bar for last call and had a drink with him [at Sundance]. When people saw us hanging around with Harvey after that movie, the other studios were like, 'Oh, sh*t. We'd better f*cking get on this.' He created a market for the film basically by shadow play. He didn't even see the middle of the movie. He said, 'When you hang out with me, you'll sell your movie.' It went as well as it could possibly go." Fox Searchlight ended up purchasing the rights for a reported $3 million.
2. MORE THAN 20 DRAFTS WERE WRITTEN.
Heffernan estimated that the group wrote more than 20 drafts of the script, with more jokes added every time. "We try to do one joke every six seconds," he said.
3. ONE STUDIO WANTED BEN AFFLECK IN IT.
Broken Lizard was looking to raise $5.5 million to make the movie, with the stipulation that the group's virtual unknowns would star and that Chandrasekhar would direct. Studios declined the opportunity after the group wouldn’t budge on their requirements. “They asked us if they could put Ben Affleck in one part, and they asked if someone else could direct it,” Chandrasekhar remembered.
4. THE FILM WAS FINANCED BY ONE INVESTOR.
Ultimately, the budget ended up being $1.25 million, which was funded by a single investor. “This one guy who had just retired from Wall Street and really wanted to get into film production saw the script and saw Puddle Cruiser and asked us if he could do our movie, and so he gave us the cash," Steve Lemme explained. "He put up the million and a quarter—and got it all back, too.”
5. BRIAN COX ASKED TO BE IN THE MOVIE.
When asked how they convinced Brian Cox, who is widely known for his work with The Royal Shakespeare Company, to appear in the film, Chandrasekhar told The A.V. Club that, "He actually called us. He's always playing parts like pedophiles and Nazi generals and nasty people, and he's a big Jerry Lewis fan, and thinks he's got that bone in him. He's been looking for a comedy to do, and he kept contacting us and contacting us, and he turned out to be amazing."
6. MARISA COUGHLAN GOT THE JOB BECAUSE OF HER THE EXORCIST IMPRESSION.
Marisa Coughlan was sought out specifically for the role of Ursula in the film because of a scene in Kevin Williamson's Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), in which she imitated The Exorcist (1973). Chandrasekhar called it “flat out genius.”
7. MOST OF THE EXTRAS WENT TO THE SAME SCHOOL.
Like the members of Broken Lizard, a majority of the background actors attended Colgate University, too.
8. THE OPENING SCENE WAS BASED IN REALITY.
The college kid (Geoffrey Arend) who was forced to eat drugs to get rid of evidence came straight out of the lives of some friends of the Broken Lizard guys. Border guards at the U.S.-Canada border found a joint in their Winnebago. When they were all asked to step out of the vehicle, one friend ate a stash of mushrooms meant for 10 guys. He tripped for two days.
9. HEFFERNAN AND CHANDRASEKHAR WORKED THEIR PARENTS INTO THE MOVIE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
Heffernan’s mother and father wanted to be in their son’s movie, and Heffernan agreed, but he wouldn't tell them anything about their scene. They're the couple who Farva (Heffernan's character) pulls over and calls “chickenf*ckers.” (In 25 takes.) Chandrasekhar's nod was more low-key: his character, Arcot Ramathorn, shares a first name with his father.
10. THE ACTORS BROKE THE LAW.
On Chandrasekhar’s orders, Heffernan once impersonated a police officer to stop traffic for a scene, after production assistants failed to do so. Stolhanske got caught using his rollers while driving 100 miles per hour, but pleaded he didn’t know they were running. Lemme drove around in his police car, and in uniform, and flashed his rollers at one woman who cut him off successfully.
Years later, Lemme was pulled over while driving 120 miles per hour; it turned out that the officer, nicknamed "Mac," was a huge Super Troopers fan. Instead of a speeding ticket, Lemme took selfies with the officer.
11. THE SYRUP WAS REAL.
The prop woman replaced the syrup in the bottles with iced tea, but Stolhanske claimed the iced tea didn’t give it “that glug, glug, glug thick look” when they chugged in. Chandrasekhar insisted that real syrup had to be used.
12. FARVA’S MUSTACHE WAS FAKE.
“I had a stunt mustache,” Heffernan tweeted during an airing of Super Troopers.
13. HEFFERNAN DIDN’T WANT JIM GAFFIGAN IN THE MOVIE.
Jim Gaffigan ended up playing Larry Johnson, the man who innocently got himself involved in “the meow game." But Heffernan didn’t want Gaffigan involved because he always beat him out at auditions. Heffernan must have forgiven Gaffigan, as the comedian played a role in another Broken Lizard movie, 2009's The Slammin’ Salmon.
14. THERE WAS AN ALTERNATE ENDING.
In the alternative ending, the police officers busted some bad guys while working as meat-packers.
15. THE ORIGINAL IDEA FOR THE SEQUEL WAS TO SET IT IN THE 1970S.
In 2006, Chandrasekhar revealed an idea to make Super Troopers ‘76, a prequel featuring the fathers of the state troopers. By 2009, Chandrasekhar said the sequel now took place three months after the end of the original movie, with the troopers tasked with tackling land ownership squabbles between the United States and Canada. On October 24, 2015, filming for Super Troopers 2 began, months after raising more than $4.5 million on Indiegogo, which at the time was a record for the highest funded film in the crowdfunding website’s history.