It’s been three years, but Harold and Kumar are finally back! We went with the guys on their epic trip to White Castle back in 2004 and then watched them evade the authorities in Escape from Guantanamo Bay, but now it’s time to see what happen when Harold and Kumar wreak havoc during Christmas.
In A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Harold and Kumar are all grown up – well, somewhat. While Harold (John Cho) is starting a lovely life in the suburbs with Maria (Paula Gracés), Kumar is happy right where he is, on his couch, getting high. The guys aren’t only divided in terms of their way of life; Harold and Kumar had a serious falling out and don’t speak anymore. However, when a mysterious package arrives at the apartment for Harold, Kumar’s left with no choice but to head over to his ex-buddy’s new posh digs and hand it over personally. Bring these two back together during the holiday, toss in a little weed and you know what happens, Christmastime shenanigans ensue!
Not only do franchise screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have the benefit of having created these characters and worked with them for years, but they’ve introduced us to two guys who are incredibly adaptable. Throw them into just about any situation and not only will hilarity likely follow, but their signature traits we’ve come to know and love will ultimately shine through. The result? A film packed with laughs, but also with characters you genuinely care about, too, and Hurwitz and Schlossberg know it.
In honor of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’ November 4th release, Hurwitz and Schlossberg took the time to talk all about the franchise from the inception of the films to embracing 3D, breaking the fourth wall and much more. Check it all out in the interview below.
Way back in 2004, or whenever you wrote the first script, did you ever think you’d make it to film #3, let alone a 3D movie?
Jon Hurwitz: You know, it’s a really funny thing, when we conceived of Harold & Kumar, we conceived of it as a franchise from the beginning. If you looked at the final page of the script of Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, it ended with a “to be continued,” and that was because we had a real affection for those characters. When we were writing that first movie, we just enjoyed that odd couple banter between the two guys and had visions of movies in the future. Hayden and I come from a generation that grew up on franchises and grew up on sequels from Back to the Future to obviously the Star Wars movies and, for us, when a franchise is done right and sort of has the same creative team behind it, you’re usually able to get a similar level of quality as it goes on and we try to do that for our fan base.
Hayden Schlossberg: I don’t know if we ever thought we’d have a 3D Harold & Kumar, particularly because Jon and I are very skeptical of 3D and Hollywood trying to make every movie 3D, but I think that we found that it really added to the stoner nature of the movie and we embraced it completely and we think it’s actually one of the best 3D experiences that’s out there.
Considering you knew you wanted this to be a franchise from the very beginning, what was the process like expanding it from White Castle? With sequels, we tend to see one after the next pretty quickly, but here we had four years between White Castle and Guantanamo and three between Guantanamo and Christmas.
Schlossberg: The first Harold & Kumar built its audience slowly but surely on DVD, so when the first movie came out the studio didn’t say that next weekend, ‘Oh, we’ve gotta make another one.’ But I think as a couple of years went by they realized there’s this huge cult fan base, so why not make a sequel? And after Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay almost tripled the opening, the studio after the weekend told us, ‘Hey, we want to do a third Harold & Kumar.’ That was in 2008.
Hurwitz: At the time we were eager to do another one, but we had some other projects that we were working on as well and John [Cho] and Kal [Penn] had things they were doing, so we were all in agreement that we wanted to do another Harold & Kumar, but we needed to find the right time when all of us could come together.
And how about these themes? You’ve got White Castle, Guantanamo Bay and now Christmas, but it feels like Harold and Kumar can go anywhere and do anything and it’d probably have that same fun feeling, so why these specific places and events?
Hurwitz: You know, it’s fun; we agree with you. Our attitude is that people love these two guys and you can just plop them down into any kind of movie and just put them through the ringer and people will enjoy watching it. We did White Castle just because that was sort of our lifestyle back then. We were two guys living in an apartment together, at the end of each day we would go on a journey for fast food, usually across town, and we just thought it was a real American story, in our opinions, the concept that we would drive a half hour for a very specific kind of burger, driving past burger place after burger place after burger place. We just thought it was a unique, relatable experience to write a movie about hunger. [Laughs] The second movie, with Guantanamo Bay, what was on our minds was the weirdness of being proud Americans, but living in a post-9/11 world where there was just general confusion about the negativity towards our country while still embracing the country and just because you don’t necessarily agree with the government, doesn’t mean that the country’s any less great. What we were thinking about at the time we thought would be a different kind of movie than the first one, whereas the first one was this coming-of-age road trip, the second movie was an absurd, balls to the wall political satire. And then for the third movie, we just felt that we wanted to age the characters, make them adults, and we sort of took them on their logical pathways to where they would be and figured, would Harold and Kumar be friends? And we figured that a Christmas backdrop, the warm and fuzzy nature of a Christmas backdrop, would be the perfect film for these guys to sort of come back together. Christmas, by nature, is held sacred by a lot of people and we felt that taking the Harold & Kumar tone or the Harold & Kumar accessibility and applying it to a Christmas tone would elevate the comedy.
