Neil Patrick Harris Discusses The Escalation Of NPH In A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas
When Harold and Kumar first run into Neil Patrick Harris – or NPH – on the side of the road in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, it is plainly obvious that he has been taking some serious drugs. First admitting to rolling on extacy, he appears later in the movie doing a line of coke off a stripper’s ass. And all was good.
When the duo runs into him again while making their way to Texas, he’s not only drinking and driving, but ends up taking a bag full of mushrooms and begins to hallucinate giant rainbows and unicorns. And all was good.
From the start there was a pattern of escalation in NPH’s behavior and that certainly continues in A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, which hits theaters today. This past weekend I was granted the opportunity to talk with Neil Patrick Harris one-on-one about his role in the new movie, including where the character goes from here, blurring the line between reality and fiction, and fan reaction. Check it out below!
Again, with this movie, your performances in this franchise are ridiculously amazing. That has to be said. They're always hysterical. But I actually realized, I don't know how you came to be a part of it. What is the origin story?
Well, I got a call from a friend who was auditioning for this movie and he was so excited that we were going to be working together. And I said, “I have no idea what you're talking about.” And he said, “You're written in this movie. Neil Patrick Harris is a character in this movie. You don't know anything about it?” And I said, “I have no idea what you're talking about.” And so he said, “Oh, you should have your agents track it down.” So I did, and they read it, and then they called my attorney to find out what was going on, and then I winded up meeting with the guys, kind of cautiously, to see just what their plan was. Because when you're talking about an extreme version of yourself, you want to make sure you're not painted in a super shitty light. Even though it's like dark and funny and whatever, tons of drugs and strippers and lines of coke is dangerous territory potentially. But they were super nice and the whole movie was that same level of absurdity. And I agreed to do it so long as any changes they made had to go through me contractually. Which I thought was very powerful and hilarious. And they were fine with that and they didn't make any changes.
So when you heard that- I mean, did you know that there was going to be a third movie before they even called- I mean, were you always going to be involved in the third film?
No. No, I wasn't involved in anything, I didn't signed up for sequels or anything. I felt a sort of moral obligation to do the second movie because the first one did so well for me as an offshoot of the movie. But then their pitch for the third one was really funny, I just really liked it. We sat down for dinner once and they just sort of told me their ideas, they said, “Here's our plan. We want it to be a Christmas movie.” I just found that idea hilarious.
In these movies there really is kind of a line of escalation, I mean, you kind of start with the cocaine, you move up to shrooms, now you're on crack. Now, I guess, what is the next step? Where do you go from there?
I don't know. Is it gonna be like Steve-O, like, what are those called? Those poppers or whatever it was called that he was doing?
Yeah... That's a good question. I don't know, we may run out of drugs before we run out of sequels. [laughs]
You can always invent a drug.
That's true. I mean, you can just come up with random side effects... but oh my god, I don't want to jump the shark with any of these characterizations, though.
I mean, do you still have as much fun; I mean, because this just looks so fun to make. Is it just as fun as it was the first time?
It's even more fun the third time, because it has a bit of history to it and I think people look forward to those scenes. So that was fun. But with it comes precautions. I'm not ever one to think what I'm doing is just the do all end all. So I'm very cognizant of making sure that it doesn't seem... well, that the joke is specific. It's insanity.
And one thing- I could be wrong here, but is that your partner in the film?
What was the conversation there, like was he totally on board with it?
He was part of that pitch that they said to me. They said, “If you're comfortable with it, we wanted to acknowledge your current relationship and kind of that Harold and Kumar don't get why you're claiming to be gay when they know for sure that you're not.” And that David would maybe play a part in that. And I thought, again, that was a hilarious idea, just we needed to make sure it was executed in a way that was respectful to David. And so I thought, what if he was my dealer? (Laughs) Which provided him with some power in the relationship as opposed to just being sort of an afterthought in a sight gag. And they were ok with that idea, and I think it turned out really funny.
And it really does kind of bring up a question; I mean, this is six years later. There's basically the assumption that your career has been the same in those six years. And how do you think he gets away with this behavior? Because everyone still absolutely adores him.
Well, John [Cho] in an earlier interview said a great thing. He said this is the first time in any of the movies that we as an audience see sort of public NPH. They've only caught him in the car, they caught him tripping, then in the second movie, the same situation. So this is the first time you see, like, super-public Neil. And so I wanted to play him very much like an old, MGM, 1950's movie star. He's in public laughing at jokes like, “Ha ha ha!” And that crazy inflection. And then when you saw me in real life, I was just a right mess. [laughs] There was a lot of makeup work and stuff to make sure I looked just awful.
