Shabooty Interview Series: Jon Hurwitz (Harold & Kumar) | PART TWO
Here’s part two of the Shabooty Interview Series’ interview with Harold and Kumar writer/creator, Jon Hurwitz. I found this section of the interview to be inspiring, and if you’re an aspiring movie maker or a young creative, this interview really is for you. I felt impassioned and reinvigorated as I was editing this interview, and it’s all a testament to Jon Hurwitz! And I promise you he didn’t send me $500 worth of White Castle gift certificates in the mail or give me Tara Reid’s phone number (he also wrote and directed American [Pie] Reunion)… Part one can be found here, and with all due respect past and present and without further to do, here’s part two:
Shabooty: On American Pie Reunion, did most of the cast members come back?
Jon Hurwitz: Yeah, everybody came back for the Reunion, it was awesome. It was one of those things where they were waiting to see what we came up with. I think people when they heard the movie was going to come together, I think a lot of the cast members were intrigued and when they heard that Hayden and I were involved, a lot of them became more intrigued and a lot of them were fans of our work or we were friendly with them, ya know everybody was kind of eager and when we approached it – the goal sort of was like let’s just make sure that we give everybody something to do. We love these characters, let’s make sure that all of the characters from the first movie have a reason for being in the movie. And as soon as the actors saw what our game plan was, they quickly signed on.
Now would you say that Stifler’s mom has “hit the wall”, the LEAST [out of the cast]?
You know what, I think they’re all beautiful. Honestly, being on set, I was blown away, how good everybody looked. Some of the cast members have had their “rough times,” or the photos in the tabloids and stuff like that, that show them in not the best light… but if you watch American Reunion I think you’ll find that all the original cast members look quite good right now, and there’s def. — we have a lot of new cast members in the film – the bottom line is that it’s a pretty good looking cast right now. I think if you look at American Reunion, people weren’t complaining on set, with the eye-candy walking around. Everyday there were beautiful people, and def. it was a fun shooting environment.
How was it like working with Sal Governale & Richard Christy in Harold & Kumar 2 & do you think that Sal really needed new teeth?
Well, first of all, I actually didn’t work with Sal on H&K2, we just worked with Richard, but I met Sal and when H&K2 came out. Neal Patrick Harris did a big interview with Howard Stern, and Hayden and I were Neal’s guests. in the greenroom and so while we were there we saw Richard whom we knew, but that’s when we meet Sal for the first time. I love Sal and I don’t think he needed to make any drastic changes, but ya know, people do what they do, but working with Richard was amazing. I was always a fan of him on the [Stern] show. I think he’s a fearless guy, he’ll do anything for comedy. Him and Sal, but the role that we wrote was really something we felt was a good role for Richard. He played a member of the KKK, so he was a southerner and we figured he could play like a dumb KKK guy, and basically, he ends up pissing on Harold’s head.
That was probably THEE most memorable scene in the movie.
It’s one of my favorites.
When you were filming, doing the Guantanamo Bay stuff (in H&K2), did you get any flack from the US govn’t?
You know, nothing major, nothing that effected production in any sort of way. After the fact, there was the occasional comment on a news show, but the govn’t itself had no qualms with the movie. You didn’t hear anything, the craziest thing was ya know obviously, George W. Bush is a character, in the movie, so I was always curious to know what people on the inside thought of that, and since the movie, I’ve gotten little updates here and there from people that have encountered people that work at the White House during Bush’s time and I think all of them found the movie really, really funny. Not to say George W Bush in real life is a stoner, but the personality that we gave him in the film rang true to some of the people that actually know him.
And speaking of the White House, and this is more of a Kumar/Kal Penn question, how did he get a job working for the OBAMA administration?
Ya know KAL is a guy who has always been interested in politics. Even dating back to high school, he was a guy who was pursuing acting, but he is always involved and interested in current events and in high school, he did these competitions where he would model congressy type stuff and he was interested in that world, and even while we were shooting H&K Escape From Guantanamo Bay, he was talking about Obama. He was really fascinated by Obama from the DNC, the 4 years before Obama actually ended up running for office and he gave a speech that really impacted Kal and when Obama started his campaign, Kal sort of just reached out to see how he could get involved. And pretty soon, he became probably of all of the celebrities who were going out and doing outreach for Obama, he was probably the #1 guy. He covered I believe at least half the country. He was in 25-30 states, getting the word out for Barack Obama. During that process he met a lot of people who work in the campaign and who were gonna work at the White House and Kal felt he was part of something unique and special and he really believes in Barack and wanted to find a way to continue working for him, but also learning something different. Kal’s a guy who is interested in exploring and expanding his knowledge. And he just likes to have different experiences, so it was a surprise to the world when all of a sudden it was announced to the world that Kal Penn is kinda taking a break from acting, and gonna be working at the White House, but it wasn’t a surprise for me.
