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Dax Shepard: The 'CHiPs' remake is like 'Bad Boys' with tighter pants

When news broke that Dax Shepard was writing, directing, and starring in a remake of CHiPs, the popular television series that ran from 1977 to 1983 and followed two California patrol officers, fans immediately wondered what a “more serious” take on the story would look like. And according to Shepard, it will add the FBI to the mix, but retain a few things from the original (namely, the tight pants).

EW caught up with Shepard to get some details on the upcoming remake.

EW: So CHiPs might have been my favorite show growing up.
DAX SHEPARD: Really? Did you have a major crush on Poncherello?

Actually, I had a major crush on Jon.
That’s so counterintuitive. Most gals were obsessed with Ponch. Your dad must’ve been a really sweet man.

He was. Well, he is.
Yeah, that explains that. I think the litmus test is, if you’re attracted to Jon, you had a really nice father, and then if you’re attracted to Ponch, your dad was probably not around as much and was maybe a little more you know risque. But I’m going to play a little bit more dangerous version of Jon. My version of Jon is a little scarier.

So it’s for people whose dad was sort of around?
My dad, who was a car salesman who spent a lot of time at the bar and drove a Corvette.

The only thing I’ve really heard is that it’s a more serious take on the series, but what can you tell me about the angle you’re going for?
Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s not the spoof version at all, and it’s not the comedy-first version. It’s the action-first version. It’s way more tonally in keeping with Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys. I’m super, super into motorcycles. It’s something that I take absurdly seriously, so my commitment to it being a very kick-ass motorcycle movie is No. 1. And then I doubt you saw Hit and Run, but if you saw Hit and Run, my other commitment being to, you know, authentic dialogue that maybe isn’t expositional in nature but more slice-of-life in nature. So it’s not set-up jokes. The comedy I’m trying to mine is the intricacy of male relationships and how awkward those are at the beginning—and then once they take off, how kind of funny and satisfying.

Where are you in the process?
I’ve already written it. I’m really, really happy with it. I was a tiny bit intimidated. It has a legit crime plot to it, and I had never tackled that kind of a plot. I guess Hit and Run was also a crime plot, but not, “Oh, there’s clues and they’re uncovering things and they’re discovering things.” So the mechanics of that were slightly intimidating to me. I spent more time writing this than anything else I’ve written, but the end result, I was really happy with. I feel like it actually has a really good engine, a really good plot to it.

So does it have one central crime?
There’s a series of crimes happening, and it seems quite evident to the FBI that one or more people in the CHP is complicit in this or involved in it, so the movie starts with Ponch, who’s an FBI agent, getting sent to the CHP undercover.

That’s a twist.
I kind of wanted to acknowledge the funny fact that Poncherello is an Italian name and was originally, in the series, written for an Italian guy, but Erik Estrada came in and crushed an audition and they cast a Mexican lead, which was not happening a ton at that time. I think it’s really funny and cool, that you have this Mexican guy playing what was conceived of an an Italian guy, so I wanted to acknowledge that in our script—like, why is this guy playing an Italian? So the fact that he’s undercover explains that.

Anything you definitely want to keep from the original?
I will keep the pants tight. I promise to keep the pants tight from your childhood show.

Thank you. I appreciate that. Wait, wait. Are you going to be wearing different color aviators?
Why do you ask that?

That was always crucial to me. Jon had the lighter, yellow aviators and Ponch had the darker, black aviators.
Well you know what’s so bizarre, by pure coincidence, I shot a teaser for the studio of [Michael] Pena and I, and in the teaser, I’m wearing blue aviators and he’s wearing red aviators.

So they’re different but not the exact same as the original.
Right.

I like it.
And that’s a coincidence, I’m glad you just pointed that out to me. It makes me feel like I really stayed true to something that escaped me.

Now you can tell people that’s a little homage to the original.
Yes, this was a conscious choice. Yeah, but in the teaser we’re in red and blue. Which I just liked because those are police-siren colors.

First look: Dax Shepard in 'The Judge' and 'This Is Where I Leave You'

In between his work on the final season of Parenthood and writing the script for his upcoming CHiPs remake, Dax Shepard stayed busy, shooting The Judge and This Is Where I Leave You at the same time. Playing a young lawyer alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in one, and a jerk radio host alongside Jason Bateman and Tina Fey in the other, Shepard didn’t originally plan on starring in either of the films. But after one email and a few auditions for The Judge and one favor and a table read for This Is Where I Leave You, Shepard suddenly found himself starring in what he claims is one of the best scripts he’s ever read, for The Judge, and in one of the most highly anticipated adaptations of the year, for This Is Where I Leave You.

