Universal Options "The Wicked + The Divine" for TV Adaptation
In Universal Pictures’ American Reunion, longtime cast members Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge do something they’ve never done before in the American Pie franchise — meet.
Speaking recently with reporters, Levy said he first heard about the development during a lunch meeting with writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. “They were laying out their idea for the story and they were talking me through the entire thing,” he said. The pitch included the off-screen death of Jim’s mother, which Levy said he found “shocking, but interesting.”
“[Then they say] you go to this party and you open a door and Stifler’s Mom turns around,” the actor recalled. “I said ‘Wow! That is brilliant!’ It almost seems like a no-brainer in a way.”
Coolidge was game for the idea, but hoped to add one other element to the story. “I thought I should sleep with Finch one last time before I do some other stuff,” she explained. “I did want that to happen. I was very firm about it at this dinner with [Hurwitz and Schlossberg].”
The actress was impressed by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the new writing/directing team. “They were in love with American Pie and knew so much about it,” she said. “You could quiz them.” Their understanding of the characters convinced her to relent on the Finch issue. “They told me Stifler’s mom needs to evolve and she needs to grow and she just can’t be sleeping with this young boy,” Coolidge said. “They convinced me.”
As the adults in the first film, the two were asked whether they had noticed how the cast had grown over the years. “We I worked on the first ‘American Pie,’ they were all professional actors,” Levy replied. “It wasn’t the inmates running the asylum. They created amazing characters, so they’re really good at what they do. I don’t notice that much difference except Thomas [Ian Nicholas] has a beard and a couple of the guys have buffed up a little bit.”
In an interesting turn of events, Eddie Kaye Thomas, who plays Finch, lived at Coolidge’s home after the first film. “He was this young, very pale kid,” she recalled. “Now, he isn’t pale. All the boys are going to some Hollywood trainer. They all look like a million bucks.” Having lunch with the actor recently, Coolidge was amazed by Thomas’ transformation. “He was this sort of eccentric kid who read a lot of books when he lived at my house. I don’t think Eddie’s picked up a book in — ” after a pause, she added, “No, I’m joking.”
Both performers, gifted in comedy, are veterans of director Christopher Guest’s mockumentary films like Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Levy revealed that the troupe, which also includes Katherine O’Hara and Jane Lynch, has no immediate plans to make another film. As the phony documentary format proliferated in film and television, the group found little appeal in doing another one. “We really didn’t want to do another movie that’s kind of a cookie-cutter movie,” Levy explained.
The actor also admitted he was initially wary of the first American Pie script, and turned the part down. “It was so raw, sexually speaking, that under the wrong type of supervision, it could’ve gotten crossed the line into ‘eww’ territory,” he explained. A meeting with the Weitz brothers, directors of the original film, changed his opinion. “These kids were really smart and had a really great sense of comedy,” he said. “Paul and Chris Weitz kept everything exactly where it should be. They were doing a movie that could’ve been bad taste, but it wasn’t bad taste. They kept it on the right side of bad taste.” Between that and the strong characters, Levy found he enjoyed the finished film.
He also found those same qualities in Hurwitz and Schlossberg. “They’ve handled very dicey material in a very smart, intelligent way,” he said. “[These] two guys who love the franchise have put it together in a very smart way, keeping all the sentimentality, keeping all the characters very human and very alive.”
Asked if they had any preconceived ideas where their characters would be 13 years later, Coolidge answered, “I always pictured myself having sex with Oz and move on to some of the other kids. I knew the only one I wouldn’t sleep with was Stifler because they wouldn’t have gone that far.”
“I don’t think anyone would,” Levy interjected.
“I wouldn’t mind that at all,” Coolidge fired back. “It never occurred to me that they would’ve hooked me up with an adult.” In the end, she was happy with the results. “It was great seducing Finch because he didn’t know what he was doing, but it’s even better to seduce an older man that doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
For Levy’s part, he was happy to see Jim’s Dad get out of the house. “I wasn’t just sitting there giving advice,” he said. “I was able to get out and go to a party and get stoned.” The subplot led Levy in “exciting directions,” even if one of them made him nervous.
“I thought maybe this was one step over the line for the character,” he said of a scene involving himself, Coolidge and a movie theater. “I had to put my trust in Jon and Hayden because their instincts up to that point were pretty good. So I’m glad I did, because it was a fun scene to do.”
“I requested from Jon and Hayden if we could rehearse that and I take Eugene’s head and push him down into my lap,” Coolidge added. “I thought that would be a Stifler’s Mom move. Why does it have to be me servicing Eugene? Why couldn’t it go the other way? Did we improvise that?”
“No, we never even got to beginning of that, I don’t think,” Levy responded. “I think even earlier than that, [there was] the idea was that Jim’s Dad was the initiator. … Something like that was a bit tough to, um, swallow.” Getting the reaction he wanted, he feigned surprise at his own remark and added, “I mean that in the good sense.”
American Reunion opens Friday nationwide.