Welcome to the reunion of the Class of 1999 from East Great Falls High in “American Reunion,” the outrageously funny fourth installment of the original American Pie franchise. Chris Klein is back as Oz, now a sportscaster and celebrity dance contestant on the film’s fictitious dance show. Mena Suvari joins Klein and reprises her role as Heather, Oz’s old flame, who has stayed home and focused on her career working in the medical field while Oz has become a successful TV personality. Heather and Oz’s relationship may have drifted apart in the years that have passed, but when the two reunite for their high school reunion, the sparks start to fly all over again.
MoviesOnline sat down with Klein and Suvari at the film’s press day to talk about what it was like returning to their characters in this raunchy comedy and pushing the envelope for a new generation. They talked about what attracted them to the script when they first read it, why they were excited about what the writers had done with their characters, how much fun they had working again with the original cast, and why they love what the Oz/Heather story represents.
Q: Were you hoping the writers would have you get together in the end?
MS: Yeah. Honestly, when I read the first draft, I was really impressed. I thought it was absolutely hilarious and it’s turned out to be my favorite of the whole series. I like how it didn’t just go into the reunion with the obvious that Heather and Oz would be together, so I liked that twist. I also really enjoyed how they gave Heather this moment of really breaking out of her shell and speaking up for herself and showing this different side to her, so that was really refreshing. But, of course, I think it’s only natural for Oz and Heather to come back together again.
CK: It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing. So beautiful. You are so beautiful.
MS: I mean, how could I let you go with those dance moves?
CK: That’s what I’m saying. How could you? I worked hard on that. I think it’s beautiful that they do indeed rekindle this flame that was their first love and the innocence of that. Then going through some life and coming back in a reunion, wow, that innocence and first love still exists and is being rekindled. That’s a cool thing to explore, and if we’re going to explore those themes in American Pie, Oz and Heather are the characters to do it. I was excited to play that.
Q: Can you talk about looking back at those first films and how much you’ve changed?
MS: We were actually watching a clip from a photo shoot that we had for Rolling Stone that was eons ago. It’s strange because, for me, when I heard about the idea, then all the way to coming to Universal for a table read for “American Reunion,” it’s not even, what, five, 10 minutes, even if we haven’t seen one another over years, everybody’s right back on the same page. It’s like no time has passed but then it has and it’s been so many years. At the end of American Reunion, there’s a lot of photos from the first and second American Pie that are in there and it’s almost like when you do look at those, it becomes a reality that it has been so long, but there’s so much of this essence that it hasn’t been. It feels like no time has passed at all and we have such amazing chemistry with one another that it is just so natural. We were just all put back together again and it’s like the same vibe.
CK: The universe has been incredibly kind to this franchise in that organically, the premise of the very first movie lends itself to all of us moving forward and growing up. The universal themes that the first American Pie deals with, sex, well, we’re all still dealing with that. Relationships, well, who’s got that figured out 10 years later? All of those things and that’s wonderful. What American Pie also does in such a unique way in our brand is we laugh at that. We say gosh, this is funny stuff. Man, we get ourselves into some hectic situations and it’s okay and it’s going to happen. Here we are in a reunion and my goodness, 10 years ago we saw Jim Levinstein turn around and he had a pie in his crotch. 10 years later we see him turn around and we see his dick. Things are only getting worse. Or better depending on your perspective.
Q: What attracted you to TV work on “American Horror Story” and “Wilfred”?
MS: I feel like in the past few years, TV has changed so much. Whatever kind of line of division [there is] between film and TV has really been blurred. There’s so much great material and so many great people working in television right now. I love playing characters and I was obsessed with that show before it even aired. For me it’s never really been about the medium. It’s just really about the story and the character, so to find something like that in any area, it’s just wonderful to explore.