EW has an exclusive first look at Shepard in both films. Below, read a conversation with him about landing the roles, being punched by Tina Fey, and more.

EW: Your hair in this Judge photo is just amazing.
DAX SHEPARD:
It was an exercise in breaking my vanity, getting in those suits that didn’t fit and parting my hair on the side. It was rough, but I got through it.

But it was good. I had a similar experience to playing The Judge—this is such a terrible story. But I’m so into cars; especially from where I’m from in Detroit, your car is everything. It’s who you are. In high school, that’s all you care about is what car you drive, and then the second I made $5, I made sure I got a car I loved. One time went to a film festival in Austin, and I borrowed a friends really old rusted-out piece-of-s–t Toyota, and it broke several times on the way to the festival, and then I went inside and we had the screening. When I came out, some people from the screening followed me to get some pictures and autographs and whatnot. And I got into this old jalopy, rusted up Toyota, and I could feel that my ego was very affected by the experience, and then I thought, “I should probably buy one of these and drive it for two years just to really get myself under control.” And I felt like parading through Boston [for The Judge], looking like that, was also very constructive in some way.

So it helped you as a person.
Yes. Generally speaking, I don’t have a great self-image, so if I can be in an outfit I like, that certainly helps. So I didn’t have any of my go-to weapons.

And you’re standing in a room with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.
F—ing tough. Tough business. If every photo you’re in in a movie is standing next to Robert [Downey Jr.], it’s rough on the self-esteem.

So how did you get involved in The Judge?
I had a nine-hour flight home, and I read I think four scripts on the plane. It’s really hard to read that fourth script if you’ve just read three. It’s not my favorite format for literature by far, so by the time I got to the fourth script I was like “Oh god, here we go, I gotta get through this last one. It’s a goal I set on this flight.”

And then the fourth one was The Judge, and it just was if not the best script I’ve ever read, definitely in the top three, and I’ve been reading them now for 12 years pretty regularly. I just was so blown away with this script that when I landed. I had a layover in Seattle and I can still see where I was seated in the terminal. I emailed Susan Downey, who I know personally, and I just wrote her an email saying like, “I’m so happy for you guys that you have this script, it’s just beautiful and I would love to be a waiter in this thing or cross in the background as an extra. I just would love in any way to be associated with such a great script.” And she said, “Oh, great, I’ll set up a meeting for you and [director David] Dobkin.” She didn’t laugh at me for being interested. A

I got home and I met with Dobkin, we had lunch, and we had crossed paths a few times over the years for different things he’s made, and then he said, “Yeah, you can audition to play that lawyer.” That’s who I kind of gravitated towards. I think my agents had said to me to try to chase one of the brother roles, but I just really thought I had a take on this really eager, kind of nice, naive lawyer, so I went and read for the casting director—then to my shock, Dobkin really, really loved it. Then I went and read for him one more time and[there was] like a three- or four-week period where it looked like I was gonna get it, but at the same time, I wasn’t getting an offer, so it was an emotional roller coaster. Ultimately I did get it, which was very rewarding, and Robert [Dowey Jr.] called me personally to say, “You’re going to do this movie with us.”

He called you?
Yeah. It was pretty spectacular. And I was shooting [The Judge and This Is Where I Leave You] at the exact same time, so I was flying back and forth between New York and Boston being both those characters: one an outspoken, arrogant douchebag, and the other a humble, nice, sweet lawyer.

So how would you describe your character in The Judge? I read that he was sort of the comic relief in a way.
Not in the sense that I make jokes. It’s not a comedic role, but it’s so opposite of Robert’s character. It is the polar opposite, and so I think just seeing me be just so contradictory to him is really funny. It’s certainly not played as a comedic role by design. But it does come off as very funny. He’s so confident and sharp and cunning, and then I’m just so from-the-heart and naive that, yeah, the execution ends up being pretty funny. But it certainly wasn’t ever playing the comedy of it.

How is it that your character gets pulled into the case?

So Duvall, who is a long-standing judge in this small town, has seen many lawyers come through his courtroom and what he values most is character. That’s what he puts the ultimate prize on. And in fact, there’s a moment where Downey asks him who the best attorney he ever saw was—and he wasn’t an F. Lee Bailey type who had won the case; he’d actually just taken a case that he knew was going to ostracize him from the community and he did it anyways because it was the right thing to do, so that’s where Duvall’s priorities lie. So he hires me, who he knows is a very, very good man, and within five seconds of kind of cross-examining me in my office, Downey realizes that this is going to be a major disaster, which it quickly is.

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Switching gears to playing a not-so-good man in This Is Where I Leave You: Had you read the book before you got the role?
I had not. This was nearly the opposite experience from what I had on The Judge. The Judge, I knew I was auditioning, I was rehearsing a ton, and I knew it inside and out when we started. This, I got a call basically saying as a favor to Shawn Levy who I also know, “Will you come to this table read on a Saturday morning at Warner Brothers?” And I said “Absolutely.”

I went, and there wasn’t really any talk of me doing the movie because I knew I was already doing The Judge and that was going to be in Boston, and I also was during a portion of that going to be filming Parenthood, so I knew those two schedules were already at odds. So I went to this table read just as like, “Yeah I’ll go hang out with my friends Jason [Bateman] and Tina [Fey] and then I’ll do a favor to Shawn.” Then I did this table read and shortly thereafter, I went on vacation with my whole family and we were in Utah and I got a call that was, “You need to be on a plane in two days if you want to be in This is Where I Leave You.” And I was like “Oh my gosh, how is that going to work?” And they said since it’s the same studio, now all of a sudden it’s going to be easy to schedule. Suffice it to say I left vacation, and two days later I was in New York shooting the scene where I get punched by Tina Fey.

Which was obviously the highlight of the experience.
Uh, yeah. Yeah. As luck would have it, I think I shot their first two days of filming and then I went and shot their last two days of filming, so there was a good seven weeks in between when I worked.

Let me back up: When I got the call to say, “Do you want to do This Is Where I Leave You starting in two days?” my first question was, “When is that naked scene? I’ve been on vacation pretending I was at the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest for six days, there’s no way I’m screen-ready for a naked scene.” So luckily, that was on the back of the schedule and I said, okay, I guess I have seven weeks to get my s–t together. I was still working through all the compassionate weight I put on during Kristen’s [Bell] first pregnancy, so luckily I had a good enough window that I was able to get back in shape to be naked. I feel a certain obligation to look okay when they hire you to be naked.

There’s also been times where I felt it was my responsibility to gain 40 pounds for a movie too, so it’s not all vanity-driven. But in this case I certainly thought the guy who’s emasculating [Bateman] should be in pretty good shape.

In the book, your character gets a lit cake shoved somewhere you don’t want a lit cake shoved. Were you at all intimidated that they were going to try and do that?
Well, that was another sticky point. Yeah, I did not want a cake shoved up my ass. It was already a dicey proposition to take a role where you destroy the very lovable Jason Bateman’s life, so I was already a little hesitant to be that guy—and then add getting a cake stuck up my ass, that was kind of a dealbreaker. But luckily, that didn’t end up being in the movie. That’s something you can definitely do in a book, but I think if you start a movie where in the first five minutes, you watch a man put a cake up another man’s ass, that’s a hard hard level to maintain for another two hours. I think Sean rightly realized that would be a pace he was setting that just maybe wasn’t maintainable, tonally speaking.

Did you enjoy getting to play the lesser-loved character?
Yeah. Well, what I really enjoyed was that the movie opens with me doing my radio show, and that was really, really fun because what is in the movie is five or six improvised rants kind of edited together. And I got to vocalize a side of my ego that I would probably never say out loud in public but some thoughts I actually do have. So that was really fun, to kind of unleash that side of myself, which probably we all have that we are smart enough not to say out loud. That was actually really fun.

This Is Where I Leave You arrives in theaters Sept. 19, followed by The Judge on Oct. 10.

Dax Shepard to write, direct, and star in 'CHiPS' movie

Jon and Ponch better dust off their motorcycles and clean their aviator sunglasses, because they’re about to hit the big screen.

Sources have confirmed that Warner Bros is teaming with writer, director, and star Dax Shepard on an upcoming big-screen remake of CHiPS, the popular television series that ran from 1977 to 1983 and followed two California patrol officers as they rode around freeways, handed out tickets, and just generally looked cool.

Shepard is on board to star as Officer Jon Baker (originally portrayed by Larry Wilcox) with Michael Pena in the role of Frank Poncherello (originally portrayed by Erik Estrada). According to Deadline, who first reported the news, the remake is planning to offer a more serious take on the original series.

