Hollywood mainstream comedy was, in the late 1990s, in a bit of a rut. With star-name vehicles failing to deliver – just check out the tiresome combination of Robin Williams and the usually excellent Billy Crystal in Father’s Day in 1997 as an example – and even lower budget fare struggling to break through, it was a bleak time for the genre.
Sure, there were still hits. 1998 saw The Waterboy, Doctor Doolittle and Patch Adams strike through, while there were genuine laugh-out-loud movies in the shape of The Wedding Singer and There’s Something About Mary. The year before? At least there was Austin Powers to dull the memory of the quite awful In & Out.
It’s not, to be fair, that comedy was in the doldrums, but mainstream releases in the genre were certainly struggling. And then along came brothers Paul and Chris Weitz and screenwriter Adam Herz with the surprisingly charming, and very, very funny American Pie.
Initially classed as a gross out comedy in the same vein as the preceding year’s There’s Something About Mary, what differentiated American Pie from most of its contemporaries was that there was a solid story that was treated properly. Granted, the story was of four friends who were looking to lose their virginity before they went to college, and granted, the film had a lot of fun with the concept. But it also bothered to introduce characters you actually cared about, and didn’t necessarily take all the easy options (which ironically its sequels would be more guilty of).
American Pie proved to be a sizeable box office success, and it’s also one of the funniest mainstream films to have come out of America in the past decade. But what’s happened to everyone concerned in the ten years since its release? Let’s find out…
THE MAIN CHARACTERS
JASON BIGGS (Jim)
Biggs is effectively the lead actor in the American Pie series, and much of the trilogy is seen through the eyes of his character, Jim. It’s Jim who humps the apple pie (which also made for a cracking rant in his Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back cameo), and it’s he who eventually gets married in the final cinematically released film (as opposed to the three, soon to become four, straight to DVD spin-offs).
For Jason Biggs, though, it’s been a tricky professional life post-Pie. Arguably the highpoint was being cast as the lead in a Woody Allen movie, although Anything Else was, in truth, nothing particularly special. He’s inevitably been attracted to Pie-a-like roles, but his curriculum vitae over the past ten years doesn’t show much of a tendency to take risks.
As such, his star billing dropped to the point where he was in the supporting role on the poster for the terrible 2008 Dane Cook comedy, My Best Friend’s Girl. He was last seen in the low budget comedy, Lower Learning, currently tracking at a score of 3.6/10 on IMDB.
CHRIS KLEIN (Oz)
Klein played jock-come-choir singer Oz in the first two American Pie films, but didn’t get the call for the third. He starred in arguably the worst American Pie-inspired comedy, the quite despicable Say It Isn’t So, and arguably his best credit since American Pie was a role in the Mel Gibson war movie We Were Soldiers.
The one he’ll want to forget, though, will be his starring role in the terrible remake of Rollerball, a film that’s best regarded as a disaster for all concerned. Since then, he’s flitted between the big and small screen, but hasn’t shown much of a knack for choosing good projects. His resume boasts roles in American Pie co-director Paul Weitz’s American Dreamz, Pie-clone Just Friends, and more recently, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li.
He currently has four relatively low profile projects in various stages of production.
THOMAS IAN NICHOLAS (Kevin)
Once he finally bedded Tara Reid’s Vicky in the first American Pie film, Thomas Ian Nicholas’ role in the franchise was on the decline. Thus, he got the call for the second, but was barely to be seen when American Wedding rolled around. This in spite of being one of the leads of the original film. Yet his character had run its course, and since then, he’s certainly kept himself busy anyway.
He’s mixed in music and movies, releasing his debut album, Without Warning, in 2008. He’s also appeared in a diverse mix of movies. He played Frank Sinatra Jr in 2003’s Stealing Sinatra, turned up in Roger Avary’s adaptation of The Rules Of Attraction, and did a nine-episode stint on the TV show Party Of Five.