Beyond Christmas, Guantanamo and White Castle, these movies are a bit segmented with various minor skits, so how do you come up with those, too? I imagine you’ve got a massive laundry list of calamities you can put these guys through.
Schlossberg: I think that with the Harold & Kumar movies, part of the fun of writing them is the boundaries are open. We can do whatever we want with the world, it can be a surreal world, as long as Harold and Kumar remain relatable. That’s the secret. With Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, there’s a lot of heightened, crazy things that happen in that movie, but we made sure that in every scene, Harold and Kumar, the characters that we know, are still in character. They don’t go off the rails into a different territory. The movie can go off the rails and that’s part of what’s fun about it.
Hurwitz: Yeah, we’ll start from a place of story and character and we sort of know where the beginning, middle and end is going to be and then you just start thinking about the crazy characters they can encounter and the absurd situations, the whole time trying to make sure that you’re tying it to the common themes of the movie and the common story.
What’s your general writing process like? Are you two working together the whole time or do you split the work?
Schlossberg: It’s kind of a combination of both. We start off in a room together creating an outline for the movie and the outline has all the character arcs and plot twists and jokes and comedy set pieces that the movie is going to have. All our different ideas spring forth from the outline. Once we have an outline that kind of tells us what the movie is, that’s when we can work separately on it, writing it in different sections. But then, when one of us finishes a section, they show it to the other person and that person puts his fingerprints on it and so, by the time it’s all done, it feels like we’ve done it all together.
How’d 3D affect the process? Does it legitimately say “eggs fly out into audience” in the script?
Hurwitz: Yeah, it’s a really funny thing because when we wrote the first draft of A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, it was not intended to be 3D. We just wrote a really ridiculous Christmas tale for these guys and when the studio read the script, they said, ‘Have you thought about making this in 3D?’ Then we looked at our script and we’re like, we have Harold being pelted by eggs and we have a claymation sequence and we have Santa Claus flying through the sky and we have all these different things that already were natural for 3D. So that was when we really embraced the 3D concept and we felt it could enhance the movie. And then from that point forward, we took the script and started looking for opportunities where we could add to the 3D. It was a lot of fun adding that extra dimension to the writing process as well.
And how much did you guys decide what was going to be in 3D as compared to the director?
Hurwitz: It was really a group effort by all of us. It was a fun thing collaborating with Todd [Strauss-Schulson] on this movie; he’s a guy who loves the visual element of filmmaking. The scenes that were already written there, he was figuring out how he wanted to portray that on the screen and there were points in the process where Todd was coming up with his own 3D ideas and it was great. It’s always our belief that when you’re making a movie, it’s a collaboration between a lot of different people and wherever a good idea comes from, whether it’s us or, in this case, Todd directing or one of the actors or one of the producers, if somebody comes up with something that’s funny that’s going to help the movie then you find a way to put it in there.
Another element you include that almost has a 3D quality to it is that you break the fourth wall quite a bit. How’d you go about achieving that without it being a little on the tacky side?
Hurwitz: We picked moments to do it in. The clearest moment where we actually officially break the fourth wall is when Neil Patrick Harris is saying, ‘See you in the fourth one,’ because that’s acknowledging that we’re a movie. The other stuff, whether it’s the Star Trek reference or the reference to Kal Penn and the White House …
Schlossberg: Or Bobby Lee.
Hurwitz: Oh, yeah! The Bobby Lee thing, we thought it would be a really fun element with making fun of 3D there. But there’s other references, which are less breaking the fourth wall, but they’re sort of acknowledging the lives of these actors outside of it. It was just a little playful thing for the fans that actually fit within the story. For example, by saying, ‘Let’s get this to Sulu,’ we could imagine some prick kid like Adrian referring to any Asian guy as Sulu. When mentioning the White House, he’s talking about that he lied about being Robert Pattinson’s acting coach and he says, ‘Oh, yeah, and I lied and said that you worked at the White House.’ It’s just a little fun for the fans.
Schlossberg: We’re actually hesitant to break the fourth wall. It’s really important for the story to work in these movies. Some people may say it’s a loosely strung together plot, but the reality is there is a plot, there is a character journey in each movie and if that’s not working, it doesn’t matter how funny the movie is, it’s just not going to work. So, I think if it were going to be self-referential or break the fourth wall, it has to make sense in way and I think the fact that it’s a 3D movie and that the actors have well-known sides to them outside of the franchise, I think we were able to comment on it without hurting the story.
Hurwitz: It’s something that we feel comfortable doing in a stoner franchise whereas we just tackled the American Pie franchise and that’s the kind of thing that we wouldn’t do in American Reunion.