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Chris Klein and Mena Suvari return in American Reunion as Oz and Heather, two characters who haven’t appeared in the Universal Pictures series since 2001’s American Pie 2. In the intervening years, they’ve split up and haven’t seen one another in some time. While speaking recently with reporters, Suvari revealed she found that aspect one of the more compelling elements of American Reunion’s plot.
“I liked how it didn’t just go into the reunion with the obvious [plot of] Heather and Oz being together. I liked that twist,” she said. “I also really enjoyed how they gave Heather this moment of breaking out of her shell and really sticking up for herself and showing this different side to her. That was really refreshing.”
“It’s a beautiful thing! So beautiful,” an energetic Klein added. “The innocence of that and going through some life and coming back in a reunion. Wow! That innocence and first love still exists. That’s a cool thing to explore, and if we’re going to explore those themes in American Pie, Heather and Oz are the characters to do it, and I was excited to play that.”
As the film begins, Oz is revealed to be a sportscaster and a former dance-show contestant, something Suvari brought up when she jokingly asked, “How could I let you go with those dance moves?”
“How could you?” Klein responded. “I worked hard on that.”
Coming back to her character after a long absence, Suvari admitted to some trepidation going into the first read-through of the script. Her worries were quickly dismissed, however. “It’s not even five minutes before everybody’s right back on the same page and no time has passed … but then it has, and it has been so many years,” she said.
The film’s end credits feature photos of the cast from the first two films. and she pointed out that those artifacts really drive home how long it’s actually been. At the same time, though, she said she thinks, “there’s so much of the essence that there hasn’t been. We have such amazing chemistry with one another, it’s just so natural.”
“The universe has been incredibly kind to this franchise,” Klein added. “Organically, the premise of the very first movie lends itself to all of us moving forward and growing up.” He pointed out that American Reunion revolves around certain themes of adulthood that sync up directly with the original film. “Sex: We’re still doing that. Relationships: Who has that figured out 10 years later?” he asked. “What American Pie does in a unique way is laugh at that. We say, ‘Gosh, this is funny stuff.’ We get ourselves into some hectic situations, and it’s okay.”
He offered as an example one of the films more direct self-referential moments. “Ten years ago, we saw Jim Levenstein turn around and he had a pie in his crotch. Ten years later, we see him turn around and we see his dick. Things are only getting worse!” he laughed.
“Or better,” he added. “Depending on your perspective.”
The two were asked about the poster, which also pointedly echoes the first film. “At first, I didn’t get it! I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s going on? This feels strangely familiar,’” Klein said. “I think I missed the note that we were recreating the very first poster.”
Suvari called the experience, “surreal” adding, “There’s so much magic around this film coming together, that I was just staying in this feeling of excitement and gratitude.”
Klein picked up on that notion, explaining his own gratitude in being part of a special rapport that “you can’t act.” He said he thinks it comes out of the strength the actors possess as a group and the power in the characters they portray. “We believe in these characters and to be a part of something like that for 13 years is a really cool thing,” he said.
Klein’s beliefs even extend to one of Oz’s goofiest moments. During a replay of his dance contest appearance, an out-of-breath Oz says, “If we all dance more, there’d be no more wars.” The sentiment is derided in the film, but Klein said it speaks to Oz’s true heart.
“Oz is such an idealist,” he explained. “I read that in the script and I thought, ‘What a hysterical thing to say!’ I think in the moment of the dance-off, he believes it. That’s his truth. He’s so wonderfully naïve.”
He recalled getting the pitch for the dance-off from writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. “I said if we’re going to do it, then let’s go as big as we possibly can,” he recalled. It’s certainly a physical moment, and Klein said it plays to his own strengths as an actor.
Asked if they envisioned their characters’ futures differently, Suvari said she agreed with where Hurwitz and Schlossberg took her.
“For Heather, it was to focus on her career and a lot of things look good on paper for her,” she said. “She’s dating this really successful doctor, but she’s really been unlucky in love and I think she sees Oz and it’s about fighting a little bit harder for what she really wanted.” She even finds the reason the characters split up in the first place makes sense. “I think that Heather was aware and appreciative of the opportunities Oz was getting for himself and his career. It was the sort of situation where if you really love someone, you support them no matter what, you love them unconditionally and you want them to live up to their highest potential and I think they agreed to separate,” she explained.
“I had zero preconceived notions or any smart, savvy ideas at all,” Klein said. The actor gamely agreed to each of Hurwitz and Schlossberg’s ideas, admitting he had nothing better in mind. “When they were constructing the production draft of the script, they said, ‘Listen, we think Oz is in sports broadcasting,’ and I said, ‘Great! I don’t have a pitch better than that idea,'” he recalled. “When they said he sees Heather and he still loves her, I said, ‘Great! I get to work with Mena Suvari again.’”
American Reunion opens April 6.