Set Visit: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Kristen Bell & D'Onofrio Talk CHIPS!

There is nothing like spending time with a great group of people when you are in the middle of nowhere, in the freezing cold, bundled up like you are in the artic. Yes, while a handful of journalists headed to Palmdale, California, we spent some quality time with Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Vincent D’Onofrio and Michael Pena. And yes, it was cold and we were warned to dress appropriately - well, aside from Ms. Bell who was wearing a less than warm costume. That said, it was a real pleasure stepping into the world of CHiPs, the new action comedy based on the classic series from the Seventies.

While I do remember catching the original series on Nick at Nite or something along those lines, this new version will be a whole lot different and we may be better for it. Frankly, I don’t remember a ton of crude sexual content, graphic nudity, language and violence when Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada dealt with chasing perps down in Los Angeles. So there is a great chance that we are in for something quite different than what we were originally accustomed to.

During our time on set we sat down with Dax who discussed why he decided to do CHiPs, and all about the casting and cars. The lovely Kristen Bell opened up about being freezing in a skimpy costume and working with her hubby. The great Vincent D’Onofrio talked about playing a bad guy, but leaving the stunts to the professionals. And finally, Michael Peña gave us his take on playing Ponch, and riding motorcycles.

CHiPs is speeding into theatres this coming March 24! Are you ready to hop on board?!

Dax Shepard

How Dax Shepard got involved with CHIPs:

“I was writing a script for an actress, and in the script I made a Poncherello joke, but I didn’t know how to spell Poncherello, nor most words. So I googled it and when I googled Poncherello, a picture of Jon and Ponch came up that wasn’t like the normal full-body, goofier one. It was like a tight shot of both of them in their helmets kind of staring out and I was like, wow, they look pretty bad ass in this photo. I just saved it on my desktop for some weird reason and I just kept seeing it as I was writing this other thing. And then I thought, you know, I think there’s like a bad ass version of this movie waiting to be made, like something more in the, you know, BAD BOYS, LETHAL WEAPON, BEVERLY HILLS COP world, and so, my good friend, Andrew Panay - who produced HIT AND RUN  and who I’ve done a bunch of movies with - happened to be a producer on CHiPS like 10 years before. I called him and said, are you still on CHiPs, and he said, I don’t know, but let me call Greg Silverman at Warner Bros. and let’s go see him. So I had gone there really just to pitch my version as a writer, with hopes of putting my hat in the ring to direct. In that pitch, he said, 'I’m in. I love it, and then you’ll be Jon,' and I said, 'I assume you’ll hire like a big movie star to play Jon.' He said, 'No, you do it all,' and I was like, 'Alright, get me out of this office right this second, before he changes his mind,' and then, that was, that would be two years ago this coming January.”

With the mention of BAD BOYS and LETHAL WEAPON, what is the balance of comedy and explosions:

“I’d say this one is action first and comedy second, which is not to say I don’t put as much energy into... well, that’s not exactly accurate. It takes a lot more energy to do the action, but you know, as much thought has gone into both. I think I’d rather go into a movie expecting an action movie and then end up laughing a lot more than I anticipated, as opposed to going into a comedy and then there’s all this inexplicable action. It’s just a weird mindset for me.”

Is it like 21 JUMP STREET:

“No, it takes itself seriously. The bad guys are very scary. Vincent D’Onofrio is a f*cking beast and should be feared, and everyone in it is a really skilled dramatic actor, for the most part, doing comedy, which is generally my favorite kind of comedy.”

What about huge pile ups:

“Yeah, yeah. There is, I mean, yeah, I don’t think you will go more than 6 minutes without something exploding, so every day that I get to work, almost everyday, we blow something up. Yesterday we blew the f*ck out of that humungous building over there that we built. The old base camp was a mile down the road and D’Onofrio felt it, his trailer shook a mile away when we blew it. It was spectacular.”

When it came to casting Michael Pena for Ponch:

“The other key ingredient to that pitch other than me just pitching a tone was, he said, 'Well who’s Ponch?' and I said, 'It’s Michael Pena or I really don’t think this tone works. I really think it absolutely has to be him,' and Greg Silverman, who had developed END OF WATCH, for a while, loved Pena, and he’s like, 'I’m in. I’m all the way in,' and then I left. I had never met Michael Pena. I never asked him if he wanted to be in CHiPs and then I had to find mutual friends we had and then text them and say, tell Michael I’m a good guy, and then we had breakfast and I just had to, you know, kind of sell him on what version of this, which it now is, and luckily he wanted to do it. Yeah, because I really didn’t have a movie had he said no.”

In terms of casting, what made D’Onofrio the right choice for the bad guy?

