In college, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg were huge fans of the original American Pie. Now that they’re well known as the guys behind the Harold & Kumar movies, it’s really no surprise that they were given the chance to revive the classic teen comedy and give it their own spin, revisiting the original characters just in time for a high school reunion. We recently had the chance to talk to the writers/directors and discuss American Reunion recently, check out our interview below.
People really care about the characters in the original American Pie movie–how did you keep the essence of the characters and at the same time expand the concept?
JON HURWITZ: We were enormous fans of that first American Pie. We were in college when it came out, and we watched it over and over and over again. We knew the characters, we knew the franchise really, really well. We didn’t actually work with Adam [Herz, who wrote the original American Pie script] on the project though. We’ve known Adam for a very long time, and he knew that we were huge fans. When we took over on this one, he gave us his blessing and his support. It is definitely a challenge, but it’s one of those things that these characters we connected with so much, especially in that first film, that the opportunity to bring them all back together and figure out where they are, in a high school reunion. We all fell in love with them when they were in high school, so the reunion concept was just so perfect for us to take this large ensemble and give each person a storyline that’s hopefully really fun and has moments to shine.
Did Adam Herz intervene in the script?
HAYDEN SCHLOSSBERG: We wrote the script and directed the movie, and basically had the opportunity to decide what happens to the characters and in their lives. Adam has seen the movie and he really likes it.
Did the directors of the original film, Chris and Paul Weitz, have any input on this or did you look to them as inspiration?
HS: We’ve actually had the chance to meet them, over the course of the years. Once we signed on, they talked to us, but their biggest suggestion was, “Make your own movie.” They were out making their own movies, so they weren’t able to be there the whole way through. But they understood that we were huge fans and we loved their first movie and what made it work. We got to know them a little bit more through the process, and I think they really like the movie.
Why did you decide on a 13-year reunion?
HS: It was definitely a frustrating thing on our part. We wish that we were approached in 2008 about doing a movie that comes out in 2009. It was just the scenario that we were in. We found out about it in 2010 and it was already 11 years. We did the math in our heads and were like, “Well, what are we going to do?” But, the truth is that Jon and I, we didn’t have our 10-year reunion. After our school dropped the ball on it, they decided to make it up by getting some people together. So, for us, it wasn’t the craziest idea in the world to get together at a time that isn’t a perfect round number, you know.
In the past 13 years there have been many more R-rated comedies. Did you feel that pressure to go ‘balls out’?
HS: Jon and I, that’s one of the things that we love most about our comedy is that it goes all-out. Jon and I have always liked that type of comedy, we like all times of comedy, but our scripts – we’ve written a bunch of scripts now, and we’ve created the Harold & Kumar movies – have definitely contributed to movies pushing the envelope. It’s a fun challenge to figure out what the new shit joke is going to be, or how you’re going to have nudity in a way that’s going to make people uncomfortable. Every single comedy director right now faces that question. The bad movies are trying to push it. You feel like they’re just trying to find something outrageous in them. For us, we just start with the character. We think of Stifler, and that usually just leads to something that’s outrageous.
How do you balance the raunch versus heart?
JH: It’s what we connected with, with that first film. What we loved about the original American Pie was the fact that, yes, Jim had sex with a pie, but it also dealt with first love and father-son relationships, and things like that. When we approached the project, the very first thing we did was take each character and we said, “Okay, where would this character be?” We didn’t want them to be caricatures of themselves. We wanted them to live and breathe, and grow with the audience and with us. When you start from that place and you’re taking the character seriously, it’s going to lead down a variety of paths, especially with an ensemble like this. There’s a core friendship with the guys, which has a lot of heart, but there’s the father-son relationship and all the love stories that bring that too. With the characters that have already been created and the areas that we were taking them to, it naturally led to the comedy, as well. It just all started from a place of character.
For each of you, who was a character that you were just dying to expand upon, maybe you identified with them from the first movie?
HS: MILF Guy #2. For us, we’ve been talking to John Cho about the MILF guys for almost a decade now, since we’ve been working with him on the Harold & Kumar movies. He had this small, tiny part in American Pie, and yet it’s so memorable. A friend of ours is Asian American, and when we would go to bars, everybody would shout, “MILF!,” at him. We always joked to him about the other MILF Guy that’s there with him, and how John Cho was not MILF GUY #1, but MILF Guy #2. So, when we took on the franchise, we were like, “Ok, yeah we get to figure out Stifler and Jim, but also MILF GUY #2, we’re actually writing this character!”
JH: Yeah, we got to expand upon that. But I would say that Stifler was a really fun one for us. Stifler was the king of high school and the jerk amongst the group of guys, but we really wanted to make it where you’re rooting for Stifler. At the beginning of this film, you end up seeing Stifler as a little bit of an underdog and you feel bad for him. We wanted Stifler to be Stifler, and this weekend is where he gets to turn back the clock and be the guy that he loved being and had fun being. At the same time, we loved the idea of making a movie where you’re actually rooting for Stifler to succeed.
What was it like to get all of these actors back together? Was it like coming back to school for them?
