We at Eventful use our prestigious Director’s Series to honor some of the most esteemed visionaries in the film industry, and some of the most influential artists in the world. Typically, we only feature writers, directors, and producers who have made a significant impact on the world through the medium known as “cinema”; virtuosos like Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood, and Hayao Miyazaki. This week’s edition of the Eventful Director Series will, unfortunately, be an exception to that standard of excellence as we explore the career of Dax Randall Shepard. Remember Frito, the “’batin’!” guy from Idiocracy? Yeah him. While Shepard is best known for his comedic roles, the actor that has worked with the likes of Alfonso Cuarón has been quietly gaining notoriety in the film industry. His latest project — a big screen adaptation of the 70s television series <i>CHiPs</i> — hits theaters this week and is already receiving glowing reviews. Since Shepard wrote, directed, produced, and stars in the film, this technically qualifies him as the latest subject of our Eventful Director Series.
Dax Shepard was born in Highland, Michigan, but moved around the state after his parents divorced when he was three years old. He was primarily raised in Walled Lake until his mother, Laura LaBo, worked her way up the company ladder at General Motors to become a publicist. After that, the pair traveled around to various Michigan racetracks, promoting GM and creating a passion for cars and motorcycles in the young Shepard. After graduating high school, he moved to Los Angeles to attend Santa Monica Community College. Shortly after transferring to UCLA, Shepard made his very first attempt at acting when he auditioned for, and was accepted into, The Groundlings, where he studied improv alongside Melissa McCarthy and Nat Faxon.
Within a couple years, he had won his first small role in the Neve Campbell film <i>Hairshirt</i>; while the film performed poorly, the cast featured relative unknowns Adam Scott, Marley Shelton, Adam Carolla, and – for some reason – Alfonso Cuarón. It was Shepard’s biggest break, and one of his only roles before being hired as the lead hooligan on Ashton Kutcher’s hit prank show, <i>Punk’d</i>. Relatively early in his career, the role opened Shepard up to a whole new world of celebrity, and movie offers soon began pouring in. His first major film role was in <i>Without a Paddle</i>, where he showcased his comedic acting alongside Seth Green and Matthew Lillard. Next, he appeared as the heroic astronaut in the hit <i>Jumanji</i> spinoff, <i>Zathura</i>, alongside future stars Josh Hutchinson and Kristen Stewart. He played the conniving Vince in 2006’s <i>Employee of the Month</i> opposite Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson, as well as the beloved lawyer with a lust for Starbucks, Frito Pendejo, in Mike Judge’s <i>Idiocracy</i>. Shepard continued to appear in small roles in various films and television shows (including the first film written by <i>John Wick</i>’s David Leitch), as well as beginning a courtship with his future wife, Kristen Bell.
After enjoying celebrity status for a number of years, Shepard began to aggressively advance his career in 2010. It’s the year he landed the role of single-dad Crosby Braverman on the hit NBC series <i>Parenthood</i>; a role he would develop to glowing accolades for the next five years. It’s also the year he released his first independent film, <i>Brother’s Justice</i>, which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. A mockumentary, <i>Brother’s Justice</i> chronicled Shepard’s attempts to turn himself from a comedic actor into a blockbuster martial arts star with help from famous real-life friends like Ashton Kutcher, Bradley Cooper, and Tom Arnold. The film never made it to theaters, but won an Audience Award at the 2010 Austin Film Festival, and encouraged Shepard’s ambitions as a filmmaker.
In 2012, Shepard was once again presented with the opportunity to write, direct, and star in his own film. While <i>Hit and Run</i> had a bigger budget than his previous film, Shepard still managed to craft the movie with limited funds from investors. And while the filmmaker was able to acquire considerable star power from the likes of Kristin Chenoweth, Beau Bridges, Jason Bateman, and David Koechner, the film’s stars were people close to Shepard: his wife, Kristin Bell, and longtime friends Bradley Cooper and Tom Arnold. <i>Hit and Run</i> — which features Shepard as a former getaway driver in witness protection who runs into his own gang – made prominent use of Shepard’s personal, souped up Lincoln Continental, as well as his lifelong love of cars and high-speed racing. Shepard’s inspiration for the film was a childhood obsession with Burt Reynolds’ character in <i>Smokey and the Bandit</i>, while many of the driving stunts were inspired by his childhood love of <i>Dukes of Hazzard</i>.
Even more amazing, Shepard does his own driving; on and off film. When Shepard appeared in the Monster Energy short film, <i>Motorcycle vs. Car Drift Battle 4</i>, he can be seen performing his own stunts while destroying a BMW on rocky desert terrain. In fact, when Shepard isn’t busting guts on the big screen, he spends his free time riding his Ducati Sport 1000 Monoposto at Buttonwillow Raceway, or desert racing in his Tatum Sand Rail. In fact, the actor’s love of racing and his yearning for high-speed chases in urban areas seems to be the driving force behind his decision to reboot <i>CHiPs</i>. In fact, Shepard admits that large portions of the movie’s plot were written solely so that he could include chases featuring the Ducati Hypermotard into the film. While that may seem like a crazy way to write a movie, critics are already praising the engaging blend of action and comedy; the two elements that have become Shepard’s trademark.
While Shepard says he’s taking a break from high-octane, speed demon flicks for a while, his next project involves one of the most notorious vehicles on the planet: The Mystery Machine. That’s right, Shepard’s currently working on a script for <i>S.C.O.O.B.</i>, a 3D computer animated reboot of the live action Scooby-Doo movies. While there’s no word on whether or not Shepard will lend his voice to any of the characters, he’s also set to co-direct the film that is likely to become the first installment in a wider Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe, similar to what studios have done with Marvel and Lego properties in recent years. A responsibility like that can seem like a lot of pressure for a fairly new writer and director; but with the popularity of <i>CHiPs</i>, a supportive wife, trusting friends, and a gift for comedy, not even a CHP roadblock could stop Dax Shephard.