The guys from Broken Lizard were in Boston recently to talk about their new film Quasi. Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske and Jay Chandrasekhar had a lot to say about their first period film, doing multiple characters, accents and streaming services.
Quasi is a re-imagining of Quasimodo set in period France with each member of Broken Lizard playing multiple characters, using accents and wigs and all kinds of costumes. I asked the guys with this being such a different type of movie for them if it felt freeing compared to having to play the greatest hits types of jokes of previous films. Steve Lemme, “I thought it was the best thing ever. We were a sketch comedy group when we were in college. Us putting on wigs, funny costumes, obviously we were influenced by Monty Python, they played multiple roles. This was kind of a nod to them. It’s completely different than anything we’ve done before which is always refreshing and awesome as a storyteller. I had a blast.”
With it being something completely different than previous films they were asked if there was anything they wanted to put in the film they couldn’t have in previous projects. Paul Soter, “Accents? Have we really done accents? You (pointing at Jay Chandrasekhar) had an accent in Club Dread, you (pointing at Steve) kind of had a funny voice in Beerfest.” Steve, “This is my acting accent (laughing).” Kevin Heffernan, “I think just the silly wigs and costumes, we haven’t done that. We’re usually playing in the actual world, present day world. The joy of it was not doing that.” Paul, “That’s just a whole different style. It’s a blast.”
With Quasimodo and the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame having been done many times before, they talked about how their story came about. Erik Stolhanske, “Well we felt historically it wasn’t represented truthfully (laughing).” Kevin, “It didn’t start that way. It started with Steve, a character he used to do 20 years ago. A character we thought was funny, a guy he worked with. A lonely loser who spoke out of the side of his mouth. He would imitate the guy and we would all think it was funny.” Steve, imitating the guy speaking out of the side of his mouth, “To put it in context I worked at a record store and he was the head of the jazz & blues department. He spoke out of the side of his mouth and he would talk about how lonely it was and how playing the saxophone was the loneliest instrument of all the instruments. How he would sit alone at the windowsill on the hot, sweaty, bluesy nights playing a song for a woman he knew was out there, but hadn’t met yet. We would riff on this character, oh what a great guy, how can we make him a bigger loser? We were like, let’s make him a hunchback in medieval France. Then he winds up a puppet in this game, a power struggle between the pope and a king. Then how can we make him a bigger loser and we made him a virgin on top of that. We thought it was a good jumping off point for a character like that and the movie just kind of unfolded after that.”
With movies like Quasi and the recently released Renfield that take historical figures and turn them into absurdist films, they talked about what other fictional characters they could see themselves adapting. Paul, “The other movie like this we wrote and haven’t made yet is about Socrates and Plato. That’s another case where we take known characters and do our own particular spin on it.” Jay, “We also wrote a movie called Bunny Stew about a war between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for supremacy of the holiday season. That one could also happen.” Steve, “That one’s like a $200 million movie.” Kevin, “It all depends on how this one does.” Erik, “We started as a sketchy comedy group so we have a lot of sketches.”
The film is hitting Hulu on April 20th so I asked them how things have changed since they first started out making movies 20 years ago and how now streaming services are putting out tons of content. Kevin, “We were never an entity that had wild box office theatrical success. Our movies were discovered by people sitting in their living rooms and watching with their friends, in their dorm rooms. So we kinda come from that world anyway. When we were making the deal for this movie it was in the middle of the pandemic. With the pandemic there was no theatrical so it was kind of this is it, if you guys want to do this, let’s do it this way. However you can get it to the most people you can, that’s what I’m happy about. There’s nothing like sitting in a room with 300 people laughing together, but the world has changed a little bit now.” Steve, “We have a few stoners in our fan base and I think they like sitting on their couch.”
With this being the first time they’ve all played different characters in the same movie, they talked about what that process was like. Paul, “It was really fun and really interesting having a scene playing against yourself logistically, but also because everybody besides Steve had an elevated persona that spoke with an accent and an Earthy commoner persona. It wasn’t just switching sides of the camera. You were doing a different accent. You were doing a different posture. You had a very different delivery. Maybe because of the novelty it was so much fun. I got a kick out of it.” Jay, “It was the wardrobe that made you act a certain way. You put on these crowns and these wigs or you put on a bartender outfit with dirt all over your face. It’s pretty easy to fall into it.” Steve, “The one that really had to deal with that was Kevin who’s directing the movie. I think he’s the only one who actually has scenes between his two characters.” The rest of the group laughably correct him.
Kevin and Steve also star in the criminally underrated Tacoma FD series and Kevin brought in a bunch of the cast for Quasi. One of those cast members is Hassie Harrison who also stars in Yellowstone. I joked and asked them if they’ve hit her up to try go get on Yellowstone. Kevin jokingly, “We’re trying to get the Yellowstone guys in our movies! It just so happened that we shot the movie in between seasons 3 and 4 for us. We had a window of time so we used a lot of the Tacoma crew on the movie. The cast, I was like ‘Hey do you want to come and work with us?’ And they’re so much in our style and their improv skills are so great we just threw them into parts that didn’t even have dialogue. The trailer came out and they have all the jokes. They just came in and fit and they were excited to work on a movie with us.”
Quasi drops on Hulu April 20, 2023