“D’Onofrio has this really unique ability to be terrifying and quirky at the same time, so I didn’t want it to be the bad Russians from DIE HARD. I still wanted the person to have a ton of character and I really, really am striving for his character to be so compelling that you’re really not sure who you want to win. That’s kind of my goal. That’s what I love about Tarantino movies is like, he’s the bad guy, but I kind of hope he wins this fight with Bruce Willis in the pawn shop. So, you know, that’s D’Onofrio. He’s just so innately quirky and interesting and weird. I had worked with him on THE JUDGE a year and half ago and we became really good friends, and also, I’ll say, every previous role I’ve ever shot, like in HIT AND RUN, every single role was written for that real life actor who I was friends with, who I knew what they did well and it was very specific to them. This was very much written as like, here’s a list of suggestions for D’Onofrio, and now I’m really excited to see what he makes it in the movie, you know. He’s one of those people where you just really want him to do what he does and then he really pleasantly surprises you.”

Since Dax is a car guy, what about the cars involved:

“So, it’s heavy on bikes, obviously. yeah, the only fun car, so I did do a chase scene that I drove. It’s not my character, but I did it, because I’m the boss and I get to say which scenes I get to be in. We got a 6-speed Chevy SS, which was a shockingly fun car to disable the traction control on, and pilot though Long Beach. We had like tons of drifting and high speed stuff through Long Beach and then in a cargo container yard and that car was a riot. And then what other cars did we have? We have a lot of Hummers in this, which we’re finding to live up to their reputation. We’ve been trying to break them the whole movie and we can’t. They’re all literally drove, there’s no CG, we drove a Hummer through a motor home, and then ran over a motorcycle, and then ran through two cop cars.”

And motorcycles:

“Yeah, it’s mostly all motorcycle stunts. I love motorcycles as much as I love cars, so really that’s where all the emphasis is.”

When it came to practical effects:

“That is 100%, we will have, you know, I always say this, like oh we have no digital, but of course there are crew members standing in shots that we have to pan out, you know. There’s a million, there will be a million digital shots, but every single stunt in the movie is really done by a real motorcycle. And every single car thing is done by a real car. There’s not cheating of the physics or anything. If you’re watching it, a motorcycle really did it and a guy really did it.”

Kristen Bell

Considering the costume she was wearing, we had to ask Kristen Bell how cold she was:

“I would do anything for my husband, so I will say this, I begged him to get a little bit of production value out of this bathing suit and breastfeeding boobs and he would not have it. He said, no, you’re going to, someone is going to have handed you a robe and then I’m going to have handed you my jacket, because I looked at the temperatures in Palmdale when we’re shooting, and that’s how it’s going to be.”

Dax mentioned nudity, but don’t count on it being Kristen:

“Oh yeah, but not my nudity. There’s a particular type of nudity that he doesn’t like to shoot.”

When asked about her character Karen:

“I’m in a bathing suit. I play a swim instructor. I play Jon’s wife. I have these nails. I’ll start there. This is a big clue here guys. Use whatever adjectives you need to. I play, I play a delicious, sassy piece of arm candy, yeah. Karen.”

And what’s the relationship like with Jon and Ponch:

“Well, I’m Jon’s wife, although the movie begins when we are having some problems in our relationship, some turmoil. He has actually joined, he has actually joined the CHP because my father was a cop and women are supposed to love their fathers best, so he’s attempting to rectify our relationship, to make our relationship better.”

This is a very different character for the actress, she opened up about playing something new:

“It’s a very fun character for me to play. I don’t think, I probably would have gotten cast as this character if my husband hadn’t written it for me. That’s my gut, and he is a great writer because when he writes for someone, he writes to their strengths and I never want to pressure him with anything. I never mentioned, can I be in CHiPs, should I be in CHiPs, do you want me to be in CHiPs. I would never ask him any of those questions, but he said, hey, I’m going to write you as my ex-wife and I was secretly very excited, because I know when he’s penning a script, that he’s writing to things that he knows that I can do well, and so he’s probably seen really sassy, bitchy parts of me that he just allowed to come through Karen.”

On this being a bit of a family production - and why that allows her to be left in the cold literally:

“I don’t even feel (the cold). Yeah, I mean, I have such a sense of pride, just about him in general, because I remember sitting on the couch and him saying, 'You know, nobody has done anything with CHiPs. That property CHiPs is just sitting there and everybody loved it. Why has nobody done anything with it,' and I was like, 'Yeah, it’s a really good idea. You should do something about that,' [spoken in a dismissive tone] and then, cut to 25 months later. So, I have an immense sense of pride, not necessarily for what the product will be - even though I secretly know it will be really good - but for witnessing this human that I love be on this journey that will be a pretty monumental part of his entire life. It’s really nice to see.”

