Look who’s ready to take us for a wild ride: Dax Shepard and Michael Pena are preparing to hit the highways to bring us CHiPs, the remake of the ’70s drama that starred Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as California Highway Patrolmen. Along with snagging this exclusive first look of the boys and their hogs, EW talked to star and screenwriter Shepard about remaking an American classic-ish.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, how hard was it to ride those CHP motorcycles? How heavy are they?
DAX SHEPARD: They’re in the 800-pound range, I think, and they are not nimble. There is one scene in the movie where I do what’s called a stoppie. It’s kind of like a reverse wheelie. So you’re driving and then you lock up the front brake and then the whole back end lifts up and then you’re straight up and down and you roll on that front wheel. I did that on that police bike without any rehearsal but consequently crashed twice. We got it on the third time. So I won’t be riding one of those in my off time any time soon.
When you sat down to write this, was the plan to write a serious movie about CHiPs?
My aim was somewhere in the Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon world. That was my take on it. It’s interesting because it’s definitely a comedy where the show is not, but the stakes are very real and the world is real and the physics are real and all those things are grounded. Insane situations happen but it’s not happening in a satire world or a heightened world. It’s a very real world.
Are they heroic guys? How would you describe them?
Michael Pena’s character, he plays Ponch, is an FBI agent who’s asked to go undercover within the CHP to help them figure out which cops are dirty. I am a retired X Games rider who doesn’t know how to do anything but ride a motorcycle. In an attempt to save my marriage I decide I have to get a new job and the only thing I can do is ride a motorcycle. My wife’s dad’s a cop. Maybe this will woo her back. I join without any necessary desire to be a cop, which I think is the fun of the movie. You have one guy who’s an FBI agent, so he has no reverie for the institution of the CHP and then you have another guy who’s two days on the job and doesn’t have any reverie. Two guys who don’t really necessarily care all that much about upholding any kind of CHP standard.
How did you make what they do seem, well, sexy?
Because I’ve set it up in a way that Pena’s undercover with the FBI, that opens us up to do all kinds of things they wouldn’t normally do that John and Ponch, in the old show, would have never done. They’re investigating a string of armored car robberies. And so they’re allowed to get off that highway and do some investigation and get into trouble outside of the highway. But weirdly when I was researching to write this movie, I didn’t realize this, but the CHP is the state police. I had always had this urban legend understanding that they were only allowed to patrol the highway, but they kind of supersede local law enforcement or city law enforcement. So they are allowed to go anywhere.
It made it a little more special, then, to tell their story.
Yeah, I certainly didn’t want the whole movie to exist on the 118 [in north Los Angeles] as it did on the show.
That’s where you shot, the 118?
No, I think they show the TV show on the 118 as it was under construction. Our highway work was on the 105 between the airport and downtown L.A. It’s pretty hard to get highway space to shoot on in L.A. because those are pretty much the two freeways you’re allowed to shoot on. In fact since shooting the movie every movie or TV show I now see where they have a highway scene, I’m like oh yeah, that’s exactly where we were.
Did you work much with the real CHP?
Yeah, we did. I think it was a precarious decision for them to be involved because it is an R-rated comedy. I think they ultimately took the position, luckily, that the movie was going to happen with or without them, so we basically had some very light compromises. They had some pretty modest requests that I was able to change in the script phase so that they would be a little happier. And then because of that we had access to CHP central, which is really crucial to me. I really wanted to be able to shoot at that iconic station that the show had shot at.
Where does the R rating come from? Language?
There’s female nudity. There’s more me nudity than probably any other nudity. And then yeah, there’s a lot of adult material and sexual stuff and naughty language.
Is this most nude you’ve ever been in a project?
No, I launched my career on Punk’d being bare naked in front of Jessica Alba. This was actually a step forward. I’m at least blurred in parts here.