Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz aren't embarrassed to admit that they love franchises. That might not be much of a surprise, given that their oddball script Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle turned into one of the most successful and consistently funny comedy franchises in recent years, but they're not just into franchises for the cash it puts in their pockets. Raised on a diet of successful sequels like Back to the Future Part II and the Star Wars franchise, Schlossberg and Hurwitz genuinely think sequels can be great-- and whether that's naive or just brave, that's the attitude that brought them to American Reunion and allowed them to make what might be the first good movie in that franchise since the first one.
The co-directors and co-writers were charged with coming up with a pitch for a film that could successfully reunite the entire American Pie cast, and they told me how they approached the story in a way that made everyone eager to return. They also filled me in on another apple-pie-in-the-kitchen scene that didn't make the final cut, and how the original American Pie actually got in the way of the first script they wrote together. Check out the interview below, and catch American Reunion in theaters now.
I understand you guys were charged with going around and getting the original cast interested. What was your pitch to them that convinced them to come back?
Hurwitz: It started with our pitch to the studio. The studio and producers and some of the actors already liked the idea of a high school reunion movie, but our take on it was that we wanted to bring everybody back, and we wanted to give everyone reason to come back. We fell in love with that very first American Pie. We loved the ensemble nature of the movie, we loved that everybody had something to do. By the time American Wedding came around we were disappointed that Oz wasn't in the movie, or that Kevin was in the movie but didn't really have anything to do in the film. It was important to us to give everybody something, something juicy, whether it's a storyline, moments to shine, or if there was a smaller cameo just something funny for them to do.
When you're trying to get something for everybody to do, there's also the pressure to top the previous film. How do you balance that impulse with a coherent story that feels true?
Schlossberg: The most important thing to us is staying true tot he characters, and luckily these are really funny characters. Jon and I are used to having to find new, outrageous, shocking things, from when we were making the Harold and Kumar movies. When we were working on American Reunion, the most important thing to us was that the comedy was coming from a place of character. Every big comedy writer-director these days is trying to find ways to shock, but if you're just doing it to shock people, it never works. If you're doing it from a place of story and character, it doesn't feel forced. I think the bad comedies out there are trying to be outrageous. We weren't trying to be outrageous, we were just trying to make a movie that spoke to us and people our age. You draw on your experiences and other peoples' experiences.
You guys are basically the same age as the cast. Is this script more personal than we might realize?
Schlossberg: Yes, and that's the reason why we did it. We have no interest in doing American Pie Part 4 just for the money. We're at an age where we're curious what happened to our friends from high school, and the idea of doing a high school reunion movie spoke to where we are in our lives.
Seann William Scott kind of blew me away in this. I wonder if you guys intentionally wanted to showcase him here.
Hurwitz: Seann in the first movie was a really minor character, even in the script he was minor. What they found in Seann William Scott was he elevated what was on the page so much in the first film, and he was a scene stealer. But he didn't have a lot to do, and he was more one-note in a sense. For us what was exciting was taking his character and turning him into a real person, and making it where you're rooting for Stifler, where he's a real guy. In a sense we tried to make Stifler an underdog in this film. In a lot of ways he's really at the lowest point of the people in the group. It's a reunion weekend for him, he's going to turn back the clock and be the same guy he was. It was fun to bring him on that journey. He's such a talent to work with. You put him in these situations and he transforms into Stifler and brings a lot to the table.
You guys were young enough when the original came out that you could have been really attached to it. Did you have that nostalgic fondness for it?
Schossberg: Jon and I, we're friends from high school, we went to different colleges, but while we were in college we started writing our first screenplay. At the time American Pie hadn't come out yet, and our big goal was to write the first R-rated youth comedy since the early 80s. Our first script was trying to be that American Pie, and then when American Pie came out, it felt like somebody beat us to it.
Hurwitz: For whatever reason, there was something in the air back then. But we were the target audience for the movie, and we happened to love it, and we understood why fans connected to it. It's a good thing that we saw it before we were in the business, because we were able to watch it as a movie. A lot of times we watch a comedy and can't help but critique them--
Schlossberg: Or you can imagine what was going on that day on set. But yeah, we watched it, we were just a couple moviegoers who were writing a screenplay in that world, and we fell in love with the movie right away.
So why is there no reference to the pie in this?
We shot something with the pie, but we didn't cut it out because it wasn't funny, it was almost too much. We had the scene in the kitchen where Jason Biggs reveals, you know, a lot, and afterwards we revealed that there was a pie.
Hurwitz: We actually made it where as Jason is leaving the room, Jim's dad enters the room and sees his son in this weird predicament. And Michelle sees this pie on the counter that's ravaged, and Jim and his dad look at each other with concern, but then Selena sees that clearly he was eating the pie. There was a plate with a fork. So Jason breathes a sigh of relief. The truth is it was funny and we really liked it, but the joke with the pot lid just got such a huge reaction, sometimes you want to end a scene on a high note, and it was almost too much comedy in one scene.
It feels like this isn't the beginning of another trilogy, but more of a final installment. Am I reading that right?
Hurwitz: It could go either way. The good thing about these movies is these are characters that are supposed to be real people, and as Jim gets older and Michelle gets older and Stifler gets older, they could always end up in some other adventure. You never know. We felt like it was important to make a movie where, if this is the last American Pie, it ends on a fulfilling note. If there ends up being a fifth one and we'r involved, our goal would be to make that one extremely fulfilling as well.
So you guys are open to that then
Schlossberg: Jon and I love franchises, because they have a fanbase. We grew up in an era where it seemed like every great movie had sequels. We loved Star Wars, Back to the Future, Karate Kid, Rocky. When Rocky beat Ivan Drago, you think that's it, but then he comes back 25 years later with Rocky Balboa. I wouldn't count out any movie so long as there's a fanbase for it. But for us to get involved there needs to be some sort of connection. But that's what we like about this, it's not just part four, it's its own movie. You have to find the originality of what you're dealing with.
Hurwitz: It's a little bit of a cliched thing for people to be anti-franchise or anti-remakes. From the very beginning of Hollywood, before there was sound, there were four versions of Brewster's Millions. People are always complaining about it, but clearly most people enjoy it. I remember how excited we were when Back to the Future 2 came out.
Schlossberg: When we wrote the first Harold and Kumar script, we ended it with to be continued, because we like the characters, and sometime when we write a movie we're always thinking about what the sequel would be.