Vincent D’Onofrio

Vincent D'Onofrio talks about taking on the bad guy:

“It’s fun, you know. It’s fun to do a film with Dax. You know, he’s a friend of mine and you know, he’s so good at, he’s written everything and he’s asked certain people to do it with him and just to be in here is exciting. I’m so proud of him and his future and stuff. As far as Ray, Ray is just, you know, he’s on a mission. He’s a guy with a mission and he wants to protect his son from his son’s self, and he wants to make a bunch of money and get the f*ck out of dodge. That’s what he wants to do.”

When it comes to stunts, did Mr. D’Onofrio get involved in that:

“No, I don’t do any of the dangerous stuff. First of all, we’re not allowed, and secondly, I’m not that great on the motorcycle like Dax is and the stunt guy is here. It’s silly for me to try and do that stuff, but any time that I, I do it, you know, but I’m not going to say that it’s not the stunt guys doing most of the crazy. There’s a lot of, I mean, when there’s a stunt in this movie, there’s a stunt. It’s not little things, it’s huge things. It’s like people jumping over shit and crashing, you know. You know, the other day, my stunt double, Eric Benson, who actually, Dobber did it, one of Dax’s guys, you know, he was riding forward on my Harley and they shoot at him and he takes a complete spill. The Harley goes on the side, they busted the Harley for real. You know, I can’t do stuff like that. It would be crazy. I’d be in the hospital for nine months. This guy just got up and did it again. Crazy.”

When it comes to choosing his projects, does genre have any influence:

“Not really. This here has been pretty crazy. I’ve been jumping all over the place doing lots of different things. I think I’m lucky to still be working. It’s kind of nice, so if it’s not, everything has, everything you do has a different reason why you do it. For me it is, anyway. So, Daredevil I wanted to, I had been talking to the Marvel guys and I immediately had a take on it, so that’s why I wanted to do that. I think this was the combination of trusting Dax so much and being so impressed by him and his sense of humor and his writing, and I think that that’s pretty much why I’m here on this one. I want so badly for him to keep directing movies, you know. So, everything has a different reason.”

Will fans of the series connect with this:

“I think that if you’re, if you’re of the age where it’s nostalgic, I think you have that going in. You have the nostalgic feeling going in and you want it to be really cool and funny and I think this will deliver that. I think that for people that are old enough, or the right age to have seen it when they were kids, they’re going to find it really cool to have this whole kind of Dax Shepard version of it. And I think that people that have never seen the show, will look at it as a standalone action movie about California Highway Patrol, which is pretty cool.”

Michael Peña

Michael Pena discussed this particular take on the character Ponch:

“So, this version is, I struggled a little, because it was such an iconic character, you know, and I was like, shit, there’s no way to really to capture what Erik Estrada did with that Ponch character. But I did know that the meat and potatoes of the movie is how they interacted. The two guys interacted. I was like screw it, I’ll just work on that and try to make it my own as opposed to me trying to invent some character. I think the way that people define Ponch is how people reacted towards him. There’s no way to dictate whether people are going to like my Ponch or not, so it’s better to just adhere to the story, but this one has got a little bit of humor in it.”

Did his performance in ANT-MAN open him up to more comedic material:

“A little bit. I pick and choose everything, you know what I mean. I still go to auditions for, it was really funny, I got an offer on something and they said, if this was a comedy, he would get the job easy, but I’ve done four comedies. You know, I grew up doing drama basically. I think I’ve done, Observe and Report… five comedies, and that’s it, in 20 years. I like it though. I wouldn’t say that I’m a comedian or anything. I’m not like Dax Shepard, where he’s profoundly funny, but I can sometimes plant it or get lucky or whatever, or you just surround yourself with funny people and they give you line release.”

Is it easy to work with Dax as a director as well as an actor:

“It’s interesting working with an actor who is also directing you. It’s like, for instance, Ridley Scott, he really loved all the ideas that I brought him and he knew the story in and out, he’s like, yeah, try it, try it. This one we’re doing it, believe it or not, we’re doing it for a budget, so we really need to get the story that’s on the page and sometimes we don’t have time to really explore certain scenes or whatever. Hopefully if there’s a sequel we can, and we’ll be able to do a little bit more of that, but we pick and choose our battles. We rehearsed so much, and he’s, you know, whatever stuff would come out of the improvs, he would put it to the script, and he’s got a memory like an elephant, he really does. We would have some conversations and all of a sudden, there are little tidbits that he liked, which he peppered the script with, which I thought was really cool.”

You learned to ride for this movie. How are you digging that:

“Oh God, man. Dude, I remember, because I have a kid, who is 7 years old. If I was 20 years old, I’d be like awesome man, and I wouldn’t give a shit, but in this one, I got on for the first time and I was like, I could f*cking die. This could be the end, man. You look at things a little bit differently, and you know, thank God, I never, I haven’t fallen or anything, knock on wood, but it was, you know, it was crazy. I had to do a lot of riding just to get comfortable. It’s a beast. I don’t know if anybody here rides, but… “

Source: JoBlo.com



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