Throw in a part in Halloween: Resurrection too, and a clutch of low-budget movies (the most recent being the Brandon Routh-starring Life Is Hot In Cracktown), and he’s hardly become a major movie star, but seems to have little problem paying the bills.
SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT (Stifler)
The one who’s had by far the most success building a post-American Pie career, even bringing us a role that had undertones of Stifler ten years on in the recent comedy hit, Role Models. By the time the third American Pie film rolled around, Scott had long ceased to be a supporting character, and was promoted to one of the leads (apparently, he received just $8,000 for his star-making turn in the original film). Around the time of the first American Pie movie, Scott was popping up in the likes of Final Destination and Road Trip, but he broke through with a hit of his own with Dude, Where’s My Car?
He rarely strayed too far from his particular style of comedy after that, with Old School, The Dukes Of Hazzard and Mr Woodcock playing to his strengths to varying degrees. He has tried action, with limited success, though, notably Bulletproof Monk, and The Rundown (aka Welcome To The Jungle).
He’s next going to be seen in the Kevin Smith comedy, currently entitled A Couple Of Dicks (he appeared in Smith’s Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back previously). And while his name doesn’t guarantee a sure-fire hit, it does seem to help comedy movies get greenlit.
EDDIE KAYE THOMAS (Finch)
Finch, famed for his flirtations with Stifler’s mom, was ever-present in the first three films in the series, and actor Eddie Kaye Thomas has kept himself busy with a mix of projects since. Arguably as busy as any of his colleagues on the films, in fact.
Most of his subsequent work has been in television, filming 28 episodes of Off Centre at the start of the decade, 47 of ‘Til Death a few years’ later, and more recently lending his vocal talents to the role of Barry in American Dad.
His film work has kept him busy, too. He’s taken smallish roles in projects such as The Rage: Carrie 2, the quite appalling Freddie Got Fingered, Harold & Kumar Go To The White Castle (aka Harold & Kumar Get The Munchies) along with it sequel, and more recently, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Thomas will next be seen in the TV series How To Make It In America, that’s currently in production.
He does a fair amount of stage work, too, and appeared in a Snickers commercial as well. Thought you’d like to know that.
ALYSON HANNIGAN (Michelle)
Hannigan, by the time she landed the role in American Pie, was – unlike many of her co-stars in the film – already quite well known to certain parts of the film’s audience, courtesy of her role as Willow in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which she would wrap around the filming of the first three American Pie movies. Uber-geek Michelle, with her show-stopping band camp revelation, was originally a supporting character, but by the time the third film came along, she was on lead actor duties.
Since both Buffy and American Pie (cinematically at least) came to a close, her work hasn’t attracted the same level of profile, though. She’s not done much on the big screen, and 2006’s Date Movie is probably best forgotten by all concerned. But in 2005, the first episode of How I Met Your Mother was broadcast, in which Hannigan has a recurring role as Lily Aldrin. That’s pretty much kept her busy ever since, although she did squeeze in a few Veronica Mars episodes, too.
We still love her, of course.
THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
EUGENE LEVY (Jim’s Dad)
For our money, the finest character in the entire franchise. Whether trying to explain the birds and the bees to his son, or covering up his misdemeanours, Jim’s Dad is a marvellous comedic creation, played by a marvellous comedic actor in the form of Mr Eugene Levy.
Levy has the distinction of appearing in all six of the American Pie movies to date, and he’ll be appearing in the upcoming straight to video American Pie: Book Of Love later this year. His most prominent work has been with Christopher Guest on mockumentaries such as Waiting For Guffman (pre-American Pie), Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration (all post-American Pie), and he even got his name above the title for 2005’s The Man.
His undiscovered gem of the past decade has been the TV show Greg The Bunny, but he’s kept himself very busy aside from that. Levy’s turned up in the fine rom-com Serendipity, the less successful Dumb And Dumber sequel, and the embarrassment to all concerned Bringing Down The House, a Steve Martin-Queen Latifah vehicle that amazingly turned into a massive hit (he then paired with Martin again in Cheaper By The Dozen 2).
Levy was on our screens this summer too, playing Einstein in the Night At The Museum sequel, and has completed his voicing work on the upcoming film of Astro Boy. Hopefully, he’ll be getting back together with Christopher Guest soon, too.
CHRIS OWEN (Sherman)
Ah, the mighty Sherman, sent back from the future to the benefit of one lucky lady. Heck, in American Pie, he even managed to find one. He popped up in the second film, but didn’t make it to American Wedding, yet has mixed film and TV work fairly comfortably since, although rarely in anything close to a lead role. You’ll find him on the cast list of National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze (and its sequel) and National Lampoon’s Lady Killers. You might spot a theme there.
Owen also returned to the American Pie franchise for one of its direct to video sequels, namely Band Camp, where he played, of all things, the camp counsellor. You might also have recognised him meeting his demise in Frank Darabont’s cheery The Mist. His next film, Hit List, is currently in post-production, but we suspect that won’t be bothering the box office in a hurry…
NADIA (Shannon Elizabeth)
The object of Jim’s (virtual and real) lust in the first two American Pie films, Shannan Elizabeth was already modelling before she got the American Pie gig, and she continued that in the wake of the film’s success.
After the first film hit big, she popped in a mix of successful (Scary Movie, Love Actually) and less successful movies (Tomcats, Thirteen Ghosts, Evicted), along with turning up a cameo in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. She’s also lent her voice to a couple of videogames, namely James Bond: Everything Or Nothing (a terrible game), and more recently, Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (a really terrible game). A couple of TV projects kept her busy for a while, as Brooke in That ‘70s Show and Tiffany in Cuts. And she’ll next be seen in Night Of The Demons, a low-budget horror due out in October.
VICKY (Tara Reid)
After finally consummating her relationship with Kevin at the end of the first American Pie, Tara Reid’s Vicky was another character that had arguably run its course. She made it back for the first sequel, but – along with the character of Kevin – Vicky was nowhere to be seen when American Wedding rolled around.
Tara Reid’s decade post-American Pie has been charted quite comprehensively in some areas of the tabloid press. Her partying ways earned her plenty of tabloid ink, but in the same period, her movies weren’t earning much in the way of box office dollars. To be fair, the film of Josie & The Pussycats deserved more than it got, and she also landed a role in the late Robert Altman’s Dr T & The Women. Since then, though, she’s rarely troubled the inside of a cinema, and her work has been more at home gracing the shelves of Blockbuster. Uwe Boll’s Alone In The Dark movie was about as high profile as it got.
She did land an 11-episode stretch in Scrubs, but her upcoming four movie projects that she has in various stages of production are, you suspect, heading for a similar fate to most of her post-Pie career. She was, incidentally, linked with returning to the franchise for this winter’s straight to DVD sequel, American Pie: Book Of Love, but a deal reportedly couldn’t be struck.
MENA SUVARI (Heather)
At the time of American Pie’s release, Suvari was the star you’d arguably pick to shine the brightest. Just months after the film hit cinemas, she turned up in American Beauty as the object of Kevin Spacey’s affections, leading to her iconic poster shot, that’s oft-been imitated.
And yet, with the world seemingly at her feet, Suvari just seemed to choose badly. She returned for American Pie 2, although left it at that (not a bad thing, when you consider just how forced her character’s appearance in the second film seemed to be), and then attached herself to a string of under-performing movies. Rumor Has It, The Musketeer, Trauma and Sugar & Spice were all, in hindsight, unimpressive choices. On the upside, American Beauty scribe Alan Ball went on to create Six Feet Under, and Suvari appeared in seven episodes of it. Her voice can also be found within the English language version of the terrific videogame, Kingdom Hearts II.
She’s not disappeared off the grid, though. Suvari was in last year’s Day Of The Dead, and is currently filming You May Not Kiss The Bride with Rob Schneider and Vinnie Jones. Plus her modelling work keeps her busy, too. You do wonder, though, for her movie ambitions, whether 1999 will be as good as it ever gets for her…
NATASHA LYONNE (Jessica)
About the only character in the first film who was wise to the world of sex. Natasha Lyonne’s Jessica counselled Tara Reid’s Vicky in the first film, and popped back again for American Pie 2. That’d be it for the franchise as far as Lyonne was concerned, though, although that, sadly, seemed to be the least of her problems.
Lyonne has seemingly had the most troubled time since the release of American Pie. She was arrested in 2001 for driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident, and in 2005 was seriously ill, to the point of being reportedly fighting for her life. We won’t repeat some of the rumours here, save but to say that she clearly was having a tough time.
Film-wise, she actually starred in the delightful indie comedy But I’m A Cheerleader, and you can also catch her in Blade: Trinity, Party Monster, Old School and lending her vocal talents to Robots.
She’s stayed close to theatre work, and is busy acting away at the moment. Keep an eye out for next year’s American remake of 13, starring Jason Statham and Mickey Rourke, which should give her career the highest profile platform it’s had in some time.
JENNIFER COOLIDGE (Stifler’s mom)
With not very suitably hidden undertones of The Graduate about her, Stifler’s mom managed to seduce Paul Finch across the first three American Pie films. Effectively taking cameos in the franchise, Coolidge nonetheless made her mark.
Post-American Pie, she turned up in a few successful comedies, such as Zoolander, Legally Blonde and its sequel, Down To Earth, Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events and Click. She’s probably best remembered since, though, for playing Bobbie in the two seasons of Friends spin-off, Joey. A three-episode run in Nip/Tuck followed that. She’s also a part of Christopher Guest’s company of performers that has seen her turn up in Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration.
She’s coming up in Bad Lieutenant: Port Of New Orleans later this year, and has several further projects in production.
BEHIND THE CAMERA
ADAM HERZ (Writer)
The son of a brain surgeon, Adam Herz’s American Pie script was his first to be turned into a movie, and he would stay involved with scribing the next two films as well. He’s inevitably credited on the straight to video sequels, but only with creating the characters. A wise move.
His original American Pie screenplay was inspired by his love of 80s movies, and in the slipstream of the original trilogy, he set up his own production company at Universal Pictures. He runs a programme for emerging writers now, and served as a producer on last year’s My Best Friend’s Girl.
CHRIS & PAUL WEITZ (Co-directors)
The brothers Weitz co-directed the first American Pie film, stepping back to executive producer duties after that. But the pair have been busy building their careers since. They united for the brilliant Hugh Grant movie, About A Boy, and the Chris Rock vehicle Down To Earth, but have since primarily gone in different directions.
Chris wrote the screenplay for the Nutty Professor sequel (and co-wrote Antz before American Pie, along with Paul), which hit the year after American Pie, and then was attached to the TV show Off-Centre as its executive producer and one of its writers. Easily his highest profile gig to date, though, was directing The Golden Compass (although not before leaving the project once), and he’s currently in post-production on an even bigger project, The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
Paul? He also worked on Off-Centre with Chris, and then wrote and directed the sorely underappreciated Dennis Quaid vehicle, In Good Company. Sadly, he followed that up with the quite terrible, although it looked a good idea at the time, American Dreamz.
The brothers are apparently now looking towards a trilogy of films based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga.
When the first three films hit big at the US box office, Universal – in line with a similar policy on series such as Bring It On – started churning out tepid direct to DVD sequels that kept making lots of money. After a short break, a further sequel – making it the seventh film in the series – will be arriving this winter, entitled The Book Of Love.
There has been talk of a cinematic resurrection for the franchise, picking up what’s happened to the main characters over the past decade. But Universal’s decision to press ahead with The Book Of Love suggests that that plan is done and dusted…