Recently, the gang at How Did This Get Made? covered this summer’s most over-the-top and Snakesonaplane-ish action film: Money Plane. 

To figure out how Money Plane got made, I spoke with the film’s director (and co-writer), Andy Lawrence. Which, I must admit, was especially fun as I’ve been a fan of Andy’s work since the mid-90s when he—along with his older brothers Joey Lawrence and Matt Lawrence—starred in the series Brotherly Love

Since Brotherly Love, Andy has notably appeared in shows like Oliver Beene, The United States of Tara and Hawaii Five-O (and perhaps even more notably voiced characters on shows like Recess, as well as video games like Dead Rising 3). 

Needless to say, Andy has done a lot in the entertainment industry over the past couple decades. But there’s one thing he had not ever done before: direct a feature film (well, not officially; we get into his epic feature-length home movies). So, of course, I was eager to hear how about the origins of his directorial debut. 

Which, as I soon found out, is a tale whose fate hinges on a very epic arm-wrestling match…

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: the interview below has been lightly edited for clarity]

PART 1: Do or Die…at a Casino in the Sky

BJH: You look very nice and relaxed. 

ANDY LAWRENCE: I am very relaxed. I’m very relaxed. I’m a relaxed dude. 

BJH: I’m getting that sense—which I can’t believe given the movie. But we’ll get into that in a little bit. First, I wanted to ask if you were familiar with the How Did This Get Made? podcast.

ANDY LAWRENCE: Dude, I absolutely do. And I don’t know how the hell Money Plane is even making it on this podcast. I’m shocked. I’m flattered, honestly…whether people like it, or whether they rip it apart; the fact that they watched it and they’re talking about it is super flattering…As long as they watched it, that’s awesome! And I can’t wait to make another one. And, yeah, hopefully I’ll improve on it and learn from my mistakes and make something else. 

BJH: Okay, good. So you know that How Did This Get Made? is…they are [euphemistically] sometimes not so kind to the movies on their show. 

ANDY LAWRENCE: The fact that they watched it is flattering enough. I literally thought that this movie was going to be…you know, I thought it was going to be what it was; it was going to be a really campy, self-aware comedy that no one was gonna really see. I didn’t think anyone was going to watch this movie like that, I really didn’t, man. And then it’s being compared…it came out the same day as Old Guard, which is, you know, a $70 million awesome movie, and it’s being reviewed like back-to-back with that by the same critic. I’m going: no! 

BJH: [cracking up]

ANDY LAWRENCE: Dude, I can’t tell you the budget of my film because the producers would kill me. But if I did, I think that would change everybody’s perspective. 

BJH: Well that’s a good place to begin. Because my friend Alan Siegel wrote a great oral history about Money Plane for The Ringer, and his piece begins with your producers—Richard [Switzer] and Tyler [W. Konney]—calling you up with the vague idea of doing an Oceans 11-like movie that involved airplanes and casinos. Tell me more about that call and how it led to the initial idea of what became Money Plane

ANDY LAWRENCE: Yeah, you know, they wanted to make a movie. I did an MOW—“Movie of the Week”—with Richard. 

The movie was Love on Repeat, which was released earlier this year (February 2020). 

ANDY LAWRENCE: And Tyler I had known before. They love airplanes and casinos and they were trying to figure out how to blend the idea. And I love action movies, man…all action movies. From “good action movies” to also the “campy, cheesy ridiculous action movies.” 

BJH: Right. 

ANDY LAWRENCE: I got two older brothers. They raised me on all the Steven Seagal films and all those crazy, ridiculous action movies. So I pitched [Tyler and Richard] an idea, and their eyes kind of twinkled. They pitched a price point [for the budget] and I got a bunch of nutcases that, you know, are talented guys that said: yeah, we probably could pull this off. 

BJH: Alright. Well, hold on. There’s so much to unpack there. Because you hadn’t directed a feature before, as far as I’m aware…

ANDY LAWRENCE: No. 

BJH: So how did even…like: were you looking to direct? And what made you think that you’d be capable? And you also wrote the script. So how did you think: I want to do this and I can do this? 

ANDY LAWRENCE: I’ve always wanted to make movies. I love the entertainment industry. I love making movies. I love every facet of it—I like pre-production, principal and post. The things that go into that, the team effort. It’s amazing, it really is. It’s such a team effort, it’s such a do-or-die. So with that being said, I was confident that I had a couple of guys around me that…we could pull it off when it comes to just getting in the trenches and shooting this thing. And I was just intrigued by doing something that I haven’t done before. I mean, I grew up on movie sets, right? 

BJH: Yeah, of course.  

ANDY LAWRENCE: So I’ve known a lot about making movies. 

BJH: I mean: look, you obviously had the skill…but, like, why now? Why not ten years ago? Was there any specific reason? Were you looking to direct a movie? Or, even, were Richard and Tyler surprised that you said you wanted to direct this movie, or anything like that? 

ANDY LAWRENCE: I mean…honestly, straight up, the other movie I did with Richard Switzer [laughing]; he basically asked me to arm wrestle. This is a true story, dude. 

BJH: [laughing]

ANDY LAWRENCE: This might sound ridiculous but this is a true story. I have video of this. He asked me to arm wrestle. And he’s a tough guy…so I said: sure. And he said, “Let’s make it interesting”—because he likes to gamble, right? So let’s make it interesting. And he’s like, “if I win, I don’t know, you gotta do my next movie for free, as an actor. Or for cheap, you gotta be in it. And help me. And if you win, you can…” [and I said] “I can direct the next one.” 

BJH: WHAT?!

ANDY LAWRENCE: And he said okay. And I won! I swear to God, that’s honestly how that idea came into play. 

BJH: [cracking up]

ANDY LAWRENCE: And then about six months later, the Money Plane script was written and we went into production. No joke, dude, that script: my writing partner and I, we wrote it in probably three-and-a-half weeks. We had no idea, like…Money Plane wasn’t a movie that I would set out to make; it’s not the movie that, like, I’ve been going to bed every night dreaming about for years. By all means. That’s really not what that was. It was more of just an incident where we had a really wacky idea and a bunch of crazy people wanted to come together and wanted to make a fun, campy, throwback action film. That’s really what it was meant to be. 

BJH: That’s amazing! The arm-wrestling thing…

ANDY LAWRENCE: And honestly, I have to give it to Switzer. Because you know how many people in Hollywood do not live up to their word. Like it’s all hot air, they never follow through. This guy actually followed through. He gave me a shot. So, yeah, I appreciate it. 

BJH: That’s a good point. 

ANDY LAWRENCE: And when an opportunity like that—to make a movie and potentially write and direct it—presented itself to me, that’s a gift, man. That’s awesome. That’s such a blessing. So I had to, you know, roll with it. And give it my best to make whatever I could and make everybody happy. I probably could have hit harder on that tone—I tried; I definitely made the effort—but it got toned down a bit. And that’s fine! Because, again, it wasn’t my movie. I didn’t pay for this thing; and didn’t cultivate this for years. It was a movie that was conceptualized as a group and executed as a group. 

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