Interview: "American Reunion" Directors Talk Bringing The "American Pie" Kids Into Their 30s

Interview: "American Reunion" Directors Talk Bringing The "American Pie" Kids Into Their 30s
When you guys were first approached to write and direct this film, was the entire cast already on-board, or was part of your job to corral them all back together?
Hurwitz: Yeah, that was part of our job, as well. We had indications that a lot of the key players were interested in returning if it was the right scenario. Then, it was our job to write a script that would attract everybody and give everybody something to do, and a reason to be back. So, we took meetings and lunches with different actors, and we spoke to some on the phone. Once people saw what we were going for in this movie, and that our goal was to bring back what worked so much about that first American Pie, everybody was ready to jump on-board.

In recent interviews, and just now, you guys refer back to the first movie, but not as much to two sequels, American Pie 2 and American Wedding. Why was the first American Pie the primary source of inspiration and direction, as opposed to the sequels?
Hurwitz: Well, I think, because this is a high school reunion movie, you’re really drawing back on your high school days, and those memories, more so than the wedding or the college years. That being said, we stayed true to all of the major incidents that happened in parts two and three—Jim is still married to Michelle, for instance.

There was no effort to change anything that had already been one or undone. Our focus, though, was to recapture the magic of that first movie. We didn’t watch any of the straight-to-DVD movies, because what we liked about the American Pie movies are the characters from the first movie, so we just re-watched that first movie and tried to capture the essence of that, while still keeping true to the franchise.

You did yourselves a favor by avoiding those straight-to-DVD movies, believe me.
Schlossberg: [Laughs.] So we’ve heard.

Once all of the actors were on-board, did any of them want to change anything with their characters in the script? At this point, they all must take ownership of these characters.
Hurwitz: Everybody loved the script to start, but, for us, no matter what movie you’re making, it’s all about collaboration with the actors. These are people who’ve played these characters several times before, they know the ins and outs of their characters, and they’re able to help out with what we have there, whether it’s through improv on set or whether it’s through a discussion beforehand, where they say, “Maybe we can explore this a little deeper,” or, “Can we explore that?” They’ll bring up things like that to us, and we’re always eager to hear it.

When making a movie, you just want to make the best movie possible, so it’s always great to get feedback from the actors, the producers, and the studio, and then take it all in and use everything that we think works best for the film. The actors brought a lot to the table on this—it was a lot of fun to work with all of them.

Were any of the primary characters more difficult to figure out than others, in terms of where they’d be at this point in their lives?
Schlossberg: Well, I wouldn’t describe it as “difficult,” really. I think for Jon and I, part of the fun of being able to take on the franchise was that you get to determine the fate of everybody. This was the ultimate fan fiction experience; we've always loved this franchise, just as viewers. With certain characters, there’s a little bit more set up about them that determined how you’re going to frame them; for instance, the Jim character, we knew, was married already, so it made sense that he’d be the first one to have children. Characters like Kevin and Finch, there was more freedom to figure out what was going on in their lives.

 
There’s something about seeing Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, and all these talented comedy actors in these characters. It was catching lightning in a bottle with that first movie, and I think people just enjoy seeing these characters grow up. - Jon Hurwitz
 

Again, we just drew on our own experiences. We felt that everyone could relate to the idea of having some friend in high school who they don’t know what happened to—they just fell off the map. So, for us, that was the Finch character.

With Stifler, we knew, obviously, that was he was the big party guy in high school. Our thought was, Well, there are two ways to approach him: He’s either still having a great time in his life, or he’s a guy who’s still clinging onto the past. We thought that latter way was the better way to go, because it actually gives Stifler some sympathy early on in the movie. You’re kind of rooting for him, in the end, to have a good time, which is a little bit different spin on what you’re used to from these movies.

Speaking of Stifler, it’s interesting how, over the course of the franchise, he’s evolved from a minor player to, essentially, the lead protagonist. The change really hit its stride in American Wedding, which was basically the Stifler show. Why do you think he’s become such a major character?
Hurwitz: Well, in that first film, he was a scene-stealer. He wasn’t a major character in the movie—he was that asshole jock in high school that you kind of love to hate. His popularity in that first film really led to his character becoming more and more prominent as the franchise has gone on.

When it came to do the third film, there were a number of things that we enjoyed about that movie, but, at the same time, we started to feel like the character was, in some ways, becoming a caricature of himself. He didn’t feel as grounded as, say, the Stifler we knew in the first two films. So when tackling this one, we really wanted to explore further, Who is Stifler? Who is that guy who was the popular kid in high school and threw all the parties, who got all the girls? What’s that guy like today? What’s that guy like when he reaches his 30s? Is he still living the incredible life that he had in the past, or did he peak in high school?

The idea of taking that character, Stifler, who was riding on top in that first movie, and make it where he’s an underdog and you’re rooting for him. Where, when the gang’s all getting together, they don’t call him. We thought that would be a different take on Stifler while still allowing him to dive headfirst into this reunion weekend really excited.

Stifler was definitely a bit too heightened in American Wedding; at times, he was even manic.
Schlossberg: Part of the challenge of this movie is you’re taking some of the supporting characters from the first movie, like Stifler and Michelle, who are now… As actors, Seann William Scott and Alyson Hannigan are two of the most well-known actors in the franchise, and also as characters they became really popular after the first movie.

So you feel the need to have more of them in this movie, but in the first one they’re not fully fleshed-out characters. Michelle, in the first movie, is basically saying, “This one time, at band camp,” throughout the whole movie and then there’s the great twist at the end. So it was important for us, when we worked with Alyson on this movie, to make that character feel real beyond that joke, because obviously everybody knows the joke. We tried to take the supporting characters and give them a real sense of who they are in their 30s.

Tags: american-reunion, american-pie, comedy, jon-hurwitz, hayden-schlossberg, alyson-hannigan, katrina-bowden, jason-biggs, seann-william-scott, eugene-levy, chris-klein
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