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Swept Away: A Conversation with Jeff Daniels and Bob Brown

‘Other than looking for a funny idea, I have no interest in vacuum cleaner salesmen,’ exclaims Michigan-based actor Jeff Daniels, who stars in the new movie Super Sucker, shot entirely in Jackson, Michigan.

The idea for the film began when Daniels talked with a friend who used to really sell vacuums. His stories and discussions were the launching pad for the comedy. After Daniels completed additional research at a regional vacuum cleaner sales convention, the Super Sucker characters were born. ‘The humor sometimes feels broad in the movie, but anybody who’s ever been around these [salesmen] will know it’s normal.’

Daniels, who also wrote and directed the movie, decided it would be about rival door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen who discover a long lost cleaning attachment that changes the home cleaning industry forever.

Daniels knew he wanted to make Super Sucker with his Michigan production company, Purple Rose Films. He founded the company with partner Bob Brown in 1999 with the intention of producing independent films and utilizing Michigan talent. Escanaba in da Moonlight was their first film. ‘It’s been my goal to come back to Michigan, back home, and make movies,’ Daniels says.

‘When we formed Purple Rose Films, Jeff [Daniels] and I agreed that if we were going to put this much work into something, it should be for more than one film,’ says Brown. ‘It was 2 or 3 in the morning in Escanaba and we were working so hard, but having a great time, a really great time, and in a conversation that night the preliminary seeds for Super Sucker were planted.’

Daniels knew that it would be difficult getting Super Sucker distributed in the Midwest, so he planned accordingly. ‘It was written for the possibility that we would be distributed it ourselves in a world where it’s very difficult to get your movie distributed.’

Still, Daniels wanted a cast of actors who he knew on a personal level. ‘There was some pressure from Hollywood to cast up-to put four or five stars in the movie,’ he says. ‘Actors can be good without being stars. I’ve worked with these actors and I know where their strengths are. Not everybody in New York and LA is brilliant. There is a talent pool here, both on and off camera, and we’re proving that.’

‘Beyond what we’re doing as a company and beyond what happens when we bring together a cast and crew to shoot a movie, there is a level of support in the state that I don’t think we’d find in Hollywood,’ Brown adds. ‘When we go into places like Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula, the community totally embraces us. In Jackson, Michigan there was an outpouring of support. The attitude was, ‘What can we do? How can we help?”

Daniels was also impressed with the support of the community. ‘Jackson couldn’t have been more generous. They really helped us make the movie,’ he says. ‘We were doing a scene… we were hoping 500 local people would show up. But 3,000 people showed up, and on a day when there were severe thunderstorm warnings. They believed in this; they were into it. Everybody loved being there and worked really hard.’

Brown and Daniels did, however, have doubts about filming an outrageous comedy in such a conservative community, the birthplace of the Republican Party, in fact. ‘We were hoping the audience would appreciate this type of humor,’ says Brown. The humor to which he’s referring involves characters using their vacuum attachments as self-pleasure devices.

Surprisingly enough, Daniels and Brown were aiming for a PG-13 rating, although the MPAA slammed the film with a firm R rating, stating that it carries ‘an avalanche of sexual innuendo.’

‘That’s part of what this movie is about,’ Daniels adds. ‘I’m not a believer in New York and LA’s version of who we are and what we think is funny. I know we’re a fly-over state, but we do get the jokes.’

Despite the R rating, Daniels is not concerned about the restriction. ‘We were aiming for a PG-13, not because we wanted to play it safe, I just think it’s funnier,’ Daniels says. ‘It allowed me to work harder to find the humor. All [an R rating] means is that 16-year-old kids aren’t going to see the movie. There are many people 18 and above who go to the movies two or three times a year. Maybe this will reach that audience.’

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