I remember seeing the White House Town Hall on YouTube streaming, and I think Kal was there hosting a Q&A after Obama spoke, and I will say, just his presence made it interesting, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have stayed tuned in after the Obama portion of the Town Hall.
Yeah, it’s an interesting thing, it’s one of those things that he jokes about that’s like sometimes it’s a disappointment for people – when he’s doing the political stuff, he’s pretty serious about it and yeah he’ll joke around a little bit here and there, but sometimes you’re hoping to see Kumar up there being a little ridiculous in these big White House events, but he always tries to keep it together and just be Kal Penn at those times.
When you’re directing Kal, does he like to ad-lib at all?
Kal will ad-lib but he’s more of a guy who will work within the script as much as possible, he’ll def. improv here and there, but he’s not –there are certain actors whether it’s Rob Cordry or Eugene Levy, or Jason Biggs, some of those people will improv so much more. Where they’ll get down what’s on the page, but they’ll really expand upon it. Kal will do some of that, but both John and Kal, when we give them the script, they really internalize it, we have lots of conversations about what’s going on in the scenes, and sometimes they’ll come up with things before hand, and eventually write them into the script, and other times they’ll improv here and there, but they’re def. guys who like to work with a script that’s really working for them.
On the last Harold and Kumar was it risky to go 3D?
We wrote the Christmas script, and then the studio asked us if we’ve thought about doing the movie in 3D, and then we read the script and then it was like, “huhhh, it’s actually written in a way where you could really do a unique and funny 3D movie that is kind of poking fun at the 3D craze.” So that was kind of our attitude with it. There are funny things to do in 3D, that no other movie is doing in 3D. Avatar isn’t going to have a clay dick come into your face. Or have marijuana smoke wafting into the audience…those were things that we felt like would be unique and a diff. kind of use of 3D that could be fun.
Or like 3D beer pong?
Yeah, exactly – all that stuff we figured let’s just do something a little bit different. It’s a Harold and Kumar movie you can kind of play with the world a little bit here and there.
Would you put a feather in your own hat (no Yankee Doodle) and say you’re one of the best writers as far as buddy comedies in Hollywood?
I feel like Hayden and I do a good job with what we do. I’m a huge fan of comedy, I think it’s a great comedy landscape right now, I think there are a lot of filmmakers whose work I enjoy, I love the stuff that Apatow’s doing, I love Todd Phillips’ stuff, I love the movie TED, so Seth MacFarlane, the things he’s been doing. Just in comedy in general I think it’s a good time, but I feel like we’re in the mix with all of those guys, with the work we’re doing, I’ve been in enough audiences with the movies that we’ve made and seen the way that crowds react to them and it’s a special experience. It’s everything that I’ve kinda dreamed of when I was younger and ya know, wanted to be like the Zucker brothers or the Farley Brothers, who made the movies that made me laugh really hard when I was young. It’s been fun to see the audiences react to the movies that we do and as far as the buddy genre, I think it helps that Hayden and I are buddies. We’ve been friends for a long time, so often movies that we write have themes of friendship in them, and a lot of times, the banter of a couple guys playing off each other.
On an opening night, do you go to your movie and hop from theater to theater?
Yeah, I’ll hit the theaters, this time w/ American Reunion, we stationed ourselves at one theater, there’s the AMC in Burbank, a bunch of us, most of the cast actually, and some of the producers and everything, we kind of all were stationed at the Barney’s Beanery over there and we were kind of eating and drinking and just having a good time, and then we’d pop into different screenings of the movie.
Do you believe in the [Malcolm Gladwell] 10,000 hours rule for success?
I’m a huge believer in that, I’m somebody who works A LOT. I always have, when Hayden and I started writing our screenplays we were college students studying other things, and we started writing during the summer of college, and we had day jobs to pay the bills and to kind of prepare for a path if the film thing didn’t work out. At night every day that summer, we would get home, it would be 6 o’clock at night after working a full day, and we would sit in front of the computer and we would work until midnight and we did that every night for an entire summer – ya know, a lot of the other kids at school were just hanging out and partying those nights, and I certainly did the occasional partying, but really kept it to the weekends and at a reasonable amount ’cause we really wanted to get where we were going and to this day, I’ll get up and I’ll be working all day long with Hayden, I’ll come home, I’ll spend time with my wife and my daughter and when they go to bed, I’m usually working for a few more hours, when you’re trying to do something that’s kind of on the scale that we’re doing, you can’t really get by by doing it in a 9-5 kind of way, or anything less than that. You’ve got to be putting in the work and thinking about it a lot. And esp. when you’re making a movie, you’re working all the time. When we were making American Reunion, you’re sleeping 4 hours, 5 hours on a good night, and working all the time when you’re awake, to do the job right, usually it takes a lot of work.
What was your big break in showbiz?
I guess there are a couple breaks. The first break was we wrote a script while we were in college, we didn’t have any connections in Hollywood, and we were just trying to find a way to get our script out there and made a well-placed phone call out of the blue to a guy named JB Rogers who was the assistant director for the Farley brothers for the movies they had made when I was younger and also on the first American Pie, he actually went on to direct American Pie 2, but he was a guy who I didn’t know in any sort of way, but I was a college student and I went on IMDB and I saw what movies he had done, I called the director’s guild, and somehow got a phone number for him and I convinced him to read our first script and he read that script and it started getting passed around in Hollywood and it got real traction, and before I knew it, it was in the hands of a bunch of agents and managers and they were calling us when we were in college and they were trying to sign us and we ended up signing with some reps and that very first script we sold, three months before we graduated college, so that was sort of the thing that allowed me to… ya know, I was actually a finance major and planning to be an investment banker, I was doing anything I could to get out of that and luckily the screenplay sold and that was the first thing.
And I would say the second big break was really two years into the business, we had sold a number of scripts, we had developed projects at different places, and we had gone through a variety of different processes and then we wrote the script for Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, and we met with the producers Nathan Kahane and Greg Shapiro and they were young up and coming producers and they had access to the money to carry out our vision, and they said to us, “if you sell us the script,” and we sold it for less money than we were selling other scripts for, there thing was that, ya know what, “we can get this movie made, and we’ll get it made the right way, we’ll find a director who wants to make Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, not to change it into something else, and we’ll keep you involved,” and Hayden and I got to be on set every day for that movie. A lot of writers you’ll find out, you’ll sell a screenplay and a director will come on board and the writer is never heard from again. And this project, we were there every day on set, sitting there behind the director, helping him along in the process. After each take he wanted our opinion on things, and Danny Leiner, the director, the combination of those guys buying Harold and Kumar and Danny welcoming us on set, and allowing for us to be there, it was on the job training to learn what it was to be a director, and that was a big break as well. And I think those were the two most defining moments.
Will there be another Harold and Kumar movie?
There are no plans for a Harold and Kumar movie now, it’s something that we all talk about, and I have a feeling that you haven’t seen the last of the Harold and Kumar movies. My guess is that at some point in the future that we’ll get together and do another one. It may be a while, it may be 5 years from now, it may be 10 years from now, it may be 20 years from now. The one thing that we are working on is an animated show for Adult Swim with Harold and Kumar. That’s something we’re kind of working on now, John and Kal are already on board to do the voices, so we’re gonna be writing a pilot and see if we can get that up and running, and people will get to see Harold and Kumar in a different format. That’s with LionsGate Television and the Cartoon Network.
What’s your next big movie project?
I can’t really speak to that yet. We’re working on a script right now, we’ve been talking to the studio about that, but nothing official is going on yet. As soon as we’re able to announce anything, we will. Now that we’re working with Universal, we’re developing a variety of projects with different writers and as we’re writing things on our own and hopefully in the next couple years, we’ll be making a movie or two.
I think you’re in the driver’s seat, because I really loved the last Harold and Kumar movie, and I think you guys knocked it out of the park, so I think you’re in the driver’s seat to keep doing good things.
Thanks a lot man, really appreciate it, I’m really glad you enjoy the work and we’re gonna keep doing it.
Do you have any famous friends that are huge Howard Stern fans as well?
I’d say most of my friends are Howard Stern fans. I know that Rob Cordy’s a fan, I know that he’s somebody that listens to Howard quite a bit. I know Neal Patrick Harris is a huge Stern fan, he’s a huge fan, I think Jason Biggs is a fan, most people who are in comedy, are fans of comedy, most people are.
If you or your writing partner had to do a Howard Stern trivia quiz, who do you think would do better?
I would say Hayden would probably do better than me on Howard trivia because he has more time to listen to the show. I’m a family man now, I have a wife and a daughter, so my car rides so often if I’m not doing work, in the car on my own, and I’m with the family, there’s a lot of Sesame Street CDs, and things like that in the car, so I feel like I’m a little bit behind. I’ll go to MarksFriggin occasionally and read and catch up on the stuff that I’ve missed. But I think Hayden has a lot more free time to make sure he stays current with everything.
I remember like four years ago, for some reason the month of May, was a really busy month where I was traveling and I missed the most Stern shows I had ever, and then I finally tuned back in at the end of the month (or a month later) and all of a sudden they had all of these catch phrases like the Oprah, “We speak your name,” and all of these new catch phrases and audio drops that were regular parts of the show that I didn’t know where the f*ck they were coming from, so I missed four weeks of the show and I felt like I was missing half of the new slang on the show!
No, totally, if you miss a period of time, it’s tough!
THAT’S IT FOLKS, Look for Shabooty to appear in ‘Harold and Kumar 4Dimethyltryptamine‘, coming to theaters in 2015. (I was kidding at first, but now I think it’s a really good idea.)