It’s about time somebody made a movie about drinking beer. Potheads have plenty of movies devoted to them, but the beer movie is a rare commodity. Who better to do it than Broken Lizard, the guys behind Super Troopers? Their latest comedy, Beerfest, has their ragtag crew taking over Oktoberfest with a plan to defeat the Germans at their own games.
Beerfest Set Report
The actual set of Beerfest was nowhere near as exotic as Germany. Shooting in a state sponsored outdoor park in Albuquerque, NM, the guys had to recreate the German drinking festival in the American desert.
It was sort of like stepping out of middle America and into Europe at the edge of the set. Horse-drawn buggies and extras in cleavage busting frocks with braided pigtails transported you across the globe, and fake foodstands displaying giant pretzels and breaded foot-longs ensured this was in fact a carnival of some sort.
But the piece de resistance was the ceremonial keg. Based on the real Beerfest traditions, the festival cannot begin until the kegmaster taps the first keg. And if he spills a single drop, the festival is cursed. Kind of a big deal to superstitious alcoholics.
Character actor extraordinaire Jurgen Prochnow plays the beermeister, riding through the festival in his buggy, telling the legend of Beerfest to a wee lad, perhaps the next generation of drunks. “My character is the great beer baron of Munich and owns one of the greatest breweries in Munich,” said Prochnow during a break from shooting. “And of course that means real wealth because if you know how much money beer is and how much beer people drink and consume every year…so very influential person. And he opens always the Oktoberfest inside of the story and so that means tapping the keg. The ceremonial keg. And that’s a very important duty. We’ve got a guy there, his [character’s] great grandson, telling him about the whole thing and that’s the opening of the movie.”
Director Jay Chandrasekhar likes to cast serious actors as silly comedy foils. See Brian Cox in Super Troopers. “[Prochnow]’s such a scary guy in movies and you never really see him smile,” Chandrasekhar said. “You meet him in person and he’s laughing after every sentence. It’s just surprising. We need that kind of guy to lend credibility to our stuff. To me, it’s great to hire real actors who can sort of ground the film. He’s funny too. He’s got all sorts of funny lines.”
In a portion of the scene we did not get to view, the Americans sully the opening ceremony. “In reality, nobody gets to drink until the ceremonial keg is tapped,” said Erik Stolhanske. “So this is the big procession that leads up to the ceremonial tapping of the keg. Unfortunately, they show up and find out that my brother and I have already gotten into the ceremonial keg and are drunk and bathing in it.”
Once the festivities get underway, Prochnow’s character pops up to run the games. “In the Beerfest that is a special invention for the movie that’s a competition of beer drinking, all kinds of plays involved there in an arena like in a boxing arena, very similar to that. A lot of people are watching. And that’s a key to that scene, in a way. And every team has five guys – and I have five German guys in lederhosen – and there are teams from all over the world – Eskimos – and there’re all kinds of different techniques to drink beer.”
A veteran of real Oktoberfests, Prochnow claims that these regulated contests are an invention of the film. “I would say they make it up themselves. If you watch the Australians over there, for example, or the U.S. guys or the Italians or whatever, you know, it’s just hilarious, what they drink, it’s unbelievable. And the Bavarians as well, you know, [laughs].”
Since he represents the natives, Prochnow has to train the Germans to defeat the invading Americans. “Oh, that was a funny scene as well – training my guys for the beer drinking competition with computers and high tech and everything, watching it like a trainer, a coach, coaching them how to do the best that they can.”
The unusual choice of Albuquerque as a ringer for Germany won’t appear so unusual on film, says Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan. “New Mexico’s doing a lot of film because they have these great rebates and that kind of stuff,” he said. “So Warner Brothers said, ‘You will go to Albuquerque and you will shoot Beerfest there.’ And we looked around, we didn’t know if we could make Munich. Most of it takes place in the United States but there’s still the Germany stuff. But ultimately, I think the art design guys did a great job. I mean , you know, if you’re an aficionado of Oktoberfest, you’re gonna be like, ‘What the hell is this?’ But I think it creates the idea of it.”
Steve Lemme of the BL troupe said even the reproduction is full of accurate details. “In our research for this movie, we looked up Oktoberfest and we found out a number of surprising things, which is like it is a carnival atmosphere,” Lemme said. “They do not have beer until the beermeister taps the ceremonial keg at the beginning of the festival. Interestingly, Oktoberfest is actually in September which not a lot of people know. It starts in September because of the weather I guess was too cold in October. It starts the last two weeks in September and carries over into the first week of October. So this is actually more accurate. People will see it and be like, ‘Oh, I don't know about this’ but it’s fairly accurate with the Oompah bands and schnitzel and spleen eating contests. The chicken dance is a real thing. But in terms of Albuquerque, the crew here is without a doubt the best crew we’ve ever had, and the art department I think has taken this movie to another level. If you visit the Beerfest set tonight, you’ll see the scope of what they’ve done.”
Beerfest opens August 25th.
Beerfest Movie Page Coming Soon!
Stay tuned for updates.