Set Visit: Beerfest
As I plopped another chunk of eggs onto my plate, I heard someone say "Are you Omar?" and turned to find a beautiful woman staring at me. Thinking myself a striking Latino heartthrob of such magnitude that not only had she gravitated towards me but I'd somehow telepathically given her my name, I debonairly (at least in my mind) uttered "yeah". While I prepared my response to what would surely be a confession of inexplicable attraction, I instead got "Hi, I'm Orna, do you know where we're sitting?" and followed her finger to a group in the center of the room happily enjoying their breakfast.
And with that I snapped back to reality and realized I was in New Mexico to visit the set of Broken Lizard's BEERFEST, Orna was Warner Bros.' Senior Publicist of Interactive Marketing and I should have probably stopped thinking I was the star in my own personal CASABLANCA. Especially since me flapping my head as if it was blowing in the wind in slow motion was probably starting to freak her out. At least it would have freaked her out if I was actually doing it but luckily I made the prudent last minute decision to hold off on the "slow motion head flapping".
Sitting down to eat a breakfast that doesnt include an apple of questionable freshness or cereal with expired milk (hey, only by a week) for the first time in months, three thoughts immediately hit me 1) these guys (other online journalists) probably have no idea who I am. I should introduce myself; 2) I should eat watermelons more often; 3) what the hell is this movie about? The third, of course, was undoubtedly the most important and despite my extensive research, which mostly (by which I mean completely) involved visiting the film's IMDB page and noticing there was an "in production" placard in place of a plot synopsis, Id concluded that the entire internet was devoid of any substantial information about the film.
Being a master puzzle solver, however, Ive managed to cobble together a somewhat coherent idea of the plot. Instead of giving you that semi-lucid semi-coherent ramble, though, heres the official synopsis.
-You are now entering a spoiler zone; proceed at your own risk-
When American brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse (Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) travel to Germany to spread their grandfathers ashes at Oktoberfest, they stumble upon a super-secret, centuries old, underground beer games competition Beerfest, the secret Olympics of beer drinking. The brothers receive a less than warm welcome from their German cousins, the Von Wolfhausens, who humiliate Todd and Jan, slander their relatives, and finally cast them out of the event.
Vowing to return in a year to defend their country and their familys honor, The Wolfhouse boys assemble a ragtag dream team of beer drinkers and gamers: Barry Badrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar), the consummate skills player with a dark past; Phil Krundle (Kevin Heffernan) (AKA Landfill), a one-man chugging machine; and Steve Fink Finklestein (Steve Lemme), the lab tech with a PhD in All Things Beer. This Magnificent Five train relentlessly, using their hearts, minds and livers to drink faster, smarter and harder than they ever have before. But first they must battle their own demons... as well as a bunch of big, blond, German jerks who want to destroy the team before they can even make it back to Munich. Revenge, like beer, is best served cold.
-end spoiler zone-
After a hearty breakfast and a brief discussion on a man who Im baffled managed to survive high school with a name like Michael Moorcock, we loaded a van and headed to the set.
On the way there, an off-the-cuff remark I made prompted one of the other web guys to say the JoBlo guys always get the girls which had my mind frantically racing with thoughts like Is that true? This is my second set visit and I didnt get any girls last time and dont foresee getting any girls this time. Am I sullying the JoBlo.com name by not scoring some tang? Should I hit on the driver (she was a hottie)? Before I had a chance to formulate an appropriate plan to scam the apparently requisite tail, however, we arrived on set.
-- JoBlo in his prime, circa 200, San Diego --
The set was a bio-park that had been converted into the main Oktoberfest carnival area and it was all awash in a sea of lederhosen and Bavarian beer wenches. I know what youre thinking is there anything remotely enticing about women wearing short, tight dresses with low-hanging, cleavage-bearing tops, knee-high socks and pigtails? Um...yeah. A lot. And for that matter is there anything alluring about men in lederhosen? Of course!! (not really)
As we approached the entrance to the park, a security guard stopped us and asked us if we were extras. Someone explained that we were journalists but perhaps being dizzied by the excess of lederhosen, he didnt understand and kept wanting clarification of our purpose and why it involved a decided lack of lederhosen. Finally, someone said in jest were just here for the babes to which the security guard responded by pulling out his gun, shooting the person in the chest and saying Anyone else got any smart things to say? At least this is the scenario I morbidly imagined to entertain myself as we waited for Unit Publicist Charlie Pinto to usher us through the pearly pseudo-Oktoberfest gates.
The reason for the wait was that director Jay Chandrasekhar was shooting a scene involving the Baron of Oktoberfest (thats Jurgen, remember) in a horse-drawn carriage explaining the history of the fest to his intrigued grandson. They were shooting the horses and carriage alone (as in without Jurgen and grandson) and we were allowed entrance once the horses were outside.
The interior of the complex was a small approximation of the real Oktoberfest (see below) with a tent in the far corner and a few buildings repainted and redressed to look like the warehouses used to house the wide array of beer. There was a rig traversing the complex from the entrance to the adjoining aquarium section of the park (which wasnt being used in the film) that would allow the carriage to travel a small distance while filming (from the perspective of the horses) Jurgen and his onscreen grandson.
While waiting to speak to any of the Broken Lizard guys, I heard someone say Oh Cloris [Leachman, whos in the film], is filthy! to which my immediate reaction was Eeeeww. However, on further prompting, I learned they were discussing Leachmans potty-mouth to which I corrected my initial response by quietly whispering Awesome! Before I could conjure an appropriate image of Leachman wantonly dropping an f-bomb, however, Jurgen approached us and kindly indulged our need to speak to one bad ass mofo.
At some point we got a chance to see Jurgen perform the aforementioned scene. He did it a couple of times, regaling his grandson with the history of Oktoberfest and the importance of the ceremonial keg, while surrounded by a tunnel of beer wenches and lederhosen-clad men waving flags and seeming very excited about the imminent festivities.
Our plans to see the Beerfest arena were scrapped so after we wrapped up interviews with all the Broken Lizard guys (stay tuned for these...), our set visit essentially ended. At least thats what I thought. The next day, you see, while waiting at the hotel to catch a cab to the airport, Jay parked his car immediately outside, came inside, took a glance at me and for a brief moment I thought there was a hint of recognition in his eyes. Readying myself to shoot the proverbial shit while we both waited, he looked away, got his bags and drove off. I realize now the look was more along the lines of Why the hell is that creepy-looking kid staring at me? Which reminds me I gotta stop staring at people.
Thanks to Orna and Charlie for being our guides on set, the Broken Lizard guys and the cast and crew of BEERFEST for being so cool with us hanging around and to Warner Bros. for letting us on set in the first place. And, of course, a big thanks to the beer wenches!
Stay tuned for the interviews!!
BEERFEST goes wide on August 25th
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