In this movie, more so than the first two installments, Harold really gets put through the ringer. It seems like all of the bad things happen to him, from shooting Santa Claus in the face to having his junk frozen to a pole. Why do you think Harold has such bad luck this time around?
[Laughs.] Well, I feel like we alternate a little bit. The first movie, Harold was getting beat up pretty hard, and then in the second movie it was Kumar who was getting beat up quite a bit. It’s just swinging back to Harold this time.
The real “Oh shit” moment for Harold is, of course, the aforementioned dick-stuck-to-a-pole scene, which, oddly enough, is a loving homage to A Christmas Story. Did you have any reservations about that scene?
Yeah, I did! [Laughs.] I did have reservations—I had reservations about filming it, I had reservations about my mom watching it. But I had to trust that we could pull that off in the Harold & Kumar universe. I just think that, however crazy we get, and no matter how far out the jokes are, people respond to the essential sweetness of Harold and Kumar. We don’t mean this to be ridiculous.... Well, rather, we don’t do this in a mean-spirited way. It’s all just a funny joke.
And also, what’s even more important, is that, yes, that scene is a legitimate and affectionate homage to A Christmas Story. [Laughs.] I’m sure the filmmakers behind that movie feel proud. For some reason, I’ve never actually seen A Christmas Story; our writers swear by it, though. I think that’s because I was a teenager when it came out. Actually, I’ll amend that by saying I’m sure I’ve seen it all but in pieces. I definitely saw enough to appreciate having my junk frozen to a pole in its honor.
You have some really funny scenes with Danny Trejo, who plays your cold and disapproving father-in-law. We actually shot a video with him earlier this year, where he taught me how to be a badass, and it was funny to see just how nice and warm of a guy he is off camera.
Yeah, and he has, like, a briefcase full of badass mean faces—he can just pull them out whenever he wants to. He has a crazy leather-face. I had actually met him prior to doing this movie; we had done a movie years ago together, though it was just a scene. It was an Anna Faris movie called Smiley Face. I remember being scared of him then. [Laughs.] I was thinking that somebody had let an assassin onto set. But he’s a cool guy, so it was good to work with him again.
I don’t think he remembered me from that movie, though, and I didn’t mention it to him. I didn’t want to do that thing where he says, “Nice to meet you,” and I go, “Oh, well, we’ve actually met before. But don’t worry about it.” I’m sure that would have prompted him to pull out one of those badass mean faces, and I’d prefer to avoid those at all costs.
Good call. There’s also a heavy Wu-Tang Clan element to this movie, from Kumar's various references to them—including his wish to Santa Claus being for “the Wu-Tang to get back together”—and RZA’s cameo appearance. Are you a Wu-Tang head?
I’m a fan, yeah. And, by the way, I have some advice for you: If you ever get the chance to, spend a night with RZA. It will change your outlook on life. He’s a very interesting and deep thinker, and that’s one of my best memories from set—just sitting with RZA and listening to him talk. We just talked about random stuff, like Christmas and his childhood. He’s one of the most thoughtful guys I’ve ever met. A very complex, poetic individual.
Being such a poetic individual, I’m sure RZA was able to see the poetry in a scene where a baby gets high and Kumar calms her down by reciting the chorus of “Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit.”
[Laughs.] Of course. Who couldn’t?
Was that little girl’s mother on set? I sure hope so.
Yeah. [Laughs.] Well, they were triplets, actually. We used a baby whisperer to get that performance from the triplets; he turned everything into a game for them. I, for the record, felt bad about giving these children this cinematic memory of abuse. [Laughs.] But I think they had fun—I’m sure that will be their memory of it.
This one definitely goes much, much further with the bad taste than the previous two movies.
Yeah, but I just regret using real drugs on the baby. I felt like we could have faked it, but they were just really adamant about authenticity. I thought it was illegal, for one, and it was immoral on the other hand. [Laughs.] But, like I said, they insisted on using real drugs throughout.
So you’re telling me that the massive blunt that Santa Claus gives you guys is, in fact, the world’s biggest blunt?
[Laughs.] Yes. I want to stress to your readers that all of the drugs in all of our movies are real.
The authenticity is admirable, sir.
[Laughs.] We strive for that. Too many fake it nowadays, don’t you think?
Absolutely. I read a recent interview where you mentioned that playing a stoner like Harold might have closed some doors for you in your career over the years, but that hasn’t stopped you from revisiting the character and totally owning it. Have those possible closed doors weighed in your mind at all?
Well, people have asked me if the typecasting has been bad for me, and if the stoner movie has closed some legitimate doors, and I don’t have the exact answer to that question, to be honest—you’re never really sure what others’ perceptions of you are. It may have closed some doors, but I’m pretty sure that it’s opened a lot more doors than it has closed.
Considering that you have a major role in next year’s Total Recall remake, it seems like you’re right. That’s no small, nondescript project.
Yeah, that one’s a big friggin’ scale movie, and, from what I’ve seen, it looks amazing. It’s pretty true to the original movie. The plot is pretty much the same. There are some surprising re-jiggerings going on, the most interesting one to me is that they’ve removed the Mars component. They’re no longer going to Mars; it’s set on Earth. I don’t know, I think it might be more political than the first one. I play the guy who runs the Total Recall den, who sends Colin Farrell into his trip.
And you also have American Reunion coming out next year, which, interestingly enough, is written and directed by the guys who’ve written all of the Harold & Kumar movies, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.
That’s right, and I don’t think I would have done another American Pie movie if it weren’t for them—or if anyone would have even wanted me in American Reunion if Jon and Hayden hadn’t written and directed it. There’s a link from American Pie to Harold & Kumar, actually, which is this: Jon and Hayden had wanted to write a script called Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle based on their friend Harold Lee, who’s a real guy. And they weren’t sure if there was anyone who could play him until they watched American Pie and saw me in it, and thought, “Maybe that’s our guy.” And then the real Harold got mistaken for me all the time on the street. [Laughs.] That sealed the deal for them.
So now it all comes full circle with American Reunion.
Yeah, definitely. And they were really keen on expanding the character of “MILF Guy No. 2” in this new movie. [Laughs.]
Is he still being referred to as “MILF Guy No. 2”?
Absolutely. In fact, in the credits of the second and third American Pie movies, I think they started listing me as “John,” but Jon and Jayden are American Pie purists, and they rejected that advancement. They refused to list me as “John,” so they’re calling me “MILF Guy No. 2,” and I will be listed as such in the credits.
And how do you feel about that?
I think it’s awesome. It must be so. [Laughs.]
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)