A hilarious comedy set in the world of a warehouse store called SuperClub, Lionsgate's EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH tells the story of Zack, a slacker box-boy who tries to capture the heart of Amy, SuperClub's sexy new cashier, by winning the store's coveted Employee of the Month award. There's only one thing standing in Zack's way: seventeen-time winner Vince, the cocky head cashier who's also got Amy in his sights.
"The word on the street is that Amy only goes for the Employee of the Month," explains writer/director Greg Coolidge. "When these two guys meet her, they both fall for her immediately, and the race is on. Whoever can become Employee of the Month will get the girl."
Combining laugh-out-loud comedy and unexpected romance, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH follows Zack's and Vince's ruthless - and often outrageous - game of one-upsmanship to the bitter end, in a world any American who shops for bulk items will recognize. "The world that EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH explores is loads of fun, and we've never seen it in a movie before," says producer Andrew Panay of Tapestry Films. "Greg is a fantastic writer. The script itself was very dry and very funny with a host of quirky characters. It was exactly the kind of movie we like to make."
While casting the film, Coolidge immediately considered stand-up comedian Dane Cook, his friend of six years, for the role of Zack. Coolidge and Cook had remained in touch ever since hitting it off at a Los Angeles party where both were screening short films they had directed. Cook recalls connecting with Coolidge immediately that night: "I said to him, 'We're going to work together someday.' It just made sense. We both have this absurd sense of humor and we just got along really well."
One of today's hottest stand-up comedians, Dane Cook has already had a 16-year career selling out shows around the globe; and he's poised to win new fans with a slate of upcoming film and television projects. In addition to "Tourgasm," a recent HBO documentary that he produced and stars in, Cook stunned the record industry when his sophomore comedy album, "Retaliation," debuted at Number 4 on the Billboard 200, making him the highest charting comedian in twenty-five years.
Says producer Andrew Panay, "Dane is not only incredibly funny, but he's a great actor and extremely charming. He already has such a huge fan base, and his career is about to explode. I'm looking forward to seeing the domino effect after this movie is released."
When Coolidge contacted Cook about starring in EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, Cook jumped at the opportunity. "I think I called Greg twenty-four pages into the script," he says. "I was laughing out loud. Greg had it all on the page, and I could see what he was going to allow me to do beyond that. I knew it would be right in my wheelhouse of comedy. A complete no-brainer."
"The role of Zack really fits Dane's persona," says Coolidge. "He's incredibly charming and he wins you over with his low-key manner. He's the perfect guy to play Zack."
A quintessential slacker who's firmly out of touch with his ambitious, competitive side, Zack has been mired in his job for years, never having recovered from a setback in his past. But when SuperClub's beautiful new cashier, Amy, enters his life, Zack is inspired to better himself. "The situation with Amy reminds him that there are things worth fighting and striving for," says Cook. "He starts to have a better relationship with himself and the idea that he can do his part, leave his mark, and move ahead."
While his fan base knows him primarily for his work as a stand-up comic, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH will certainly prove that Dane Cook is a viable, charismatic actor. "I think people are going to be surprised and impressed at how well Dane can act," says producer Peter Abrams. "He's mature and focused. And he's the heart of the movie."
For the pivotal role of Amy Renfro, Coolidge and the producers turned to pop singer and reality television star Jessica Simpson. After wowing audiences as the leggy bombshell Daisy Duke in DUKES OF HAZZARD, Simpson was looking for the perfect follow-up project - and found it in EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH. "I knew that after playing Daisy Duke, the second film I did was going to be crucial," admits Simpson. "People had already made their mind up about me as an actress, and I wanted to prove I had more to offer."
While Amy Renfro is introduced as the kind of girl who only goes for Mr. Employee of the Month, the film eventually reveals a different side of her character - as well as a few other interesting surprises. Like Cook, Simpson hadn't even finished the script before she called Lionsgate and committed to the project.
