'Anchorman's David Koechner Talks Dark Turn in 'Cheap Thrills' & Possibility of 'Anchorman 3'
What would you do for a thousand bucks? What about two thousand? Two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars? It's a game we played as kids, taunting one another with fake situations (could you go entire year without speaking? Would you eat a cockroach?) But these fake situations were just that — hypothetical. And in Cheap Thrills, in theaters March 21, we see exactly what would happen if two cash-poor men actually played the high-stakes game. Bustle spoke with Anchorman actor David Koechner about his transition from a comedic actor to darker fare.
"You can't call it a comedy, I struggled with defining it," Koechner said. "You can say it's a sinister thriller with dark comedic undertones where sex is always in play. That's as close as I can get to describing it."
The film follows new father Craig who is threatened with eviction after losing his job. He heads to a local bar, where he and a friend are roped into a round of drinks, and dares, by Koechner's character and his wife (played by Sara Paxon). In an effort to save his family from poverty, Craig takes on each dare for the cash prize, but as the bounty increases, so does the severity of the challenge.
"Someone told me they were at a screening at a festival and a woman was staggering up the isles, looking to leave, and she went outside and threw up," Koechner said. This anecdote encompasses the tone of the film — hard to swallow, severe, and overall, unlike anything you've ever seen. When the actor showed the film to his wife, she walked out of the room twice.
"I know it's nearly insufferably dark, but also, there's a weird joy attached to it. I can't believe how much people laughed," the actor told Bustle. "But I think that's why people laugh, they don't know what else to do. It's such an intense pressure cooker, they laugh to remind themselves that they're not really playing the game, that they're not watching something that's real."
Koechner is no stranger to having audiences laugh at his work, but usually it's his portfolio chalked full of straight comedies they're chuckling at. Well-known for his work as Champ in Anchorman, and Todd Packer on The Office, Cheap Thrills marks a dramatic turn into a perverse role. "It's a unique cross turn for me in that my character at first comes across as kind of fun and laughable and charming, but then he grows more sinister. So it's almost like I'm allowed to make this transition from a guy you kinda know, into psychopathic tendencies." Playing the role, he said, was "delicious."
But why would a man give away so much money to see other people suffer so intensely? Koechner explains his character's motives: "It's for the love of his wife," he said. "He loves her and he'll do anything for her. The only way they can get excited is through his manipulation. People couple from common pain. It might be different how they came to their pain, but clearly that's how he and Violet are together. They are pretty messed up, they are both missing something. Clearly he doesn't have a conscious."
Beyond the movie's grotesque content, there is an urgent nature to the film. We want to see these characters, these friends, complete the tasks and earn there money, but at a certain point we just want them to walk away. We want it all to end. "This particular film it all had to be done exactly how it was. Fourteen days and a very low budget, during a heat wave in Los Angeles in a house without air conditioning," Koechner explained. "Those conditions helped make the film what it became."
When we asked the actor if he himself had done anything stupid for money, he paused: "Maybe a bad film or two," he divulged, laughing. And when we asked the actor the question that's been on everyones mind — what are the chances of an Anchorman 3? — Koechner gave us more than an ounce of hope.
"I think Adam [McKay] said that Will [Ferrell] won't be Ron Burgundy again. So why does that mean there can't be another Anchorman? Just cause that guy's not gonna play him? Clearly we can get someone better than Will," Koechner joked. Does that mean the actor is open to the idea of reprising his role as Champ "Whammy" Kind?
Cheap Thrills is available now on VOD and hits theaters on March 21. You can check out the film’s trailer below: