Hurwitz and Schlossberg on ‘Harold & Kumar’ and ‘American Reunion’

The writers of A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D and American Reunion on what makes comedy sequels work, 3D, and what "MILF Guy #2" is up to...

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I got way back with the creators of Harold & Kumar. When the first movie was six months away, I did a long lead interview with them at the old New Line building’s Newsroom café. We bonded over the comedies we liked, and our frustrations with the then current crop. Hurwitz and I even share a birthday. It’s been great to see them turn Harold & Kumar into a franchise. With A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas hitting theaters this week and American Reunion in the works, we got to catch up and continue the conversation as if no time had passed.


CraveOnline: I’m glad to see NPH and Rosenberg and Goldstein again. Where is the bag of weed?

Hayden Schlossberg: I think it got a little bit lost in the shuffle.

Jon Hurwitz: Is it in the claymation sequence? It was in there at one point.

HS: I don’t know if it’s still there. If you look closely in an elongated version of the claymated sequence, I think we had it in there but it maybe through editing got trimmed out.

JH: We were in Atlanta working on American Reunion when the finishing touches happened, but there was a cut not very long ago that had the bag of weed running through the mayhem of the claymation sequence. When I watched the final cut I don’t remember if it was in there or not.


In the sequels you love, don’t you love the callbacks and recurring characters?

HS: I think so, I think that’s part of the fun of comedy sequels. The trick is doing it in a different way. I think of the Austin Powers movies when Mike Meyers plays with his silhouette. I know if you watch those movies and maybe even the Naked Gun movies, there are certain things that they go back to. The trick is you can’t rely on that. You’ve got to create the new thing that people want to go back to and revisit.

JH: You try to incorporate the things that you think the audience is dying to see but you don’t want to overdo it so they’re just saying, “Oh, it’s the same thing over and over again.” Of course we were going to bring Neil Patrick Harris back. Let’s do it in a whole new way with Neil. You’re going to bring Rosenberg and Goldstein back, you try to find the new things you’re going to do with them. The bag of weed is definitely one of those things that we loved enough to bring it back into the second movie. We definitely thought about bringing it to the third and it was involved in a smaller way, but you’ve got to pick and choose which things are going to make it into the final cut.


Sequels that can take place immediately the next day are great, but is catching up with characters after several years even better?

HS: Yes.

JH: Yes.

HS: Yeah, because they don’t have to be the same weight or height.

JH: It’s hard to come of age two days in a row. Let’s put it that way, or to have a life changing experience two days in a row. It’s a rare thing. Whereas the first Harold & Kumar was very relatable, you felt like these were two guys and they’re going through certain very relatable life experiences through this weird stoner movie. The second movie, it wasn’t like the next day Harold and Kumar are going to completely find themselves with an entirely new set of changes, although you can play with it where you have Kumar’s love story in the second movie. It was a lot of the reason why the focus of the second movie became more of a political satire and do something a little bit different and offbeat. We have this opportunity to do a big Hollywood movie that’s going to be on a couple thousand screens. Let’s do something nobody else would do and play with post 9/11 paranoia. It was just a unique, fun experience and you get to do something a little bit different.

HS: It’s interesting. Now we’ve become experts on the sequels where you’re aging the characters and new life experiences are happening. With A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and American Reunion, both of them are R-rated outrageous comedies and it’s rare because usually in a franchise, you’re staying true to the same thing and the characters are kind of constant.

JH: Yeah, if you watch the Police Academy movies, you’re the same in every movie and it’s not about them growing emotionally in any certain way, or even in Austin Powers. That’s the thing. We’ve had the really fun experience of being able to take characters that people know and actually being like okay, well, you’re still Harold and you’re still Kumar but what would you be like at this age? For American Reunion it was the same exercise with a much broader cast.


Isn’t Harold kind of right though? If someone is really attracting that much danger, don’t you want them out of your life?

HS: Yes.

JH: Yes, exactly.

HS: I think Guantanamo Bay should’ve been the nail in the coffin and I think it was. I think at the end of the movie, they’re friends but in our mind, he comes back home at the end of the second one, wakes up the next morning and is like, “What the f*** am I doing? I just got back from Guantanamo!”

JH: I think it was a combination of that was a horrible thing and he was able to forgive that because of what happened there to a degree, but then more things like that were happening. When you look at Kumar, he hasn’t progressed. You look at Harold and he’s maybe become a little too serious and lost some of the fun element of who he was. So I think Harold is right but I think Kumar has some growing up to do. I think he realizes that by the end of this movie. Harold I think maybe realizes that I think he went a little too far. The hope is that old friends can eventually find a way to still be friends in the future but for a period of time they couldn’t.

HS: And you see at the end of the movie, Kumar grows up a little bit, Harold smokes weed again so all is right with the world.


You know James Cameron hates you for writing all the 3D gimmicks.

JH: Well, you know what? We’re doing what people want to see in 3D and he’s not. Wait a second, everyone wants to see his movies. What are we talking about. No, we just have a different philosophy.

