Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wild Hogs

Back in the “Easy Rider” heyday of the Harley, hitting the road on a motorcycle, destination unknown, was considered the ultimate outlaw act of freedom, rebellion and “cool.” Today, however, the average motorcycle rider provides a rather different picture—because the average motorcycle rider is a suburban male on a weekend cruise around town! These are the so-called “weekend warriors,” who jump on their “hogs” at the end of the workweek, hoping to find even a flash of that free spirit that still burns beneath their everyday roles as daddies, bosses and breadwinners.

But what would happen if a group of suburbanites actually fired up their growling engines, donned their leathers, straddled the gleaming chrome and truly tried to hit the open road—ready for whatever outrageous situations that might come their way?

It was this question, with all its comedic potential, that inspired writer Brad Copeland to come up with the concept for "Wild Hogs." Copeland has become known as one of television’s hottest comedy minds, serving as a writer on two of the funniest and most acclaimed shows in recent years—the Emmy®- and Golden Globe®-winning dysfunctional family show “Arrested Development” and the Emmy®-winning “My Name Is Earl,” the comedy hit about a petty crook trying to make amends for all his wrongdoings, one by one.

The story of "WILD HOGS" was sparked when Copeland became fascinated by the new subculture of guys who wear suits and work in offices during the week, only to transform into leather-bound Harley riders on the weekend. “I thought, why isn’t anyone making a movie about all these suburban biker guys?” says Copeland. “I became intrigued by these guys who lead the usual 9-to-5 businessman’s existence, but then they have this whole other life where they try to leave that behind and go out into the great outdoors to ride. It felt like a sweet set-up for a very fun adventure.”

As he began to write, Copeland developed four foible-filled yet uniquely relatable suburban characters from Cincinnati—who share in common only a feeling of being stuck and a Harley hobby: Doug (ALLEN), a dentist with such an inferiority complex, he always introduces himself as a doctor; Woody (TRAVOLTA), the group’s seeming “golden boy,” a wealthy, charismatic businessman who looks like one of life’s big winners—but whose secret troubles are about to catch up with him; Bobby (LAWRENCE) a hen-pecked husband and plumber-on-hiatus who just took a year off to try, unsuccessfully, to become a writer; and Dudley (MACY), a computer-geek bachelor with a knack for always finding himself in embarrassing situations.

Copeland explains: “The idea is that these guys are all kind of living their own version of the white-collar, suburban life, except that on Sundays, they put on their leathers and head to the Harley-Davidson hang-out, where they feel kind of like poseurs. And then one day, they look at each other and say, ‘Why don’t we truly do this and take a real road trip?’”

The idea soon led to all kinds of hilarious and hair-raising situations and also revelations for the characters. For Copeland, it was the notion that one can still have a mind-blowing, perspective-altering adventure, even in the middle of middle-class suburbia, that makes the story of "Wild Hogs" so compelling.

He explains: “I think it comes down to the fact that nobody wants to feel too safe in life. These guys love their jobs, love their wives, love their children, but they also feel like maybe they need something else to tap into that cut-loose craziness, go wild and live on the edge, even for just a few days. They just want to see how that would feel—but they have no idea where this journey is going to take them, either on the map or emotionally.”

The laughs and thrills of Doug, Woody, Bobby and Dudley’s journey quickly attracted producers Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin of Tollin/Robbins Productions to the screenplay. Tollin and Robbins have produced a dozen films together, including the recent #1 box-office hit “Coach Carter.” When they read "Wild Hogs," they knew they had found not only a great vehicle for an ensemble of great comic stars but a joyful experience for moviegoers.

“This was an opportunity to make a movie that is fun with a capital F,” says Tollin. “We’ve made a lot of dramas, we’ve made a number of movies with a sports backdrop and movies that are specifically for a family audience. Of all the movies we’ve made, though, "Wild Hogs" probably has the broadest appeal.”