One of the top selling non-fiction books of 2006, I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell started as the brainchild of Tucker Max, a disenchanted Duke law student who found his devil-may-care, live-for-the-moment life philosophy at odds with the confining demands of both his scholarly pursuits and the professional legal world. Rather than molding his behaviors to fit the social norms of his environment, Max poured his energies into living his life as he saw fit – and then cataloging his exploits in detailed anecdotes sent over email to his closest of friends. This collection of emails led to a blog, which in turn led to a book – and that book led to the film adaptation of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, which is poised to take its place among Road Trip and Super Troopers as a new college humor classic.
We caught up with Max, his writing partner Nils Parker, and members of the film’s cast to discuss the movie on the eve of its first pre-release screening in Los Angeles.
“This movie was years in the making,” Max told B OXOFFICE. “Once this thing, my collection of stories – once it started picking up steam, I always envisioned it as either a TV series or a feature film.
“I went through piles of rejections just to get the book done,” Max went on, an impish smile spreading across his face. “Man, I wish I still had those rejection letters now.”
Parker, who collaborated with Max on the script, detailed the difficulties the two encountered while adapting the road trip story at the heart of the film.
“It wasn’t as hard as you’d think, adapting for comedic effect the true story of a guy who’s sitting in the room with you," Parker noted. "Our vision was pretty unified. Actually, by the end, all we had to worry about was whose jokes were funnier.”
Three of the film’s stars – Matt Czuchry, who plays Tucker’s character; Jesse Bradford, who plays his long-suffering friend Drew; and Elise Ivy, who plays a girl none too thrilled with Tucker’s exploits – were on hand to discuss the movie and comment on their shooting experiences.
“I read the script and wanted to be involved from the start,” said Bradford. “My agent and manager actually insisted that I read for the part of Tucker, but when I got to the casting meeting, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘I want to play [Tucker’s best friend] Drew.’ Tucker and Nils just looked at each other, then said, ‘We were hoping you’d say that.’
“I actually got to meet the guy this character is based on,” Bradford continued. “He’s so smart; that’s his defining characteristic. Life has tempered his acerbic aspects some, but he’s still such a cutting, clever guy.
“We actually got into a mock fight on the TuckerMax.com message boards,” Bradford noted, referring to the website where I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell first found entrée to the public consciousness. “He as himself and me as this hybrid that was half me, half the character I was playing in the movie – we argued back and forth for days. The site’s visitors really ate it up.”
While the 29-year-old Bradford is a movie veteran, having recently played a fraternity member in Oliver Stone's W., I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell amounts to something of a break for Czuchry, a fresh young actor who finds himself in his first leading role as the fictional representation of the real-life Tucker Max.
“Working with Tucker right there in the room – it really influenced my performance,” Czuchry said. “His character is always up, always excited. So I hope I portrayed that.”
“The best part about Czuchry playing Tucker,” quipped Czuchry’s co-star Bradford, “is that in real life, Matt is just so unapologetically kind, caring and good. It almost makes it that much funnier, seeing a guy like that play this kind of aggressive, me-first role.”
Indeed, Czuchry spends much of his time on screen reveling in the delights of his id, discussing sex, chasing sex, having sex, or facing the repercussions of his sexual escapades and unchecked libido. When asked if this break into raunchy “guy’s comedy” was his favorite genre in which to work, Czuchry just smiled sheepishly and said, “Hey – I just love telling a good story.”
Indeed, telling a good story is what Tucker Max is all about – both in the movie and in real life.
“When first I got involved, I didn’t even know about Tucker – I’d just read the script,” said Ivy, the first female foil to Tucker’s escapades in the film. “But my brother knew. He and all his friends had read Tucker’s stories, and after they found out that I was working with him on the film, they went nuts.
“Actually,” she said, “They all toasted him and me at their law school graduation party.”
While Tucker admits that both the law and business worlds proved too discomfiting for his style, he proudly noted that he has found his niche here in the film and entertainment industry. He also made it clear that I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell is just a jumping off point for him.
“This movie, it’s going to be huge,” Max said. “I think it’s going to top $40 million, even $70 million. If everything falls into place…”
At that point, Max’s voice trailed off and he looked into the distance, an impish grin once again spreading across his face.