Casting Net: Chris Pine reunites with 'Smokin' Aces' director; Plus, Will Smith, Christoph Waltz, Zach Braff's Kickstarter movie, and more

In the midst of the frenzy surrounding the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, Chris Pine has revealed where he’ll boldly go next. EW has confirmed that Pine will appear in comedic thriller Stretch, a project that reunites the actor with Joe Carnahan, who directed one of Pine’s earliest films, 2006’s Smokin’ Aces. Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) will star in the new film as a down-on-his-luck chauffeur who drives around a mysterious billionaire to get rid of his debt. Details on Pine’s role have not yet been revealed. [The Wrap] READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Kiefer Sutherland to play villain in disaster movie 'Pompeii'; Plus, Kristen Wiig, Reese Witherspoon, more

• Kiefer Sutherland is in final talks to play the villain in Paul W.S. Anderson‘s (Resident Evil) take on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Consider him the Billy Zane of Pompeii, the history-based disaster romance movie that somehow didn’t get made when Titanic and Pearl Harbor were reeling in the big bucks at the box office. Sutherland joins Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), and Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) in the film that began production in Toronto last week. [THR]

• Christina Applegate isn’t finding any shortage of work after her sudden departure from NBC’s Up All Night. The comedienne is in final negotiations to star in Vacation, a reboot of the franchise that began with 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation. Also set to appear in the film is Ed Helms, who will play Rusty, Anthony Michael Hall‘s role in the original. [THR] READ FULL STORY

'Hit and Run' trailer: Bradley Cooper feels violated

Hit and Run looks even more pee-in-your-pants funny, judging by its new red-band trailer. Dax Shepard, who not only stars but wrote, co-directed, co-produced, and even co-edited the film, plays a former getaway driver forced to abandon his witness protection program identity when a dreadlock-rocking Bradley Cooper comes knocking at his door, looking for his money. Cooper went to jail for a heist gone awry, and he’s still sore about it.

The first 10 seconds of the new trailer evoke a Nicholas Sparks chick flick — until it cuts to Shepard and Kristen Bell opening the motel-room door of a group of swinging senior citizens. And then all hell breaks loose.

Check out the really, really NSFW trailer below: READ FULL STORY

'Hit and Run' trailer: Dax Shepard is sorry for that thing that happened to Bradley Cooper in prison

The trailer for Hit and Run opens with an adorable intro from real-life couple Dax Shepard (who co-wrote, co-directed, and stars in the road comedy, out this August) and Kristen Bell (who costars as Shepard’s girlfriend). It’s got buffoonery from Tom Arnold as the federal officer overseeing Shepard’s witness protection, and it features Bradley Cooper in blond dreadlocks, barging in on a senior-citizen swinger party.

But your feelings about the film likely hinge on how funny you find prison rape.

Check out the trailer below:  READ FULL STORY

Sundance: Is video-on-demand the future of indie film? For titles like 'The Freebie' and 'Bass Ackwards,' yes

Everywhere I’ve gone at this festival, the conversation — the obsession, really — has been about “new distribution models.” If you listen up, there’s some awfully excited chatter. Independent filmmakers are going to take control of their destiny! They’re going to forge new strategies! They’re going to make the technology work for them! They’re going to self-distribute! They’re going to plan out how to market their movie before the movie has even been made! (Think I’m kidding? I’ve heard that one several times.) They’re going to take a good hard look at the increasingly marginalized and battered — not to mention cash-poor — landscape of independent film and figure out how to impose themselves on that landscape, to make if work for them, by hook or by crook.

I honor their efforts, and I believe in them, too; if I were a filmmaker, I’d be saying, and doing, the exact same thing. But since I’m not a filmmaker, I can afford to stand back and say that my own excitement about the newly spartan and precarious, technologically fixated, catch-as-catch-can world of indie-film distribution is tempered by a profound ambivalence. It comes down to this: When people talk about “new distribution models,” most of what they’re referring to is innovative new ways to watch movies on television, over the Internet, on your iPad, etc. And before we even get into the possibilities and promises of all that, which are undeniably immense, there’s a voice in my head, a loud and passionate one that shouts, beyond reason: No! What you’re really talking about is giving up the theatrical experience! The shared experience! You’re giving up the dream of what movies are! And you’re daring to call that a revolution!

Okay, I just had to get that out of my system. Now let’s talk about the real world. READ FULL STORY

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