While the television drama CHiPs studied the events of two fictional police officers on the California Highway patrol from 1977 to 1983, Dax Shepard has transformed the narrative into a tongue-in-cheek comedy. CHiPs opened last week on March 24 to mixed reviews. And, with the original stars Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada unable to agree on the merits of the 2017 edition, actor and director Shepard admitted to Collider that he was desperate to put his own parody spin on the source material.
"It didn’t land on my lap, I went and begged them (Warner Brothers) to let me do it," said the 42-year old. "They had developed different versions of this movie in the past, Warner Brothers. I think all the previous attempts went in a parody direction, like Starsky & Hutch kind of. I was writing another script and I made a Poncherello joke in that script, but I didn’t know how to spell Poncherello so I googled Poncherello, and then this image popped up of Jon and Ponch but they looked really tough, it wasn’t the traditional image of the like family friendly TV, they looked kind of like they were in Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys. And I was like, 'Hold on a second. That show could handle that treatment. It’s guys on motorcycles at the end of the day, so it could hold that kind of Bad Boys tone' and that’s really all I pitched them. With Michael Peña as Ponch."
Ant-Man Editor Helped To Balance Action and Comedy
Putting the drafted product onto the screen for his peers to judge, Shepard explained that the testing process enabled him to cut the movie down to it's essentials.
"You learn everything in the tests. The tests are the most important part of the process, and not even necessarily reading those cards afterwards, because when it gets to that part of the testing process where you’re asking people to articulate their opinion, it can kind of break down a little bit," he remarked. "But just sitting in a theater with strangers who have no expectations of the movie, there’s such a visceral, palpable flow to the movie and you immediately know which scenes are long, which ones are slow, which ones are working, and which ones need help."
Knowing that he was taking a drama and turning it into an action comedy, how was he able to avoid shifting the balance too much towards one genre? Shepard revealed that he utlized the help of a Marvel moviemaker, someone Michael Peña knew well.
"It was easy for there to be too much action, not enough comedy, or vice versa, too much comedy, not enough action. You want those two elements to be as equal as possible so that you never go a stretch where there’s 12 minutes of hardcore action and then someone tells a joke and you’re like, 'Wait, what movie is this?' You don’t wanna have that feeling of, 'what movie is this?' And so that was really where the artistry came in and that’s where Dan Lebental, the editor who also did all of (Jon) Favreau’s movies and did Ant-Man, that’s his particular genius, helping balance that."
Flick Was Going To Start With A Dark Don
Securing Full Metal Jacket and Daredevil star Vincent D'Onofrio to the cast was quite a coup and although that was a surprise for many to see him onboard a project of this tone, Shepard told Collider that he was to establish the movie until it was left on the cutting room floor.
"I have this awesome scene –it might even be my favorite scene we shot and edited– which is (Vincent) D’Onofrio pulling over this guy at the side of the road in L.A. and he’s just a bad motherf***er, he’s like in Bad Lieutenant mode, and it’s funny and tough and awesome, but it’s dark. That was supposed to be the first scene you saw in the movie, and it was just we couldn’t match that tone, it was just confusing and it just had to go. But it’s like my favorite scene, so it’ll be there on its own but it’s not in the assembly, the director’s cut assembly."