After earning more than $750 million at the worldwide box office (according to Box Office Mojo), the American Pie franchise is poised to push the $1 billion mark – at least Universal Pictures hopes so – with its return to theaters this weekend.
American Reunion is just that – a homecoming for Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Stifler (Seann William Scott), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Vicky (Tara Reid), Heather (Mena Suvari), Jessica (Natasha Lyonne), Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth), Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy), Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge) and even the Shermanator (Chris Owen) and MILF Guys #1 (Justin Isfeld) and #2 (John Cho). Only this time, the group is much older than when we last saw them in 2003 in American Wedding, and as they’ve become older, their problems follow suit.
Running the show in the fourth installment of the series – as writers and directors – are Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the two responsible for the Harold & Kumar franchise.
“We were just enormous fans of that first American Pie. We were in college when it came out, and we watched it over and over and over again,” says Jon, adding that he and Hayden were welcomed as the “new kids” in the group. “I think they all really appreciated what fans we were of the franchise and of their characters, so it was fun to collaborate with all of them.”
One of the first issues was tackling the fact that this reunion is happening 13 years after high school graduation. Jon and Hayden admit they were fully aware of the writing obstacle facing them. “It was definitely a frustrating thing, on our part,” Hayden says. “We wish that we were approached in 2008 about doing a movie that comes out in 2009…we found out about it in 2010 and it was already 11 years.” Friends since high school, they had their own reunion experience to guide them. “Jon and I didn’t have our ten-year reunion, and after our school dropped the ball on it, they decided to make it up the next year by getting some people together. So it wasn’t, for us at least, the craziest idea in the world to get together at a time that isn’t a perfect round number.”
Better late than never.
American Reunion is decidely more grown-up – almost all of the characters are in fairly successful careers, though not necessarily happy in them; Jim and Michelle are trying to recapture the spark in their marriage following the birth of their first child; Jim’s Dad is now a widower, still mourning his wife’s death from a few years earlier. ”The fact that Jim’s Dad is now a widower, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting. Shocking, but interesting,’” admits Eugene Levy, who plays the character who’s first name has never been revealed.
Jim’s Dad has always been the one dishing out advice in his own entertainingly awkward way, but now the tables are turned. Jason Biggs says he could relate to the role reversal. “As I’ve gotten older, my dynamic with my parents have changed quite a bit. A lot of my favorite moments in this movie are not really the funny ones, but the more poignant, sweeter moments.”
But it’s the funny ones that are certainly the most memorable.
RAMPING UP THE RAUNCH
“One of the things that [Jon and I] love most about our comedy is that it goes all-out,” Hayden says, including their Harold & Kumar movies on the list of those that have pushed the envelope. “It’s a fun challenge to figure out what the new shit joke is going to be, or how you’re going to have nudity in a way that’s going to make people uncomfortable. Every comedy director right now faces that question of, ‘Well, are you going to push it?’ But I think the bad movies are trying to push it. You feel like they’re just trying to find something outrageous in them. For us, we just start with the character. We think of Stifler, and that usually just leads to something that’s outrageous.”
Stifler’s antics through the years have definitely upped the ante on the gross-out factor, eliciting audible gasps from audiences. American Reunion is no different as the character who refuses to grow up gets revenge on a group of immature high school jocks and shows them he can trump them at their own game – an outrageous scene involving defecation and destruction. Thirteen years after originating the character, Seann William Scott commits whole-heartedly to the comedy. And even though he says he would love to move past the stigma that comes with playing Stifler, Seann says the the fun he has with “these guys” means more to him than broadening his résumé. ”I’d be happy to do this as long as it lasts because I have so much fun,” he says. “I’ve been stressed about, ‘I don’t want to be known as this character forever,’ but now I don’t give a shit. The character is fucking fun, and I love these guys! I had more fun doing this movie, so… I’m never going to win an Academy Award® anyways, I might as well go have fun with my friends.”
Seann is quickly reminded of a recent Oscar® triumph for one of 2011′s biggest comedies.
“Well, Melissa McCarthy did shit in a sink [in Bridesmaids], and I shit in a cooler, so you never know, man. I could fucking win an award in this thing! That’s why I did this movie. I was hoping to win an Academy Award® because they shunned me in Dukes of Hazzard…they shunned me in Dude, Where’s My Car? and they shunned me in Bulletproof Monk,” Seann jokingly rants.
All laughs aside, co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas made it known he’s a fan of Seann’s work. “I think some of the stuff Seann does in these movies is a lot more difficult than a lot of the stuff a lot of dramatic actors do. It’s hard to get laughs. It’s not an easy thing to do, and he’s consistent.”
“It’s tougher to credibly find these situations where you can push these boundaries and put them in these ridiculous scenarios that are believable, aren’t gratuitous, aren’t awkward/illegal, in some way,” Jason says. “They’re older. Some of the things they did in the previous films would be not acceptable for a 30-year-old. So, [Jon and Hayden] had to update it, if you will. That’s why the penis scene, I think, works organically. Organ being the appropriate root word there.”
