People at times have to stretch their boundaries to see how far they can emotionally and mentally grow, and they can surprise themselves over how well they adapted to that change. That’s certainly the case with comedic actor David Koechner, who has garnered attention for his role as sportscaster Champ Kind in the ‘Anchorman’ series. But the actor is showcasing his diverse talents in the acclaimed new thriller ‘Cheap Thrills,’ which marks the feature film directorial debut of E.L. Katz. Koechner plays an antagonist who thrives on the suffering of others in the upcoming film.
‘Cheap Thrills’ follows Craig (Pat Healy), an auto mechanic who has lost his job. He is unable to pay his rent, and after receiving an eviction notice, he goes to a bar, where he meets a former classmate from his high school, Vince (Ethan Embry). A rich couple, Colin and Violet (Koechner and Sara Paxton), give the Craig and Vince money for completing certain tasks, which are initially simple, but become increasingly violent.
Koechner generously took the time recently to talk about shooting ‘Cheap Thrills’ over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was draw to playing the character of Colin because he found the script engaging, and the story’s darker theme was also something he’s never explored before; how Katz was a remarkable first-time director, as he had an incredible passion for filmmaking; and how he was surprised how humorous the movie is, and how he didn’t anticipate audiences laughing as much as they did when he attended the film’s screening at Fantastic Fest in Austin.
Question (Q): You’re set to appear as Colin in the upcoming thriller, ‘Cheap Thrills.’ What drew you to the character of Colin, as well as the script for the film?
David Koechner (DK): Well, it’s unlike anything else I’ve been asked to do before, which peaked my interest. The script is really dynamite, and is also a real page-turner. There wasn’t a false moment in the script. It’s a movie that engages you and pulls you in. It gets you hook, line and sinker.
Q: Are there any details about Colin and the story overall that you can discuss?
DK: Oh, sure. I’m out celebrating my wife’s birthday at a bar. I find a couple guys who are down on their luck, and I ask them to hang out with us. Then Colin has them start playing little games, like who can do the shot the quickest. So he keeps seducing them to continue playing these games for money, and it gets more and more sinister as the night goes on.
Q: ‘Cheap Thrills’ features a talented cast, including Pat Healy, Ethan Embry and Sara Paxton. How did you build your working relationships with your co-stars on the set, and what was the overall process of working with them on the set?
DK: It was one of the most unique acting experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I even had to remark after the second day that something great was happening there. All those guys and girls are just fantastic. It felt like we were doing a play.
Q: The movie was the first directorial effort by E.L. Katz. What was the process of working with E.L. on the set as a first-time helmer?
DK: He was remarkable, and had an incredible passion for it. He had a remarkable process for blocking and setting up and shooting the film. It was also remarkable that as a first-time filmmaker, he was able to shoot the movie in 12 days.
It’s even more and more remarkable every time I look back on it, because it turned out so well. I was blown away by how well this movie turned out, given that it was such a modest budget, and we had no time to shoot it. There wasn’t a lot of coverage, because there was no time or money. E.L. would not do multiple takes, since there wasn’t any time or money, so we had to get it right on the first take. No one really dialed in
Q: Speaking of the fact that ‘Cheap Thrills’ had a lower budget and short shooting schedule, did that pose any challenges on the set?
DK: Well, the only difficulty was that we were shooting in September in Los Angeles, and it had been hotter than it had been all summer. We were shooting in a house that didn’t have air conditioning, so that was the greatest challenge that we had. (laughs)
Q: How does shooting a lower budget film like ‘Cheap Thrills’ compare and contrast to the bigger studio movies you have done, like the ‘Anchorman’ series?
DK: Well, the comforts on a bigger budget studio film are much different than on the lower budget movies. You’ll have a bigger trailer, probably better food, the chance to do more takes and longer lighting set-ups on the studio films. That’s the major difference.
Q: ‘Cheap Thrills’ has played at several films across the country, including SXSW, the Chicago International Film Festival and the Philly Film Festival. Were you able to attend any of the screenings for the film, and how did audiences react to the movie?
DK: I was shooting ‘Anchorman 2’ when ‘Cheap Thrills’ was playing at SXSW, so I wasn’t able to make it over there. But I did go to Fantastic Fest in Austin, where Drafthouse bought the film.
It was a really cool experience to watch with a crowd. I had no expectation of how they would react, and it really surprised me how engaging the movie is, and how much humor is in it. I didn’t know about the humor, and didn’t anticipate audiences laughing as much as they do. Since it’s a dark thriller, it’s really surprising how much the audiences laughed.
Q: Besides films, you have also starred on such television shows as ‘The Office’ and ‘American Dad!’ Are you interested in continuing with television in the future, and what is it about that medium that you enjoy so much?
DK: Oh, absolutely. The most enticing thing about television is that it shoots at home. For me, personally, most of it is shot in Los Angeles. I have a wife and five kids, so it’s important to me to wake up in my own bed, and wake up and see my family at night.
I hope to do a full camera sitcom. There are several things that could pop, which could be fun. It would be great for me to shoot a sitcom here in Los Angeles.
Q: Besides ‘Anchorman 2’ and ‘Cheap Thrills,’ do you have any upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss?
DK: I recently filmed an episode of ‘Justified,’ (Season 5, Episode 1-‘A Murder of Crowes,’ which premieres on January 7. 2014), which was fun. I also did a David Cross movie called ‘Hits,’ but I don’t have any information on the release date for that. There was also a film I did in Canada with Brent Butt called ‘No Clue,’ which was a lot of fun. I always try to refresh and add new material. I’m also developing several television and movie projects, so I’m just trying to stay busy.