"Slammin’ Salmon" takes a swipe at funny bones
In the winter of 2008, as a writers’ strike paralyzed the film industry, Kevin Heffernan was laughing. Heffernan and four of his college buddies, the team that wrote, produced, directed and started in the cult hits "Super Troopers" and "Beerfest," were building the least convincing themed restaurant cum movie set they could imagine.
"It was helpful to us that the writers’ strike was going on," Heffernan said. "We were able to get a lot of friends in the industry to work on the film because there was so much less work out there."
"The Slammin’ Salmon" gets its name from "Slammin" Cleon Salmon, a former Heavyweight Champion of the World, played by Michael Clark Duncan, who owns the eponymous high-end Miami seafood restaurant. With antics familiar to "Super Troopers" fans, Cleon reveals that he owes money to the Japanese mob. He decides to institute a contest for one night only: the waiter who sells the most food gets $10,000. The lowest selling waiter gets punched in the head.
"As far as comedies go, it’s kind of a fastball down the middle," said Heffernan, who makes his directorial debut with the film. now, the story of a group of college guys at Colgate University who began a production company and started making movies is the stuff of legend.
Heffernan joined Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, Paul Soter and Jay Chandrasekhar in shooting their first film, "Puddle Cruiser," around campus. The company they started, Broken Lizard, premiered the cop farce "Super Troopers" at Sundance in 2001. Their next film, "Club Dread," followed a killer unleashed on a resort. "Beerfest," released in 2006, centers on two American brothers who compete in a beer-guzzling competition against a group of Germans.
Heffernan said the comedy team builds scripts around stories. "It’s become a very organic process," Heffernan said. "The ideas come from all over. We just sit around the table and throw jokes around."
"Throw" may be the operative word for "Slammin’ Salmon." Duncan, the hulking star of "The Green Mile" and "Planet of the Apes," offers more than a few pot shots and offhanded jokes in the film as a retired boxer a la Mike Tyson. If the film was a return to Broken Lizard’s roots in independent film they made "Puddle Cruisers" for $25,000 it was also a departure for Duncan. "He had never done a low-budget movie," said Heffernan, who described Duncan’s turn as a celebrity restaurateur as "terrifying and hysterical." "This is something people haven’t seen him do before," Heffernan said. "I didn’t want to say cut."
Heffernan co-wrote and acted in "Super Troopers," but he had never acted and directed in a film. Multitasking was difficult, especially in a compressed 25-day schedule, but ultimately rewarding. "Jay [Chandrasekhar] had directed the other movies," Heffernan said. "It was different acting and directing because, as you’re acting, you’re not just focusing on your lines. You’ve got 10 other things going through your mind."
Just the facts
What: A restaurant romp from the creators of "Super Troopers"
When: Thursday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m.
Anita Lewis, Brent Ovard and Travis English were influential in shaping how residents interact with the county.