American Pie: The Reunion is out today on various shiny formats, so we had a quick chat with co-director Jon Hurwitz, one of the men also responsible for giving the world the gift of Harold And Kumar.
Hey Jon! This is the first American Pie movie you’ve directed. Were you a fan?
The first American Pie came out while I was in college and it was everything that Hayden (Schlossberg, co-director) and I wanted to make in movies ourselves. We had always been fans of R-rated, outrageous material but we liked movies that spoke to our generation, people like us, where you felt like you were seeing you and your friends on the big screen, and there hadn’t been movies like that. While we were in college we started writing our own screenplays before American Pie came out and that was exactly what we were trying to do, so the moment we saw the trailer for the first American Pie it was a bit of a bittersweet feeling. We wanted to be those guys who brought back the R-rated youth comedy that had disappeared since the ’80s. Instead we were seeing a movie that looked like everything we dreamed of. It felt like us and our friends on the big screen, it felt like it was outrageous, it had characters talk about the things that teenagers actually talk about there was just this authenticity to what we were seeing. That first movie just made us laugh our asses off. We loved the characters and there was a lot of heart as well.
Did you always plan on bringing these guys back for a high school reunion?
We all felt that this was the natural organic movie that we wanted to see and that audiences would want to see. We all fell in love with these characters while they were in high school and Hayden and I had talked for years about how much fun it would be to just do a reunion movie in general, outside of the American Pie franchise, but whenever we would tackle trying to put together the outline for a reunion script the challenge was making it so audiences got to know these characters and understand who they were in high school and all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot to set up if you’re doing a reunion movie. The thing that was so beautiful doing a reunion movie with American Pie is that these characters are so iconic for who they were in high school. We remember Jim and his webcam escapades and Stifler and Stifler’s mom and the conversations between Jim and his dad and that group of friends all trying to lose their virginity. It was just something that became so iconic.
Who did you find the most interesting character to write?
It was fun writing for all of them. I think there was something exciting to us about taking Stifler and giving some complexity to his character. In that first film he was really just a supporting player, he was there for comic relief and you didn’t really get to know who he was in great depth. Hayden and I have always been fascinated by the concept of examining the life of a guy who had it all in high school, who peaked in high school and was the king of his high school but then what happens to that guy? Sometimes that guy goes on to be a huge success and build a great life for themselves but other times they’re stuck in a life where they haven’t really changed but the world around them has moved on. To be able to do that with such an iconic character with Stifler was really fun and interesting for us.
You seemed to have a lot of fun with Jim’s dad…
Absolutely. In the prior films he’s hit the same beats and he hit them well – he’s really just the loving father giving advice to his son who keeps screwing up and we loved the idea of showing that progression that happens in real life. I’m in my thirties now, and when I was in high school I really viewed my parents as just Mom and Dad. I didn’t think about issues that they may have in their lives, but when you get to your thirties you get to know them as actual human beings and we wanted to do the same for Jim and his father. We thought a good way to do that was to give Jim’s father a real issue going on in his life with the passing of his wife and him having a hard time coping with it and moving on. We felt it was a great opportunity for Jim to be there for his dad in the way that his dad has been there for him all these years. The comedic opportunities opened up were through the roof, for him to be able to actually go to Stifler’s party and be paired up comedically with Stifler was an amazing pairing that we’ve never seen before, but to take Jim’s dad and Stifler’s mom and put them in a room together – Eugene Levy (Jim’s Dad) and Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mom) are both amazing comedic performers who’ve been in Christopher Guest films, yet they’d never shared any screen time in the American Pie movies and it was magic getting them in the room together.
It does seem crazy that they hadn’t shared a scene in the series before. You’d think that’d be a no-brainer…
Yeah, it was just something that never really organically fit the story lines. When you’re making a sequel in a franchise there are certain things that audiences love that you want to revisit and make sure you have and I think in the first American Pie people fell so in love with the Stifler’s mom and Finch dynamic that they wanted to revisit that, which didn’t really leave as much room of opportunity for this other pairing. With all these years having past and Hayden and I taking on this franchise with a fresh set of eyes as fans we just thought ‘What would we want to see?’ and the immediately one of the first ideas we had was Jim’s dad and Stifler’s mom together…
How much improvising was there on set?
The improv on set is amazing. Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy – when they’re shooting together they’ll take what you’ve got on the page and they’ll find a million different ways to get across the same point. It just sort of works within the nature of the banter and the frustrating conversations that they have. Seann William Scott not only brings a lot to the table with really funny random lines but just his line readings and his face in general, he uses that as such a comedic muscle. But all of the actors, every single one of them brings some degree of improv to the table and it’s welcome.
Every American Pie movie has nekkid scenes. Did you find it hard to shock people or was everyone free to let you do what you want?
We were never told that anything was too risqué – we were all just trying to push it. When we wrote the scene with Jason revealing his penis we wrote it in a way that if the studio executives were reading it it wasn’t clear that you were going to see his penis. So we just did it and we shot it how we wanted to shoot it and that’s how it went. There were scenes that we cut at times that were outrageous. We had one scene that had most of the core cast members skinny dipping, it wasn’t going to be something where you’d see all of them nude but you’d see some. That wasn’t something that got cut for it being too far, it was something that got cut because the changes we made as the story unfolded made it irrelevant, but we were allowed to do whatever we wanted which was awesome.
What were your favourite ’80s party movies?
I loved Revenge Of The Nerds, that was one of my favourite ones. I’m a big fan of Porky’s. I like Animal House, which was a little bit before my time but I enjoyed it, it was all good fun. Fast Times At Ridgemont High – big fan of that. Those were the big ones. When Hayden and I were at high school, we loved what the Farrelly Brothers were doing and the movie Kingpin, which was one of their more unsung films. we both loved that.
American Pie: The Reunion is out on DVD and Blu-ray from today.