So Dax Shepard decides to abandon his comedy career and transform himself into a butt-kickin’ martial arts action star – and put it all on camera in “Brother’s Justice.” Documentary? Mockumentary? An elaborate “Punk”-ing?
A little bit of all of the above, as it turns out. The “Parenthood” star admits that while the film’s mixes improved scenes alongside real-life celeb pals with his own actual karate-demonstrating, gi-clad appearances on Hollywood red carpets and TV talk shows, the whole thing was a plotted-out put-on – but at moments the line felt remarkably blurred.
“There were definitely times when we were like 'You know what? This should just be a documentary!' “Shepard tells PopcornBiz. “Then the fact that I really was on those talk shows and I was really at 'The Teen Choice Awards', it was a little bit confusing even for us. But at the end of the day we ended up paying everything and getting the rights to everything. So we're not a documentary officially, and all the actors are in on everything.”
“It came from a real conversation that I had with my agent, who you see in the movie, and I didn't know sh*t about why movies work or don't work,” reveals Shepard. “He said that comedies don't do well internationally and explaining why they have to do so well domestically, and I said 'Well, what does well internationally?' He was like 'Pretty much only action.' So then I thought 'What if there was a comedian who wasn't going to accept that as his fate – that he'd only be known domestically – and how would he go about getting some international acclaim?' I just thought that if he was enough of an egomaniac that it'd be funny to try to become a martial arts star.”
Shepard says he was generally shocked that so many his former co-stars and off-screen buddies – including Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, Jon Favreau and David Koechner – were willing to appear on screen with him (Favreau even let Shepard shoot his scene in his top-secret “Iron Man” production office) to help perpetuate the illusion.
“It was easier than I thought it was going to be,” he laughs. “It was like, 'I'm going to come up with this laundry list of guys that I'd love to be in it, and I'm going to ask them and maybe one in three people will say yes.' And then shockingly they all said yes. What ended up happening is that I let them do whatever the hell they wanted and they all had fun. It always felt like we were 12 years old making something. Ultimately, it was crazy-flattering that they all let me come to their houses and work late. I paid them nothing. No one said no. Maybe I should've even gone further and asked Schwarzenegger and some of the other top dogs that I know.”
The actor doesn’t harbor any illusions that Hollywood will be knocking on his doors to dole out any actual cinematic whup-ass. “I don't even think about it in terms of how good or convincing I'd be – I'd only think about the fact that I can't imagine one person in America accepting that from me,” he says, though he does actually have an adrenaline-fueled streak in him.
“In real life I race cars. I race off road and I race motorcycles, so there is a part of me that fully believes that I should be in a car chase movie – which is why I'm directing one in June," he reveals. "It's called 'Outrun' and it's a car chase movie with Kristen Bell and I as the leads, and then Tom and Bradley and Dave Koechner are coming back. We have an amazing cast of people that have agreed to come be a part of it again, shockingly. This one is fully scripted and is, at the end of the day, an action movie.”
Shepard says his next film is an expression of his love of rubber-burning 70s flicks. “I just love Hal Needham, who did 'Hooper' and the 'Cannonball Runs' and 'Smokey and the Bandit,'” he says, “and there's a hillbilly in me that wants to move quick, take risks and do cool sh*t. Half the cars in the movie I own. I have a 1967 Lincoln Continental, but it has a 700 horsepower 514 in it. It's got coil over suspension and huge disc brakes – basically a racecar Lincoln, and that'll be in the movie a lot. Then I also have a Class One off-road racecar that'll also be in the movie.”
He’s also thrilled to co-starring alongside his off-screen fiancé Bell. “It's wonderful – we love being together and we love acting together and I'm really excited that we're going to do a movie playing a couple, and I think we'll get to do sh*t that two strangers can't do. We'll have a level of intimacy that will hopefully be palpable. She just said we're like Ron and Sheila from 'Waiting For Guffman'.”
“What's more fun than acting with KB is writing for her because you can't imagine how much freedom you can have as a writer,” he says. “You can write her a scene out of 'Sophie's Choice' and she can do it. Then you can write her a scene with a lot of comedic heavy lifting and she can do it. That's crazy liberating as a writer. I can't even write for myself that way – I have to know my own limitations.”