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As we've learned time and time again in Hollywood, inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere. Sometimes it's really good source material that gets the creative juices flowing; sometimes it's hazy memories of a very weird dream; and sometimes it's a result of normal occurrences in everyday life. In the case of the upcoming CHIPs movie from writer/director Dax Shepard, you'd think it would be Option #1, but the truth is that the filmmaker's desire to make the movie came from Option #3 - as Shepard was convinced he wanted to make the project because of a Google search he did years ago for a completely unrelated project.
I learned about this bizarre origin story back in December 2015, when I had the chance to join a small group of film journalists for a trip to the set of CHIPs while it was still in production. We started the day sitting down with Dax Shepard and getting his views on the project, and it was during the interview that he revealed exactly where the project started for him. It turns out it was all because of a random internet search for spelling of the name "Poncharello" -- the last name of Erik Estrada's character from the original CHIPs television series. Shepard explained,
I was writing a script for an actress and in the script I made a Poncherello joke, but I didn't know how to spell Poncherello - nor most words. So I Googled it, and when I Googled 'Poncherello,' a picture of John and Ponch came up that wasn't like the normal full-body, goofier one. It was like a tight shot of both of them in their helmets kind of staring out. And I was like, 'Wow, they look pretty bad ass in this photo,' and I just saved it on my desktop for some weird reason. And I just kept seeing it as I was writing this other thing, and then I thought, 'You know, I think there's like a bad ass version of this movie waiting to be made, like something more in the Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop-y world.'
It didn't take too long after that point for Dax Shepard to really start investing himself in the possibility of actually making a CHIPs movie. Fortunately, it was something he was able to start really thinking about almost immediately, because he already knew somebody that could get the wheels to start turning. Andrew Panay -- who was friend of Shepard's and a producer on his directorial debut, Hit And Run -- had already been trying to get a CHIPs film made for over a decade, and so Shepard figured that he would be the right guy to turn to:
I called him and said, 'Are you still on CHIPs?' And he said, 'I don't know, but let me call Greg Silverman at Warner Bros. and let's go see him.' I had gone there really just to pitch my version as a writer, with hopes of putting my hat in the ring to direct, and in that pitch, he said, 'I'm in. I love it, and then you'll be John." And I said, 'I assume you'd hire like a big movie star to play John!' He said, 'No, you do it all,' and I was like, 'Alright - get me out of this office right this second before he changes his mind.'
As you can certainly guess at this point, the quick exit very much worked in Dax Shepard's favor, as he wound up not only being the writer, director, and star of CHIPs, but even wound up with a producer credit as well. From that point forward he was given the freedom to make the R-rated movie he wanted to make -- albeit on a limited budget -- and the finished product will be in a theater near you in just a few weeks.
Specifically, CHIPs -- which co-stars Michael Pena, Kristen Bell and Vincent D'Onofrio -- will be in theaters on March 24th. Between now and then, be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend, as we have more from our trip to the set of the movie coming your way very soon!