Jim’s sexual antics have been a regular source of comedy from day one – from his sock-aided masturbation, to under-the-table oral sex, super-gluing his hand to his penis, to the classic apple pie scene – and this time, his penis finally makes an appearance.
“We spent three movies…talking about it, and the pie got to see it,” Alyson Hannigan laughs. That scene, she says, was her first day of shooting. “It was about time we all got to see it!” And Jason agrees. “The penis has been a major player in the American Pie franchise. It has been its own character… so it was about time.”
Full-frontal male nudity isn’t anything new, of course. Though it’s more common in dramas, the male appendage rarely makes an appearance in comedies, surprising considering how well Alyson’s “How I Met Your Mother” on-screen husband, Jason Segel, made nudity work in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Jason says he was insistent that this movie push the proverbial envelope, the moment that would shock audiences. “I kept pushing [Jon and Hayden] for that ‘pie scene,’” he says. “Some earlier drafts felt like it was missing, so I gave them carte blanche, just a blank canvas. I was like, ‘I will literally do anything, as long as it makes sense in the context of the film and for the character and as long as it’s funny.’” Jon emailed Jason asking if he would be willing to show his penis, to which the actor responded with an enthusiastic, “‘Yes, absolutely!’ I laughed out loud when they pitched me the idea.”
At the movie’s Los Angeles press day, Jason and Alyson explained to The Seven Sees – in only a way they could – how the shoot went down.
Alyson: “It was quite technically difficult because I had to become his eyes because he couldn’t lean down and see because then he wasn’t squishing it enough.”
Jason: “It was not easy.”
Alyson: “And there are so many positions, and we had to decide which one was the funniest.”
Jason: “Yeah…2 o’clock, the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Harbor Bridge, or just the straight-up hotdog…”
Alyson: “Dead insect on the windshield…”
Jason: “Exactly, yep. The drunk astronaut, the purple nurple…the options were endless.”
And it is all Jason Biggs…no “penis” double.
Alyson and Jason shared the scene with just one other actor, a new-comer to the franchise, Dania Ramirez as Selena. Michelle reconnects with her former marching band friend when they return to East Great Falls, Michigan. And where band is mentioned in the American Pie movies, ridiculousness is sure to follow. “The band camp stories, especially from American Pie…it was such a moment for that particular character, so it was fun for me just to, in my head, play around with different ideas [about] when we were in camp, how kinky things can get in camp.”
And things aren’t just crazy at band camp. Thanks to Jim’s encouragement, his dad is finally letting loose, too. And Eugene seemed to relish in the lack of restraint. “They let me out of the house on this movie,” he says. “I wasn’t just sitting there, giving advice. I was able to actually get out and go to a party, and end up getting drunk and getting stoned and freaking out.” Considered a comedic master by many, Eugene steals many of his scenes and delivers some of the movie’s biggest laughs. “It took this character in very exciting directions for me, right up until the end of the movie.”
Part of the excitement for Eugene involved one character audiences just can’t get enough of…Stifler’s Mom. Her hook-up with Finch in the first movie has feuled the fire between Finch and Stifler over the years. Jennifer Coolidge says she had just one request when she met with Jon and Hayden. “I thought I should sleep with Finch one last time before I do some other stuff,” Jennifer says, admitting she had imagined her mother-of-all-MILFs character as having conquered more of her son’s friends. “I always pictured myself having sex with Oz…I knew the only one I wouldn’t sleep with was Stifler because they wouldn’t allow that, they wouldn’t go that far. But I wouldn’t mind [having a sex scene with Seann William Scott]. I have to say, I wouldn’t mind that at all.”
Instead, Jon and Hayden had a new conquest in mind for Stifler’s Mom. “The thing that we discussed right away,” Jon says, “was that [Eugene and Jennifer] have never shared a scene together in this franchise, even though they’ve worked together on other films.
So, one of the first days, we were like, ‘Should we kill off Jim’s mom? That doesn’t sound very funny, but it will maybe add certain layers of heart and put Jim in a position where there’s some role reversal in how he’s dealing with his father.’”
“It never, in a million years, occurred to me that they would have hook me up with an adult,” Jennifer says, admitting their idea worked. “Seducing Finch was great because he didn’t know what he was doing, but it’s even better to seduce an older man that doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
Eugene says his new romance was an exciting prospect. “It almost seems like a no-brainer.”
“It’s just so perfect because Eugene Levy plays a character named ‘Jim’s Dad’ and Jennifer Coolidge plays a character named ‘Stifler’s Mom,’” Hayden adds. “It just felt like they were fated to be together.”
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American Reunion‘s red-band trailer doesn’t even come close to giving away the goods. The movie runs 113 minutes and is Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking.