It’s 13 years since the first American Pie introduced the painfully funny life problems of charaters such as Jim Levenstein and his friends Oz, Stifler and Finch. And although those characters – played by Jason Biggs, Chris Klein and Eddie Kaye Thomas respectively – have grown older by this year’s American Pie: Reunion, they’re certainly no wiser.
The passing years have done little to dampen audience enthusiasm for the American Pie series, either, with Reunion already earning a healthy $128 million and counting at the box-office to date – and the movie hasn’t even opened in all territories yet.
With American Pie: Reunion out in the UK on Wednesday, it was our pleasure to sit with its cast and writer/director duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, for a series of brief yet illuminating interviews. To kick things off, here are Eddie Kaye Thomas and Chris Klein, talking about returning to their characters Finch and Oz…
Why do you think there’s still such a fascination with these characters?Eddie Kaye Thomas: I’m trying to figure it out myself. My best guess is that the first movie did such a good job of identifying this very vulnerable thing in all of us where we’re going to graduate high school and we’re terrified that we won’t be normal; we’re not going to have sex like everyone else and we’re going to be left behind. It wasn’t just ‘let’s watch these guys make fools of themselves’, it was ‘let’s watch these guys struggle with becoming adults’.
Then this movie is the same thing: ‘Oh my god, I’m 30 years old. What the hell happened to my life, I’m not who I thought I would be’. So I just think that, along with Jason Biggs making an absolute fool of himself there’s a genuine vulnerability to all these people, whether it’s Finch making up stories to get laid, Oz not getting over the love of his life, or Jim trying to make his wife happy. I think those things are something we’ve all gone through.
Chris Klein: The universal themes of this movie are what make it attractive to everybody. People relate to these characters because they wouldn’t ordinarily be in the same friendship group and they all have their own part to play. There’s a character for everyone to relate to in this movie; they either were or knew somebody that was like that. I think that’s pretty unique to our franchise.
What did you initially think when the fourth movie was pitched?
EKT: Well it doesn’t get made without Sean and Jason, and my first thought was that it probably wouldn’t be a great idea; I didn’t want to tarnish something good. But once I saw what we were doing, I realised that we weren’t tarnishing anything. Once I read the script and spoke with Jon and Hayden, I realised that a good movie is a good movie, whether it’s American Pie or anything else. American Pie 4 in theory was much different to me than the American Pie: Reunion script.
Chris, was there a particular reason you didn’t appear in the third film?
CK: No, those kinds of decisions come way above my pay grade. They decided to make American Wedding a different way, and Oz and Heather’s storyline was kind of played out. It is what it is, I’m just grateful to be invited to this one. I echo Eddie’s sentiments about the work that Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg did to bring this film back along the core of the first one.
It has similar themes in that every character has a clear, concise arc in this movie. I believe that in this reunion film, it’s not just the main characters being dealt with, but its coloured with every character; MILF guy #1 and #2, Shermanator, Nadia and all those subtle characters that made the first film a vivid as it was. We all know how sequels work, with movie studios as money factories, trying to make a profit. In this particular edition, I felt a renewed vigour with the rest of the cast.
Would you guys have done some of the things that Jason Biggs has to do in these movies?
EKT: The question is, “would you approach a director and ask, ‘would you like me to show my penis?’” I haven’t done that in my career. So Jon and Hayden didn’t ask, Biggs asked them.
CK: I don’t know if there’s courage in showing your penis in a movie. What I love is within the frame work of the scene, the way that it’s done. The fact is that Jim Levenstein is not an iconic character because he had sex with a pie or because he showed his penis in a movie, Jim Levenstein is an iconic character because the situations he finds himself in are relatable, and that’s down to the subtleties that Jason brings to it. That’s what makes it funny.
EKT: “It’s not what it looks like.” The reason that’s funny is because Jason means that. Isn’t that beautiful? There are a million and a half actors that cannot do that. It’s a giggle but Biggs actually means it.
CK: That’s a great point about how this movie resonates, not only with the general movie going audience who like comedies, but also with critics and writers. Those moments throughout the films are the reasons why.
EKT: So many people tell us, “we grew up with you guys.” I think when teenagers were going through the awkward phase, whether it was getting caught masturbating, or being rejected by a girl, I think Biggs embodied that in the “this isn’t what it looks like” moment. With that, they weren’t the only person terrified of being 17 years old.
How well do you think it represents youth culture in America today?
EKT: This film is very popular in America, but I would say they’re even more popular in Europe. The box office around the world is incredible, so I guess it touches on universal themes. Everyone seems to relate to the awkwardness of being a teenager, or even a 30-year-old. People might not go to a beach house or have high school reunions, but I think someone anywhere probably has the same experiences.
Did either of you have any input into how your characters would develop?
EKT: When Jon and Hayden decided to make the film they made a very big point to sit down with each one us and say “this is what we’re thinking, what are you thinking?” That was part of their process.
CK: I didn’t have any input because their pitch was tremendous. They said he was a sports broadcaster, in a hip-hop dance competition, and I said ‘awesome!’ They said he was still in love we Heather, and I said, ‘yeah, he is’. I give them all the credit in the world.