Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are the patron saints of potheads. It’s an illustrious status they’ve held for decades — four, to be exact, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of their seminal stoner comedy Up in Smoke. Consequently, we thought it was high time (get it?) to sit down with them to discuss their pioneering work — during which the duo clued us in to a number of mind-blowing facts about their groundbreaking debut.
As seen in the above video, perhaps the most surprising thing we learned during our half-hour chat with Cheech and Chong was that they weren’t actually under the influence while filming Up in Smoke. It’s a somewhat stunning revelation in light of their believably zonked-out performances, which, as Chong says, were so convincing that he wound up going to jail for nine months because a court actually thought he was the character he portrayed onscreen. And their plausible turns are even more impressive considering that, as they told us, they largely improvised their dialogue.
Those aren’t the only illuminating details Cheech and Chong revealed. They explained the real-life inspiration for the weed van their protagonists drive across the border (it involves an actual wheelbarrow made of marijuana), the origins of their still-popular song “Earache My Eye” (Joni Mitchell was present at the song’s creation), and the clever marketing strategy they initially used to promote Up in Smoke. Their approach to selling the film to the masses was, as time has proved, a rousing success, and today the film stands as the undisputed godfather of stoner movies. As a work that first helped change cultural attitudes about marijuana, it also paved the way for today’s widespread legalization movement. And Cheech thinks those changes are here to stay: “There’s not going to be a war on drugs. Twenty-nine states have it legalized. We’ve passed the tipping point, and the ball is rolling downhill now.”
Chong agrees, saying, “When you’ve got [U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions against marijuana — that’s the best reason in the world why it should be legal.”
Keep your eyes out for more from our extended interview with the icons in the near future. And for those looking to revisit their classic Up in Smoke, it’s available in a new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray package now.
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