Sitting down with Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami was always going to be a case of expecting the unexpected, but I hadn't quite banked on it involving role play, a lap dance and far too many energy drinks.

The Kiwi comedy queens are high-energy and no-holds-barred at all times, bouncing off one another in a way that explains their new - and completely bonkers - film.

The Breaker Upperers follows the story of Jen (van Beek) and Mel (Sami). Two single best friends in their 30s who run a business breaking up relationships for cash. From singing telegrams and fake pregnancies to dressing up as cops and announcing the unfortunate death of someone's significant other, it's never just a polite meeting.

The Breaker Upperers - Trailer. / Piki Films

You might think there's a hilarious true story lurking behind this curious set-up - but sadly, there isn't. Rather, it came about when van Beek had the same thought so many of us have had when it comes to break-ups: "Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to do it?"


"I thought: 'What if there was a company where you could outsource the responsibility and they could do it for you?'" explains van Beek.

"And then I thought, 'that's crazy but... maybe it's a good story. There are lots of reasons why people might use it. There's a lot of dread. People don't like to hurt people's feelings, especially us New Zealanders."

Her next thought was: "Who's the funniest woman in New Zealand right now?" Which brought her to Madeleine Sami's doorstep.

Couple of idiots earning a crust @maccosmetics @miss_crabb

A post shared by Madeleine Sami (@madeleinesami) on

The pair wrote and starred in the film. And when their first choice for director was unavailable, they decided to direct it too.

"We couldn't think of a director who would suit - I mean we could, but his name was Taika and he was doing Thor. We knew that he would've done it if he was available but he wasn't. So we were like who else could do it?" says Sami.

Van Beek adds: "We thought: 'What would Taika say?' And Taika has always said - certainly to me - 'Just do it yourself'. That seems to be his motto."

So despite the "pure fear" they felt, they did it, surrounding themselves with a flexible crew who "understood it would be a circus".

The upshot of that circus was that they were entirely in control of the film and their vision. The result is a hilarious yet heartwarming, feminist film about the beauty of female friendship. A new kind of love story, if you will.


We've started coordinating our evening wear. Too much? Not enough?!

A post shared by Jackie van Beek (@jackievanbeek) on

"We're always fed the classic rom-com that ends in a double church wedding ... what about breaking those conventions and giving people some other options?" says van Beek.

"Unconventional relationships can bring you just as much satisfaction," adds Sami. "And it's funny because ... every time we would do an ending that was a more conventional kind of thing, it just didn't sit right.

"I've been disappointed in the last few years with the big Hollywood films that have come out that have a really bold take on the rom-com and then ends up going back into …"

"A cheerleading sequence?" interrupts van Beek, taking a swipe at the much-criticised Amy Schumer film, Trainwreck.

"The main thing driving us was having a film that was about the friendship and about these two women in their 30s that could actually have a happy ending for themselves in their own way. The love story in our film is between our characters," says Sami.

But it's not just a two-woman show, the film has also seen James Rolleston return to the big screen for the first time since his car accident in 2016.

After checking Rolleston was ready to return and the set and schedule would work for his needs, the Boy star was raring to go, giving a hilarious performance as Mel's love interest, Jordan.

James Rolleston returns to the big screen in The Breaker Upperers. Photo / Supplied
James Rolleston returns to the big screen in The Breaker Upperers. Photo / Supplied

"He was just so excited. The first day on set, he just couldn't stop hugging everyone, he was so grateful. And he's just so good. We got to watch all the auditions and he just is effortlessly charismatic. He's just got that thing," says Sami.

The rest of the cast is made up of Kiwi stars, who often improvised hilarious moments, including Rose Matafeo, Angella Dravid, Rima Te Wiata, Jaquie Brown, Oscar Kightley and Cohen Holloway.

"This is kind of the way the industry works in New Zealand: If you wanna do the movie, you gotta put your mates in it - you've gotta get everyone you know," laughs Sami.

It's just lucky she and van Beek are the two mates who started it all.

"We've known each other for a long time, worked together, we have a lot of fun as friends, but we've never actually had something the two of us could do together. So this was instantly exciting," says Sami.

Van Beek adds: "Every time I would tell someone about it, it would elicit a laugh so I knew it was something people would instantly switch into. It was a joy to write - it's just so fun."

Who: Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami
What: The Breaker Upperers
When: In cinemas May 3