"This role lets Jessica stretch her wings a bit and show that she's an intelligent actress who knows what she's doing," says Joe Simpson, Ms. Simpson's father and manager, and one of the producers of EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH. "Amy is the opposite of a Daisy Duke. She's not trying to be sexy. She's just a regular girl who's fun and lovable, and who has a couple of surprises up her sleeve."
Apart from the intimate revelations featured on her reality television show, "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica," Jessica Simpson had no experience playing opposite a love interest on camera. "I was a little bit nervous going into it, hoping that there would be some sort of chemistry and that I could make it believable for the audience," admits Simpson. "But Dane made it easy. He made me comfortable, kept me laughing and kept my smile genuine. I really couldn't ask for a better co-star."
"Jessica's just amazing," avows Cook. "She's grounded and sweet and her smile lights up a room. She's incredibly real, and she has a natural vulnerability that comes through on screen."
"I think Jessica is going to be a surprise in this," observes Coolidge. "She takes direction better than a lot of actors. She has great chemistry with the guys. And there are some things she threw at me that really impressed me. She was great."
Rounding out EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH's central love triangle is Dax Shepard in the role of Vince, the preening, ambitious head cashier who is also Zack's nemesis. Known to audiences for his appearances in the television series "Punk'd," and the film WITHOUT A PADDLE, Shepard brings a priceless combination of swagger and insecurity to Vince. "I play the bad guy in this, which I've never been asked to do," says Shepard. "I get to come in and be the guy who falls down a lot and acts like an idiot. It was really fun."
"I can't even say his name without giggling," says Simpson of Shepard. "He's a doll. He's smart. He can make an entire room fall on the floor laughing. He's the perfect Vince."
Shepard often veered from the script and injected his own ad-libs during his scenes, a habit that might have spelled disaster in the hands of a less talented performer, but in this case yielded fantastic results. "His improv is incredible," says Panay. "You can just roll camera and he just goes. And God only knows what you're going to get out of him. We got gem after gem after gem from him on a daily basis."
For NAPOLEON DYNAMITE'S Efren Ramirez, who plays Vince's subservient sidekick, Jorge, acting opposite Shepard proved to be a stimulating - and unpredictable - experience. "I never knew what he would come up with next," laughs Ramirez. "He knows how to play comedy so well, and he's so good at improvising. It made everything much more challenging. I was put on the spot all the time."
Explains Shepard with a smile, "Improvising is really a defense mechanism for not learning your lines."
Ironically, after seeing Shepard's performance in WITHOUT A PADDLE, Coolidge had originally considered Shepard for the role of Zack, with Cook set to play Vince. It wasn't until later casting discussions that Coolidge and the producers agreed that the two stars should swap rolls. Says Abrams, "Dane and Dax have very different rhythms as comedians. Dane's humor involves telling long, complicated stories that expose the absurdities of life, whereas Dax is more about quick one-liners. They spark off of each other, which is really what you want in a film where they play adversaries. If we had cast someone in the lead who had the same sort of rhythms as Dax, I don't think it would have worked as well."
While the talent of EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH's stars surpassed Coolidge's expectations, the director was equally overjoyed with the stellar supporting cast that joined the production. Comedy stalwarts Harland Williams, Andy Dick and Brian George play members of Zack's slacker posse at SuperClub; Tim Bagley appears as Glen Gary, SuperClub's manager; Danny Woodburn plays Glen Ross, his meaner, older brother; and Ramirez as Vince's side-kick Jorge.
Coolidge credits Cook's and Shepard's status in the comedy world as the main draw for the who's who of character actors and comedians. "When you have that caliber of funny people, a lot of other funny people come on board, mainly because they all hang out together," says the director. "You know, Andy Dick knows Harland Williams, who knows Tim Bagley, who knows Sean Waylon, and so on."
"This ensemble cast has been incredibly exciting to work with," says Andrew Panay. "We have a group of very different comedians and personalities and to see how they all meld together is thrilling."
Finding himself surrounded with comedians who were also friends, Coolidge encouraged improvisation on set, something that was wholeheartedly welcomed by the cast. "Every one of these guys can just roll," asserts Coolidge. "And frankly, it helped a lot because it makes me look like a better writer."
