Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg interview: on writing and directing American Pie: Reunion

Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are no strangers to comedy. Here, the duo tell us about their approach to writing and directing American Pie: Reunion...

In another of our American Pie: Reunion interviews, we chat to the film’s writing and directing duo, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, about the jump from making the Harold & Kumar movies to this franchise, characterisation, and convincing its cast to return once again…

You seem to have nailed the tone just right. How did you arrive at American Reunion?

Hayden Schlossberg: Well, we’d watched the films a lot over the years, so we kind of knew the right tone. That was one of the exciting things about doing the movie, as there are lot of similarities between American Pie and Harold & Kumar. Both have shocking, outrageous scenes, so that aspect of the movie was familiar to us. The scenes that were a little more heartfelt, whether it’s the father/son moments or friendship moments, were different.

Harold & Kumar has heart, but they go into a surreal, crazy place, whereas this is more grounded in the real world. I think that was the aspect of the movie that we focused on more, wanting to make sure it worked. Obviously, there’s still the disgusting sexual embarrassments, so it’s a combination of the two that creates the American Pie tone.

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Jon Hurwitz: It depends on your perspective. It may be the world around us has changed, and certain things are a little less shocking to see these days. But the opening scene where Jim’s son catches him and he catches Michelle, or Jim getting caught in the kitchen and doing his full-frontal scene; stuff with Stifler – they’re definitely the moments that get the big audience reaction. At the time when the first American Pie was made, you weren’t seeing that kind of comedy as much. When we were growing up, we were fans of this type of comedy, but they hadn’t been making it in Hollywood.

Between American Pie and There’s Something About Mary, it really opened up the studio’s mind to making money with movies that push it a little bit. Then, over the last bunch of years we’ve made Harold & Kumar, and there’s the Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips films, where you see those kinds of things. For us, we focus on the story and the characters first, trying to have people emotionally engaged for 90 minutes.

HS: I think it’s more embarrassing for the actors in this movie, with Jason actually showing his penis, or Eugene in a sexual situation for the first time in his career. For these actors who had been in three movies already, it was actually the first time they had had to do something embarrassing. There was a little bit of nervousness on their part, but that’s the fun of it. Especially with Jason and Eugene, you like the idea of putting their characters in an uncomfortable situation.

Did you play around with other ideas of how to bring the characters back together?

JH: We were approached about it as a high school reunion, so that was the idea from the beginning. It really felt like the natural direction for the movie, as these characters are some of the most iconic high school characters in cinema. We had actually talked about doing a high school reunion movie in general, separate from this, and the biggest challenge in writing one is that people never saw the characters in high school.

You have to catch them up, or give them a hint as to what they were like. What was fun about this, and what I think is fulfilling for the audience, is that you saw Jim and Michelle have their first date, the first loves, and the group of friends when they were all virgins and trying to figure things out.

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Now you get to see them again all these years later as adults, and see where their lives have gone. That’s the fun of going to a high school reunion, it’s seeing the people who you were close to all those years ago, and re-exploring the relationships of the past.

HS: When we first heard about the movie, it wasn’t a questions of ‘would you like to do American Reunion‘. We had heard from our friend John Cho that they wanted to make a high school reunion with the original cast. As fans of the film we thought, ‘that’d be awesome, we can’t wait until it comes out’. So then a couple of weeks later we got approached to do it, and we knew it was a movie that we’d go to see. We got excited, and we knew that we could make it work as fans of the franchise, at the same age as the characters. We felt like we were at a time of our lives where that moment of self-reflection arrives.

Are you at where you thought you’d be when you were in high school? We felt that there was a story there, and, as Jon was saying, it’s probably the best way to do a high school reunion, with these iconic characters. It would work great, and we had no reservations. Obviously, it’s the fourth movie and you’re trying to live in the shadow of the previous films, but we’re kind of used dto that with the Harold & Kumar films. You try to make each movie its own thing, and we knew that there was a huge fan base out there, so if we liked the movie then the fans would too.

Was anyone reluctant to return?

HS: I think everyone was intrigued, but maybe some were a little bit sceptical. What we did was sit down with most of the actors before we even wrote the script, and told them our ideas and where we saw each character. When they heard our ideas they got excited, and the script felt like it was a real American Pie movie. As the actors are older, they’re in a stage of their careers where they understand how special what happened to them is.

Earlier, they might have wanted to move on and not do another, but now I think they felt it was almost like going to a real reunion. This was a movie that created a bond between them and launched their careers, so I think after they’d read the script everyone was really excited.

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Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, thank you very much.

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