In Universal Pictures’ American Reunion, Thomas Ian Nicholas returns as Kevin, now living a comfortable married life but shaken by the appearance of former flame Vicky at their high school reunion. Nicholas and Tara Reid, who plays Vicky, spoke recently with reporters about returning to their characters, growing up, and the passage of time.
Part of that passage for Nicholas is the larger presence in film and television of characters similar to Jim Levenstein (played by Jason Biggs). "You look at the American Pie movies, and Jim is the awkward character and Finch is the aloof one,” he said. “But now, those are that lead roles we see in everything."
Reid added that the biggest change over time is the immediacy of information. "The way you promote films, the way you plug things ... it's instant,” she said.
The actress was instantly on board the project once she knew the rest of cast was getting back together. "It was an easy yes,” she said. “There's this magic in this cast when you put all of us together. There's this great chemistry that comes out."
Nicholas recalled first hearing about the project four years ago, but doubted at the time that the entire cast would be available. "I just thought it would be very difficult to bring everyone's schedules together, and I was curious if everyone would want to reprise their role,” he said. To his surprise, everyone was available, and he was pleased to find that "everyone had a special place in their hearts for their characters and this franchise."
Asked if he had any fears about coming back to play the same part, the actor admitted to one concern: staying true to the characters.
"We've noticed the growth of Stifler's character and how much more he's in the films as compared to the first one," he explained. "It's also important to maintain Kevin's sort of straight man [role] in the group and let him still be that sounding board so that Stifler can have those funny jokes and make fun of my beard."
"I've always liked Vicky and I've grown up with her," Reid replied. Before she received the script, the actress wondered how the character would be reintroduced into the dynamic. "I had no clue how they were going to write the part. and I think [writer/directors] John [Hurwitz] and Hayden [Schlossberg] did an amazing job because I really feel that Vicky really has gone from a little girl to a woman. You really watched her progress. I love all the research that they did in these films and I really feel like this movie picks up back from the original."
Nicholas added that returning to a character is one of the advantages of being in a sequel. "As an actor, the most challenging thing is creating the character in the beginning because you have to write their backstory," he said. In a sequel like American Reunion, however, the more important consideration is locating that character within the new story.
Nicholas, a musician with three albums to his credit, also found the opportunity to land a song on the movie’s soundtrack. "I've tried to get songs into the soundtrack of all the American Pie films, and this is the first time it's worked out," he said, believing it happened because of the mood while filming on location. With spirits high, he arranged to play an hour-long set during the wrap party. "That was where Jon and Hayden came up to me afterwards and said, 'We knew your music was good, but we saw you live and you're so amazing. We want to put a song of yours in the soundtrack,'" Nicholas recalled. While he initially pitched a cover song, the Thomas Nicholas Band original "My Generation" made the cut.
On top of that, Nicholas' wife was expecting during production. The parallels to the story were not lost on the actor. "Kevin wants this weekend with his buddies from high school, and that was sort of my long, three-month weekend as an actor," he explained. "I was about to embark on a new phase of my life of being a dad and so this was like my last hurrah. Now, I have no sleep and I have a beautiful five-month-old son."
"I think it's evolution. You just grow older," Reid added. "Back then, we were worried about what college we were going to get into. Now it's a whole different thing. Am I ever going to get married? Am I going to have kids? Mortgages? Things just change."
One change in this film is the absence of writer Adam Herz, who conceived the original film and wrote the first two theatrical sequels. Upon learning Hurwitz and Schlossberg, the men behind the Harold and Kumar series, would be taking the reins, Nicholas spoke with Herz and learned all three were friends. Additionally, he was impressed by the respect the writing/directing team had for the material.
"I knew that we were in good hands, and when I saw the film, not only did I think they achieved it, but they over-achieved it," he said. "It was beyond my expectations of what I read. You can make or break a movie in the editing process and they actually improved on their own writing. You don't find guys like that, that can write and direct and then choose the right cuts. It's pretty rare."
Reid agreed with that assessment, adding, "They really attached the first film to this one, and it really wraps the characters up [from] where they started and where they've grown. Not only did they get the comedy and the gross-out humor, but they captured the heart of the film."
American Reunion opens Friday nationwide.