After three Harold & Kumar movies, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have become some of Hollywood’s most successful purveyors of raunchy, irreverent comedy. Next year, they’re hoping to inject some of that sensibility into American Reunion, the fourth installment of the American Pie franchise that features the series’ original cast – and, it should be noted, will be coming to theaters rather than straight to DVD. At the Los Angeles press day for A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, Schlossberg and Hurwitz offered a few insights into their approach to the forthcoming American Pie installment, discussing some of what they think was lacking from parts 2 and 3, and revealing how they revived its ensemble, and some of the movies’ hallmarks, in order to make a fitting finale for the beloved comedy series.
Having successfully created two sequels to Harold & Kumar, what lessons did you learn that you were able to apply to American Reunion? And what guidelines if any did the producers want you to adhere to or avoid as you revived the characters?
Hayden Schlossberg: I think the number one thing is the characters. That’s why American Pie is what it is, and why Harold & Kumar is what it is; people like these characters. And we loved American Pie. We loved those characters. And so our first thing is we need to bring all of the characters back, first of all. When you look at the American Pie movies, as they went on, they lost some cast members, and obviously the direct-to-video ones had none of them. But ultimately, our goal was to create the same vibe as the first movie where you have all of these characters that people can relate to. Not everybody is Stifler, not everybody is Jim, not everybody is Oz, not everybody is Finch, but everybody knows guys like that. And we wanted to bring that back. I think the American Pie sequels tried to capture the magic of the first movie, and I think that they were obviously very successful box office-wise, and a lot of people like those movies, but they had a challenge in trying to find a way to get everybody back in a way that you cared about their stories.
And I think that a high school reunion movie is the perfect setting, that’s it’s not a forced thing. It’s the type of thing you could make a movie about without a franchise, but that fact that people know these characters, and a lot of people went to high school with them, it feels like you’re going to your own high school reunion. So the secret of what we did, not giving too much away with American Reunion, is we took the same characters that everybody loves, we didn’t f*ck with them too much where it’s like, oh my God, people are going to be upset with what we did with Stifler, but we put them in new situations in their lives in their 30s that now, if you’re their age, you’ll be able to relate to and be like, oh my God, I know a guy like that or a guy like this.
Jon Hurwitz: And on top of it, we approached it as people who were huge fans of that first movie, and who were just fans of the franchise. We know what things we responded to as the second and third movies came along, and we know what things we were less into as the second and third movies came along. So we wanted to go to a place in this movie and honor all of the elements in American Pie that worked for us, which was the heart, the friendship between all of the characters, and the rue ensemble nature of the cast in that first movie. For us as fans, when you’re watching the third movie and Oz isn’t even at the wedding and Kevin’s kind of hanging around in scenes with nothing to do, as fans of the franchise, it was less fun for us watching that movie. So as we were attacking the script for American Reunion, it was important to us that all of the characters had storylines and had things to do.
Schlossberg: And also that first American Pie had one of the most memorable, classic nude scenes of all time with Shannon Elizabeth there, and I think the other American Pies had some nudity, but they just weren’t as memorable, and I think that was something for us we remember when we were in college watching that movie, that was one of the things about it that made it so big, that it went out there in terms of the comedy, but it had a certain sexiness to it that had a lot of really beautiful people in that movie, and a hot sex scene-
Hurwitz: A hot nude scene.
Schossberg: A hot nude scene, and I think when we were working on American Reunion, it was like, okay, well, we’re bringing all of these characters back, but we need to have the new hot chicks, and we need to have a new, big, memorable nude set piece. If you watch the Harold & Kumar movies, you know that we are artists when it comes to nudity, and we feel we have our best work yet to come.
The first American Pie along with the early Farrelly Brothers movies really pioneered that sort of comedy that was both funny and uncomfortable. Where does the boundary lie between pushing something past awkwardly entertaining into just awkward?
Hurwitz: I think our attitude with it is coming from a place of reality and relatability. If you’ve seen the teaser trailer for American Reunion, it’s a scene where Jim is caught masturbating by his child in the movie, and that’s something that’s real and can happen and you’d be like, holy shit! I hope that never happens to me. So when we approached the edgier material in general, we always like to approach it from a place of it fitting with the characters and the story in the right way. And if there’s outrageousness for outrageousness’ sake, it never works. It only works when it’s working within the flow of the story that’s already there.
Schlossberg: Yeah, an American Pie movie, those movies are about seeing you and your friends on the big screen, and for us it’s about trying to put them in outrageous situations that are believable for these characters.
The great thing about the American Pie ensemble is there’s sort of one person each of us can most relate to. Which character do you most strongly identify with?
Schlossberg: At least for me, and I think Jon as well, Jason Biggs’ character Jim is sort of he’s like the everyman in the movie, but for us in particular. In the first movie he wasn’t clearly Jewish, but I think you could just tell; I mean, Eugene Levy as the father kind of gives it away. But if you watch the first movie again he’s a smart kid who’s trying to get into a good college, but that’s not the main thing on his mind – he’s just constantly thinking about sex and girls and all of that stuff. And I think when we were watching that first American Pie, that’s what our lives were like – we were in college, and we were concerned what our jobs would be afterward, but that wasn’t our main concern.
Hurwitz: I think we both connected with Jim, we connected with Finch in different kinds of ways. We connected with Kevin in certain ways. If you connect with a different character, so it’s really fun writing for the characters you connect with, but it’s also fun writing for the Stifler character, even though neither of us can really relate to who Stifler is. We know guys like Stifler, and it’s fun to sort of take that guy who was that popular cool jock in high school and examine what sort of happens to that guy sometimes when he’s in actual adult society and see how he’s able to adjust to the adult world.