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American Pie: Reunion – Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg interview

American Reunion

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JON Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg talk about writing and directing American Pie: Reunion and some of the challenges they had to overcome.

They also talk about the fans’ reaction so far to it and why they enjoyed pushing some of the cast members to ever more embarrassing places.

Q. Congratulations on getting the tone exactly right. I know you were big fans of the films anyway but did you go back and watch them all again?
Hayden Schlossberg: Thank you… we watched them a lot over the years so I think we knew about the tone. It was one of the things that was exciting about doing the movie. There’s a lot of similarities… American Pie and Harold & Kumar have shocking and outrageous scenes so that aspect of the movie was familiar to us. The scenes that were a little bit more heartfelt, whether it’s the father-son moments or the friendship moments… not that there isn’t heart in the Harold & Kumar movies but they go off into a surreal crazy place whereas this is more grounded in the real world. And so I think that aspect of the movie was what we focused on a little bit and wanted to make sure worked. But obviously there’s also the disgusting sexual embarrassments because it’s a combination of the two that creates the American Pie tone.

Q. This movie is less embarrassing than the first one…
Jon Hurwitz: Really? It depends on your perspective I guess. It maybe that the world around us has changed and certain things are a little bit less shocking to see these days. But the opening scene with Jim [Jason Biggs] getting caught [masturbating] by his son and then Jim catching Michelle [Alyson Hannigan] and then Jim getting caught in the kitchen and doing his full frontal scene… the stuff with Stifler at the party. There are definitely moments that get the big audience reaction but at the time the first American Pie was made that kind of comedy wasn’t being seen in movies as much. When we were growing up, we were fans of this type of comedy but they hadn’t been making it in Hollywood in many years. But between American Pie and There’s Something About Mary it really opened up the studios’ minds. They said: “Wait, we can actually make money with movies that actually push it a little bit?” So, since then, we’ve obviously made our money with Harold & Kumar, there’s the [Judd] Apatow films and Todd Phillips films. So, we try to focus on the story and the characters first and try to have people emotionally engaged in a film for 98 minutes.

Hayden Schlossberg: I think it’s more embarrassing for the actors in this movie. You know, Jason has to actually show his penis and Eugene [Levy] is in a sexual situation for the first time in his career. So, for these actors who had been in three American Pies already it was still, for a lot of them, the first time they had to do something like that and so there was a little bit of nervousness on their part… and a little bit of embarrassment.

Q. Did you enjoy pushing them to those places?
Hayden Schlossberg: Well, that’s the fun of it. In this movie, especially with Jason and Eugene, you like the idea of putting them in an uncomfortable situation.

Q. Did you play around with any other ideas of how to bring the characters together before landing on a High School reunion?
Jon Hurwitz: We were approached about it being a High School reunion, so that was the idea from the beginning. But it really felt like the natural idea for this movie. We met these characters when they were in High School, they are some of the most iconic High School characters in cinema and we had actually talked about doing a High School reunion movie in general, separate from this. The biggest challenge in writing a High School reunion movie is that people never saw the characters in High School usually. Usually, you have to catch them up and offer hints as to what they were like in High School.

So, what was fun about this and what I think is fulfilling for the audience in this is that you saw Jim and Michelle have their first date and their first loves and you saw this group of friends when they were all virgins and trying to figure things out. And now you get to see them again all these years later as adults and see where their lives have gone and revisit those relationships. And that’s the fun of a High School reunion – it’s seeing those people that you were close with all those years ago and re-exploring the relationships of the past.

Q. Were you ever afraid that this idea maybe wouldn’t work?
Hayden Schlossberg: The truth is, when we first heard about the movie it wasn’t: “Would you like to do American Reunion?” It was we had heard from our friend John Cho, who plays Milf Guy No.2, that he had heard they were going to make a High School reunion with the original cast. We were fans of the movie and thought it would be awesome and couldn’t wait until it came out. So, a couple of weeks later we got approached to do it and all I knew was that it was a movie that we would pay money to go and see, so that’s how we got excited about it. We knew that we could make it work because we’re fans and we’re also the age of the characters in general, so we felt we were at a time in our lives where you have that moment of self-reflection… are you at where you thought you would be when you were in High School?

And so, we felt there was a story there. And like Jon was saying, it’s probably the best way to do a High School reunion movie… by using these iconic characters you know from the past. So, we felt it would work great. We had reservations, of course. Obviously, it’s the fourth movie and you’re trying to live within the shadow of the previous movies… but we’re used to that with Harold & Kumar movies. So, you try to make each movie its own thing. But we knew there was a huge fan-base out there and we felt that if we liked the movie, then the fans would like it.

Q. Did you also think about attracting new fans to the franchise from a new generation?
Jon Hurwitz: Yeah, it’s funny… we did a little bit of a college tour in the US and everywhere we’ve ever seen the movie play it’s played great but I’ve never seen it play crazier than at those colleges where those kids that are 18 to 21-years-old. I think the comedic sensibility in this film is right in line with the stuff that they love. Our focus was… the movies that we made with Harold & Kumar are very popular with young people so we knew that the sensibility of the movie was really going to play well with younger audiences. Maybe they can’t necessarily relate to the reunion concept as clearly as certain other concepts but if they watched the movie they love it as much, if not more than anyone else.

Hayden Schlossberg: Of course, it helps to have the hot 18-year-old girl who gets naked! It’s the easy way to lure in the young folk…

Q. Obviously, it wouldn’t have worked as well if not everybody returned. But was anyone reluctant to do so or did they all just leap?
Hayden Schlossberg: I think everybody was intrigued but maybe some were a little bit sceptical just in terms of making sure that the movie was good. But we sat down with most of the actors before we even wrote the script and told them our ideas and where we saw the characters this many years later. So, when they heard our ideas they got excited and then when they read the script for the movie they felt that it felt like a real American Pie movie and they hadn’t done it in a while. A lot of the actors are older and at a stage in their careers where they understand that this is a special thing that happened to them. Maybe earlier on you want to move on and not do another American Pie but I think they felt that, for them, it was almost like going to their High School reunion. This was originally a movie that created a bond between them and launched all of their careers, so I think that after they read the script everyone got excited.

Read our review of American Pie: Reunion

Read our interview with Eddie Kaye Thomas