JH: For them, it absolutely was. It was cool because a lot of these actors they got their careers launched off of this film. They did three movies, but a lot of them haven’t seen each other in awhile, so for them, it was totally like a reunion. We were like the new kids who were welcomed in there and were right in the mix. I think they all really appreciated what fans we were of the franchise and of their characters, so it was fun to collaborate with all of them.
Was it hard to reunite the same original cast?
HS: That’s not our job luckily to negotiate the deals. What we told the studio was that we want everybody back not just like the five guys. We wants MILF GUY #2 back. We want MILF Guy #1 back, we want Jessica, we want all these characters. It’s one of the reasons American Pie was so successful, was because you suddenly got to know sixteen people, and you related to the characters. For us, that’s what made it feel like an event. That’s what’s going to make the movie more successful and more people like it.
JH: I think what we brought to the table because we loved all the characters, we made sure to give everyone something to do. We didn’t want to just bring everybody back and each character is just randomly showing up or sitting around in scenes. We wanted everyone to have a moment to shine in the movie, and all of the major characters to all have storylines that they could dig into.
HS: This is MILF GUY #1′s best part, I think.
JH: There’s no doubt about that.
Where there any unusual changes or adjustments to the storyline that weren’t originally planned?
JH: Most of the storylines that you see are very similar to what we had originally pitched. There are certain things when you’re dealing with actor’s schedules, like Alyson Hannigan is on a TV show and had a limited amount of time that she was able to be there, so you’re like, “Okay, I have 11 days with her.” You realize, “She can’t be in every one of these locations,” so you change it. We used to have her at the bonfire party, and there were things at the beach with Jim and Michelle, but we ended up having to make some adjustments there. In the end, with whatever challenge you have, you always try to find a way to enhance the movie.
HS: There was one scene in the movie where Stifler gets back at the young guys, in our original script, it involved Stifler on a boat, ruining their boat, and it ended up costing too much money. We figured that out a week into the shoot, so there became this blank space in the movie. We were like, “Well, we know Stifler needs to get back at these young guys, in some way, at a beach.” So, we spit-balled and it ended up being him shitting in a cooler.
How do you guys work together, as writers and directors, especially when you’re on set?
JH: Hayden and I are friends from high school. We always talked about doing these kinds of movies, and when we started writing together, it was really just us in a room, figuring everything out. We’d put together the whole outline, and then we would split up different things. We’d each write separate things and then read each other’s stuff. But, by the time you have the finished script, it’s a joint vision that we both really had. That leads to a really good situation on set because we already know the movie we’re trying to make there. In terms of making decisions, we do a lot of the stuff together. We’re usually both sitting at the monitor, we both talk to actors, we both talk to all the members of the crew. But, there’s a lot of work to be done when you’re directing a film, so we’re able to split up. Sometimes one person is talking to an actor and another person is talking to the D.P. We’ll switch on and off.
HS: We take turns saying, “Action!,” and “Cut!” After we shoot something, we look at each other and talk about it. Occasionally we’ll disagree, but that’s always a good thing because sometimes that leads to new ideas.
What extras or unrated additions can be on the DVD?
JH: There’s a lot of deleted scenes and a lot of extra material. When you have this many storylines, the challenge is packing them all into one movie. We didn’t want this to be a movie that’s two and a half hours long. We shot a lot of stuff. Pretty much every character in there, you’re going to find something new on the DVD. There’s some added raunch on the DVD. It wasn’t about censoring it from the movie, but just things that didn’t fit. There may be some toe sucking.
HS: There’s Stifler offending different people, and maybe a little bit more nudity.
Could the extended version be two and a half hours?
JH: It could be.
HS: We want people to watch the movie and enjoy it. It’s not that the scenes themselves aren’t good, but when you have a special DVD like that, you’ll put all these different things back in that you would have liked to have had in there. But then, when you watch it, you’re like, “Okay, now it’s slow. How many millions of people are watching this version?” There is going to be an unrated DVD and we are going to put some things in there, but we were careful not to throw in so much that it actually hurts the movie ‘cause there’s a reason why we didn’t keep it in there.
What made you decide to get Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) and Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge) together?
JH: That was one of the very first ideas we had. We love Eugene Levy and we love Jennifer Coolidge. They’re two major assets that you have in this franchise. The thing that we discussed right away was that they’ve never shared a scene together in this franchise, even though they’ve worked together on other films. So, one of the first days, we were like, “Should we kill off Jim’s mom?” That doesn’t sound very funny, but maybe it will add certain layers of heart and put Jim in a position where there’s some role reversal in how he’s dealing with his father.
HS: It’s just so perfect because Eugene Levy plays a character named “Jim’s dad” and Jennifer Coolidge plays a character named “Stifler’s mom.” It just felt like they were fated to be together.
Is that really Jason Biggs’ penis in the film?
JH: Yes, that’s actually Jason.
HS: You can always tell. The first shot looks like it could have been a stunt person, but then we had the wider shot to show that it is him.
American Reunion hits theaters April 6, 2012.