Cook recalls takes on set where tears were coming out of his eyes, while Harland Williams refers to the inspired joking as "organized chaos." He explains, "If you're on the beach and a baby's covered with tanning lotion and you roll it around in the sand and it starts to look like a cornmeal muffin. And then you kick it in the water and the sharks just have a frenzy. Well, that's what it was like on set - just one frenzied line after another, joke after joke."
"Normally when you have a lot of comedians on set you're worried about the competition and if it's going to be too much," says producer Simpson. "But all of these guys really respected each other and helped each other. It allowed everybody to practice their craft and be the best they could be."
Despite the freewheeling atmosphere on set, Coolidge still maintained a firm grip on his vision for EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH. "Improv is only great when you know the structure is great," says Cook. "Greg allowed us to have a playground, but he also knew where every nook and cranny of a scene was."
Says Andrew Panay, "Greg is incredibly talented. His whole goal is to make sure he gets very grounded performances, and he does that by making the actors comfortable and encouraging them to play. He really creates a positive energy on set."
Aside from a few locations outside of SuperClub, production took place entirely in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in an actual Costco store. The Costco location provided a perfectly designed and decorated interior; yet the bonus of filming in a fully operational store presented one difficulty: the crew was only allowed to work when the store was closed to the public. "We were so lucky to have a great set," says Coolidge. "But the not-so-fun part was having to be there from 9 PM to 9 AM for four weeks straight. We not only had to fight the sleep, but work around the beeping and whistles of the forklifts the Costco staff uses while restocking the store all night long."
Despite the less-than-ideal shooting circumstances, Coolidge, his cast and his crew succeeded in capturing a world that American audiences will undoubtedly recognize and relate to. For Coolidge, the SuperClub in EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH is "a microcosm of society," and provides a golden opportunity to poke fun at bogus corporate politics, work-place romance and the human obsession with competition.
Says producer Joe Simpson, "This is a movie that shows a life that Americans really do live. Audiences will have an opportunity to laugh at themselves and say, 'Look. Hollywood knows we exist.'"
With its mix of broad comedy, romance and sly satire, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH stands to offer something for everyone. "There's a sweetness to the film," says Panay. "There's also a bit of romance. And if you want to just see some crazy fun, we've got that too."
"This is going to be in your face comedy," assures Cook. "But you're also going to get a movie with heart. People are definitely going to be rooting for these characters. And they're going to have a great time doing it."
Greg Coolidge (Writer/Director)
After studying acting, directing and play-writing in college, Greg Coolidge moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and found immediate success as a commercial actor and television guest star. But after several years of auditions, and screen tests for over fifteen television pilots, Coolidge decided to focus more heavily on writing, directing and producing. His first substantial break came with a film called POSSUMS, which Coolidge produced and starred in while Oklahoma friend, Max Burnett, wrote and directed. POSSUMS had great success, hitting all the festivals from Seattle to Sundance. With the momentum of the film, Coolidge's focus changed entirely, leaving acting behind.
In the last few years, Coolidge has built a career as an increasingly in-demand comedy writer. He partnered with another Oklahoma native, Joe Jarvis, and the two sold a number of scripts to Hollywood studios, including New Line's TRUTH OR DARE, and Disney's SORORITY BOYS, which was made into a film starring Harland Williams, Michael Rosenbaum and Barry Watson. After selling the comedy spec FIRST LAST AND SECURITY to Disney and writing SORORITY BOYS: THE SEQUEL, Coolidge parted ways with Jarvis, wanting to focus his career as a director.
Since then, Coolidge has continued his writer-for-hire work, directed a short film called QUEEN FOR A DAY, and written and directed his debut feature, Lionsgate's EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, starring Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson and Dax Shephard. He has sold projects to Revolution Studios, Dreamworks Animation, Fox Television, NBC/Universal and recently sold another comedy pitch to Paramount, entitled COCKBLOCKER. His focus now is producing his original idea, MANCRUSH, and directing his action comedy, RIDE ALONG, both at New Line.
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