CK: I’ve been a huge fan of the cable network FX for a very long time. Their brand of comedy I think is incredible. For me as an audience member, that’s a go to channel for me. So in exploring television opportunities, I was really excited to see what was going on at FX. My favorite shows are on it. I love how they run their network. I love everything about it. I found Wilfred and Wilfred found me and Jason Gann and I found each other. We were actually talking about maybe me coming in for the part that’s played wonderfully by Elijah Wood. Then we thought actually, no, I want to play the beer truck driver from Wisconsin. Seems to make more sense. But we went for it and I’m having fun with that. I really feel lucky to be invited back for another couple episodes in season two because that’s a fun character to play.
Q: What was it like reshooting the poster in the exact same configuration as the original poster?
CK: At first I didn’t get it. I was like wait a minute, what’s going on? This feels strangely familiar. I think I missed the note that we were recreating the very first. I think I missed the note so I was like wait, this seems vaguely, maybe we’ve done this before. Shouldn’t we have an original idea or something? And they were like oh, no, no, the idea is to re[make it.] I’m like oh, whoa, we’re doing a great job. Okay, here we go.
Q: Was it surreal?
MS: I mean, that’s exactly the word that I’ve been using. It really was. I feel like it was surreal. There’s just so much magic around this film coming together that I was just really staying in this feeling of excitement and gratitude the whole time.
CK: It is. It’s excitement and gratitude. I love you, Mena Suvari. It is. We have such a beautiful time making these movies. The chemistry that we see as audience members in these movies is palpable and you can’t act that. You can’t create that. That is something that either exists in films or it doesn’t. You guys are experts. You’ve watched enough movies where the chemistry isn’t there and in these it is. We believe in these characters and we can follow these characters. To be a part of something like that for 13 years now and to revisit that, it’s a really, really cool thing. We’re having a lot of fun.
Q: What do you think of Oz’s physicality and how he refrains from fighting?
CK: Oz is such an idealist, isn’t he? If we all dance more, there’d be no wars. I read that in the script and I thought what a hysterical thing to say. What a ridiculously amazing thing to say. I think in the moment of the dance off, the funny thing is in the moment of the dance off, he believes it. That’s a true thing to say. That’s his truth. He’s so wonderfully naïve a little bit.
MS: Heather sees it too.
CK: Yeah, Heather sees his idealism, right? And in terms of the physicality, for this franchise, that’s what I have to offer as an actor. I play Oz and my acting style, my physicality lends itself to doing things like putting a scene together like a dancing competition. When Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg pitched that to me, I said listen, if we’re gonna do it, then let’s go as big as we possibly can because 13 years later, if we’re going to be doing stuff, we better push it. I mean, you guys all gave us credit in 1999 for pushing the envelope of teen comedy. You guys all gave us credit for doing that. Well, you created a monster because now all of us are like we’ve gotta push the envelope, that’s our thing. And staying within our brand, that’s how the franchise does it with Oz.
Q: What had you envisioned for your characters versus where they actually are?
MS: I mean, I honestly could see where Heather is at and I do agree with it. I think it’s one of those situations where I think that Heather was aware and appreciative of the opportunities that Oz was getting for himself and for his career. I think it’s the kind 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 so I think they agreed to separate. For Heather, it was for her to focus on her career. You know, a lot of things look good on paper for her. She’s dating this really successful doctor but she’s just been unlucky in love. I think it’s, again, where they come together for the reunion and she sees Oz and I think for her it’s just about maybe fighting a little bit harder for what she really wanted. So I actually did really agree with what Jon and Hayden had kind of created for Heather.
CK: I had zero preconceived notions or any smart, savvy ideas at all. But when I sat with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg for the first time, when they were constructing the production draft of the script and they said, “Listen, we think that Oz is in sports broadcasting.” And I said, “Great. I don’t have a pitch better than that idea.” And then they said, “And we think he might do something like a dance competition.” I said, “That’s great. I don’t have a pitch better than that.” Then they said, “And he sees Heather at the reunion and he still loves her.” And I said, “Great. I get to work with Mena Suvari again.” For me, just personally as an actor and as a fan of this franchise, I love what the Oz/Heather story represents. Professionally, I love playing it out and feel very fortunate to play it out and feel especially fortunate to play it out with such a talented actress in Mena. I love her to death and to share scenes with her is an incredible, incredible experience.
“American Reunion” opens in theaters on April 6th.