HS: I don’t know, I think it shouldn’t be used just simply as a gimmick just to bring people into the theater, like okay, now it’s in 3D. If I were sitting across the table from James Cameron, I would say this is a stoner comedy. This is a movie that’s really trippy and out there and people get high and they watch it. I think that things flying out at you adds to that experience. It enhances it. There’s nothing wrong with taking something and using it for comedic purposes. I think that it’s not like 3D should only be used for these big out of this world CG movies. Why can’t it be used in a comedy that’s set in the United States and is low budget?

JH: Not all of us get to make these movies that have 100s of millions of dollars behind them. We’re doing what our audience enjoys. If Universal had called us up and said, “Hey, let’s make American Reunion in 3D” we would’ve said, “No, that’s a terrible idea. Why should that movie be in 3D?” But a Harold and Kumar Christmas movie in 3D makes complete sense. And I think anyone who’s a fan of the Harold and Kumar movies should kind of understand why it could make sense.

HS: James Cameron has also railed on 3D conversion a lot and I think his next movie is Titanic 3D which is converted. I know he has his explanations for that and I think that they could be valid, but the truth is 3D is just out there. It’s a technology like out there. It’s like books. You can write a good book or a bad book. In our opinion, we’re using it in the right way. There are movies I’ve seen that I think have been thrown into 3D just to add to their box office. It’s like people are going to see this anyway so make it 3D and add to the price. I think that’s probably more what he’s upset about and I think with Harold and Kumar, it was really a combination of the stoner aspect of it and also looking at the script that we had. We had a scene where people were throwing eggs at Harold and we had a claymation scene. This could be enhanced with 3D.

JH: I’ve only seen two 3D movies in the theater other than Harold & Kumar, and it was Avatar and Jackass. To me those are two movies that use 3D in the right way. They just used it for different reasons but clearly the audience for Jackass enjoyed the 3D element of that. We believe that we’re more in that camp.

HS: The other thing people should know about the Harold and Kumar movie, again that first draft was not meant to be in 3D. I do think this movie works almost as well as a 2D movie. There’s only a couple moments that are really 3D centric.


As comedy fans, when you got the opportunity to do American Reunion, is that the part four you have always wanted to see?

JH: That’s exactly it. We were enormous fans of the original American Pie and we enjoyed the sequels, but as they made more movies, you saw some of the cast members shedding off. You’re watching American Wedding and you’re like where’s Oz? Kevin’s in this movie but he’s not really doing a whole lot. What we really connected with with the original American Pie was the ensemble nature of that movie. There were a variety of characters that felt like a variety of people that you knew in high school. Our attitude was if there’s going to be another American Pie movie, there had to be a reason for it. There had to be something that unifies it and makes sense. The high school reunion movie really made sense to us. The only way it would really be great in our opinion was if you brought everybody back. You need everyone back and you don’t just need everyone back and have the Jim and Stifler show. You need everyone to be back and for everyone to have a storyline in the movie. It’s really been a dream come true for us, taking these characters that we fell in love with when we were in college and be able to figure out where they are now.


So even Chris Klein and Tara Reid have something to do?

HS: They’re back, Sherminator, Natasha Lyonne’s character Jessica. For us, again we look at that original movie and there’s this awesome ensemble of characters that are relatable and memorable. When we were writing the movie, we stayed true to the characters in the ways that fans will like but created new life situations that people can relate to with the characters.


Do you address in any ways that there have been four straight to video movies in the American Pie world?

JS: We do not.

HS: Yes, this takes place between Naked Mile and Book of Love. The truth is, it’s funny because I think we watched Band Camp. The thing that’s amazing now that we’re at the helm of the American Pie franchise now is you just see how people are so passionate about these movies. You think these direct to DVD movies, there are some people who just don’t consider them in the canon but then there are people who are passionate about them.

JS: See, we’re not haters about the American Pie movies. They’re just not relevant to American Reunion. The thing we feel the audience is going to connect with is you knew these characters, you fell in love with them when they were in high school. There were certain storylines that were going on when they were in high school. Bringing those characters back into a high school environment gives you certain feelings of nostalgia and brings people back to being young again. You really want to be focusing on those characters that were at the core of those movies and a little bit less on Stifler’s weird cousin.


But also crazy weird comedy situations they have to get into.

JH: The thing that’s fun about American Reunion is the characters are now 30. It’s their 13th reunion so they’re 30 and 31. Jim is still Jim but as you may have seen if you saw the red band teaser trailer, Jim in the original American Pie was the kid getting caught masturbating by his parents. In this movie, Jim gets caught masturbating by his son. That’s the thing. He’s still Jim, but when you’re a 30 and 31-year-old, you have certain life situations that are different and I think that’s the fun of American Reunion.


One thing that has definitely changed since the first one is that MILF is now very public and common.

HS: It’s a whole genre of porn.


Do you address that with MILF guy #2?

HS: We contemplated the idea that he was the creator of We don’t want to spoil too much, but of course the fact that we worked with John Cho in the Harold & Kumar movies, we wanted to create a fun story for that character, regardless of how minor he was in those movies.

JH: MILF Guy #2 is not a big character in the American Pie movies. There isn’t a lot of depth to him so in this movie we got to play around with that character. I think fans of both American Pie and Harold & Kumar will have a good time seeing John Cho in that movie and in that role again.