Yeah, you can definitely see it in the eyes.
Oh yeah, it's like dark demons.
So what do you think- well just to reach into your imagination, what do you think is the worst thing that he has done in these past six years?
[Laughs] Wow. [laughs] Well it seemed like trying to force himself onto that dancer girl was a bit of an afterthought, so I can only assume that there was more debauchery in that department.
Like, “I've done this before…”
Sure, it's what I do, like on a Wednesday.
And I read- was that part originally for Kelly Ripa?
Do you know what happened there?
She was just not available.
She was onboard and thought it was really funny. I thought it was a great idea, because I know her personally really well, and I think she would have loved to lampoon her own sort of squeaky clean image in that way. But in a weird way I think it worked out better, because it didn't sort of create this universe where everyone that you think you know is really kind of messed up and tough. But it stuck to this whole Neil Patrick Harris is a crazy motherfucker existence. Um... but yeah, that would have been funny.
Well, there's always the fourth one.
There's always the fourth. [laughs]
Just going back to what we were saying earlier is um- with these movies, you've always credited yourself as Neil Patrick Harris as Neil Patrick Harris, because it's a character you play. Is it kind of weird to blur, to bring in more of the reality to that kind of business?
No, I love that they're just taking what's real and totally not real, and what might be real, and just being ludicrous and blending it all together in a smoothie. In an alcohol filled smoothie.
And then letting people kind of just take from it what they will. Because people, I think, assume that I'm not that hardcore, I mean, in many ways I am hardcore. Probably harder core than I lead on to for some demographics. And in other ways I'm much much more tame and tepid than people would like to think or like to hope that I am. So the fact that I have these as... legend is kind of great.
And also you have Barney Stinson, who is of course this kind of off-the-wall character, but it is still a show on CBS and you don't do many R-rated movies. So doing these movies is basically pure id- is it a release? Like is it kind of a way to just let it all out for you? Is it cathartic?
Sure. Of the three days- well of the three movies I worked like eight or nine days total. Total in all three movies. So I always sort of feel like I'm a guest in a party. And I do this wild performance and then I leave. But no I'm not... I intellectualize a lot. So I'm always weary that we've taken it too far. And I watch it and it works out perfectly and probably better than I would have expected, but when we film it... It's fun to do.
But I've never smoked crack, so I'm acting like I'm high on crack because I'm assuming that's what it's like. But I'm not sure, and is it too much for me to spit on my hands before I try to put it in her, I got all these weird questions. Like I keep on looking around and asking, “Is this too much?” And then David's there too, so I'm like, “Is this too much?” [laughs] I don't know, I second-guess it all. God bless the editors.
And just to talk about fan reaction, because I have to imagine; I assume that you get a lot of applause for your roles in these films. And I wonder, how do you take that?
Ah, I love it! I mean, we got to see Guantanamo Bay at SXSW about two years ago... maybe three... when it opened that film festival. And that was awesome. Because a) they serve beer in the theater. So I had all these Heineken keg cans, which, for a Harold and Kumar movie is totally appropriate. And the chairs were just enormous. So that was a perfect way to see that movie. And I'm anxious to see, sort of what the reaction to this one is. I'll probably be sneaking into a couple of screenings.
Have you seen it yet?
Yeah, I saw it, but in like this little tiny screening room with six very comfortable chairs and close friends. It would be fun if it was for, y'know, four hundred people.
And how was working with Todd? This is now the third director, you had Danny Leiner on the first, Jon and Hayden on the second, now Todd on this one. How did it change the experience? Or was it much different?
For me, I thought it was a real asset to have not only a first time director, but one who's so driven. Todd wants to make, y'know, a lot of movies. It was like his calling card, and he was very anxious to make everything look good. As opposed to just being, “Oh, it's the third movie in a franchise, and we'll just get some guy who does these kind of movies, no problem.” So I liked his drive and his enthusiasm. And y'know, I'm doing these Busby Berkley musical sequences and um, heaven. So it was a lot of sight gags and interesting shots. But we got along swimmingly.
And I do know we have to wrap up, so I've got to ask- waffles or pancakes?
Because you really do hate on waffles in the movie.
I think I'm more pancakes.
It's a butter situation, you know.
You can put butter on waffles!
That's... that's a lot of exertion. You got to go through the curves and it all goes into one little corner, you have to scoop it out at each individual corner or just go along the edges. Pancakes, it's like smooth heaven.
So I guess pancakes are a lazy man's waffle?
I guess kind of a lazy man's waffle. Pancakes are more uniform too, I feel like sometimes waffles are thin and squishy and sometimes they're very tall and crunchy. And everything in between.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.