It’s a little difficult to think of the Harold & Kumar movies as “auteur-driven,” but screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have been at the helm of the series since the beginning, and it’s because of them that now three films seem connected to one another, and cohesive, even for a series about a pair of mischievous potheads. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is the latest installment, and it finds the titular duo in search of holiday spirit, rekindling their friendship after relationships, jobs and just getting older has gotten in the way. Movies.com caught up with Hurwitz and Schlossberg at the film’s Los Angeles press day, where the duo discussed the challenges of keeping the franchise afloat after three films, examined some of the more prescient topics presented in this installment, and reflected on their experiences not just writing Harold and Kumar, but watching them grow up in the seven years since the series began.
Movies.com: Is there a point when the age of potheads gets less funny? That it’s like, at this point you should have your act together, and this might actually be a problem for which you need to seek help?
Schlossberg: Well, you see at the beginning of the Harold & Kumar Christmas movie that Harold is not smoking weed, so at the characters’ age, we’re sort of dealing with the changes in potential pot habits amongst these characters. But I think these pot movies have a general belief that in society there are functioning marijuana smokers, and Harold and Kumar happen to be a couple of those guys, and I would imagine that as the characters continue to get older, you find the time and the place that’s appropriate for each character, given the place that they are in their lives. Harold is at a place in this movie where marijuana can’t be a major part of it, and it isn’t a major part of it, but maybe he’s gone too far and completely gotten rid of it, when some of his best times involved marijuana – and there’s nothing wrong with him letting loose here and there. And Kumar seems to have gone down a negative path where he isn’t progressing in life, and that weed is still at the forefront and there’s a problem there.
Hurwitz: It may actually be more fresh because you’ve seen a ton of stoner comedies with younger actors. So as they get older and they get into their 40s and 50s, new material may come up that people haven’t done yet in stoner comedies. So we’ll see.
Movies.com: How much of the 3D component did you actually write into the script?
Hurwitz: Our first draft of the script, it was not intended to be 3D, we just wrote a real Harold and Kumar Christmas story, and when the idea came up to shoot it in 3D, we actually looked at the script and we saw a lot of things that just felt like they could be enhanced in 3D. I mean, a lot of the 3D moments in the movie were in our original script – I mean, Harold gets eggs thrown at him, there’s a whole Claymation sequence.
Schlossberg: Neil Patrick Harris does a whole routine. These were all things that were in the original screenplay when the studio said, hey, how about 3D? We’re two guys who are in general skeptical of 3D, like we’re not guys who go and see 3D movies. For me, I’ve only seen Avatar and Jackass 3D, and I’ve seen nothing else. But the concept of a Harold & Kumar movie in 3D was something that we felt that the audience would enjoy and that we would enjoy as audience members, having the brand of comedy that we throw at you in these movies literally being thrown at you. That was a lot of fun for us, so a lot of that was in the script as we found out that it was going to be in 3D, and we agreed it was going to be in 3D. We ended up adding more stuff, and the director did as well.
Movies.com: How timely were you trying to be in terms of the film’s depiction of the banking industry?
Hurwitz: It turned out to be — we didn’t forecast that happening, but when we wrote the movie, it was right at the height of the financial crisis, and we just felt like that was such a big part of what was going on in the world, so it had an effect on the story. But at the time, we didn’t know – what if the economy comes back in a few years? We didn’t know what was going to happen, but in a Christmas movie in a Christmas setting, there was always going to be sort of people who are doing well and people who aren’t doing well, and the idea of protestors on Christmas, it felt like it could be timely in terms of what era it was in, but it just so happened to be incredibly of the moment.
Schlossberg: Yeah – when we’re writing the Harold & Kumar movies, it’s just we’re taking what we’re thinking about in the world, and putting it out there in a way that we believe is funny and entertaining for people. And when it came down to this Christmas movie, it came down to, okay, well, who’s Harold? Harold is an investment banker and this is the way people are viewing bankers right now. So it’s like we have this guy who’s actually a good guy as a protagonist, and yet he’s part of the problem. So we felt like if we were showing Harold and he’s doing well in society, let’s go out there and see some of the frustrations that he might be dealing with as a banker trying to leave to go to his car. It may be a problem. Did we know that people were going to start protesting in exactly the way they have, exactly like it is in the movie? Absolutely not, and it’s crazy and surreal to us that the timing is what it is, because we wrote that protest up a few years ago, and it really didn’t break out until around the time that this movie is coming out.
Movies.com: How tough is it to give audiences what they want in a sequel that reminds them of the previous films, and to still make it new and unique and fresh?
Hurwitz: What you just said, that’s pretty much it. The art of writing a good sequel is giving people what they expect and what they don’t expect at the same time. I think that whenever you have something that’s really working well in the movie, in the sequel, you do want to revisit it but in a different way, and I think there are certain things that every Harold & Kumar movie is going to have: it’s going to have weed as an inciting incident in the movie, it’s going to have Neil Patrick Harris, and it’s going to have nudity.
Schlossberg: And Harold and Kumar.
Hurwitz: Yes, and Harold and Kumar, obviously. But you start with the basics of what makes a great stoner comedy, and then you look at what people love about Harold and Kumar, like, would people be pissed if it wasn’t in there? And if so, it should be in there, but in a way that it’s not just rehashing an old joke.
Movies.com: Is this a well that was or is in danger of drying up, or when they’ve come to you and said we’ll make another one, you have stories ready?
Schlossberg: We have tons of ideas for Harold & Kumar. I mean, when we wrote the very first script for Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, it ended with “to be continued,” and that was just because we love these characters so much and we feel like you can put them in any kind of movie, as long as Harold and Kumar are Harold and Kumar, and they’re grounded in their reality and they behave like an audience member would behave, then the movies can work. So its been sort of fun going from that first movie that was coming-of-age road trip movie to the second movie which was sort of a crazy, bizarre political satire to this third movie which is a warm and fuzzy Christmas movie that happens to be in 3D. Just taking those guys and putting them into different scenarios, it’s a lot of fun for us.