Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg Exclusive Interview – HAROLD AND KUMAR Escape from Guantanamo Bay

     August 12, 2008

With “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” arriving on DVD and Blu-ray the other week, I recently got to interview writer/director’s Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg.

While most of the time I don’t care about speaking with the filmmakers regarding a home video release, with the recent announcement of New Line wanting a third “Harold and Kumar” film, and the fact that the Blu-ray was extremely well done, I jumped at the chance to talk with Jon and Hayden. After all, they’re the guys responsible for “Harold and Kumar” and I was hoping to find out any info on the future of the franchise.

So during our pretty extended conversation, we covered everything – what they’re working on next, being at Comic-Con, how the Blu-ray/DVD special features came together, and how much fun it was to shoot in Amsterdam. If you’re a fan of “Harold and Kumar,” I’m very confident you’ll dig this interview.

But before getting to it…I have to mention that I just watched “Harold and Kumar 2” on Blu-ray and was beyond impressed. While most DVDs will insert a few extra scenes or supply a section of deleted scenes, “Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay” does something I’ve never seen before…it has a Dude, Change the Movie feature.

While you’re watching the movie, occasionally you’ll see a pop up and it’ll let you choose what happens next. If you make the wrong decision…let’s just say Harold and Kumar will pay a stiff penalty.

And don’t think the added footage is a second or two… as when they were filming the movie they shot a TON of extra footage specifically for the DVD and it’s really loaded with great stuff. For example, if you chose for Kumar to not light up on the plane near the beginning of the movie…you get a crazy amount of extra footage in Amsterdam. Again, if you’re a fan of H&K it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Finally, if you missed my recent Comic-Con interview with John Cho and Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar), click here.

Collider: Well, the first thing is… I interviewed the 2 guys (John Cho and Kal Pen) at that booth at Comic Con and the booth was great. What was very funny to watch were all the fans standing around, trying to wave at them and getting all excited that there was all these interviews going on up there.

Jon Hurwitz: It was crazy for us—this is Jon speaking. You know, just being down there at Comic Con and seeing such an amazing booth. And when you make a movie it’s not every day that you get to just be around a large group of fans. At Comic Con having such a booth that stood out so much with the unicorn and all that going on and the 2 stories and seeing the crowds kind of cheering for the guys, it feels great. It’s nice to see the love that those guys have because they definitely earned it in our movies.

I watched the Blu-ray last night and I was completely and utterly blown away by the choose your own adventure of the film. So how early on did you guys plan to do this on the Blu-ray?

Hayden Schlossberg: It was well before even pre-production. It was something that actually New Line and their home video department first brought up the idea. I think they had done something similar on a Final Destination 3 DVD, but we sort of viewed this as opportunity to have a lot of new comedy. You know Jon and I are 30 years old. We’re from a generation of movie-goers that bought DVD’s in college and we’re always disappointed with the special features on a lot of DVD’s and we were just excited about the prospect of creating a great DVD for the sequel because, of course, we knew that the only reason that we were doing a sequel was because the first movie caught on so well on DVD. We thought about it during pre-production and we realized that hey, this can be a great opportunity for fans. You know, a lot of people were expecting the movie to be “Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam” for instance. And we thought hey, what if it was, you know? And the viewer had the choice to make that decision so we thought it was a great idea, so we wrote up a bunch of pages before we shot the movie and throughout our shoot, there were days throughout the shoot where we would say, okay now everybody this one is just for the DVD right now. And we did it and we had a fun time doing it and now it’s paying off because fans get to see all that stuff that wasn’t in the theatre.

Jon Hurwitz: It was crazy for us because “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanomo Bay” is the first movie we’ve ever directed. So there was enough craziness and enough to learn through pre-production on our first film and when the choose your own adventure kind of opportunity came up for us, it was one of those things where we’re just like hey, we’re already kind of in deep. We’re already in the thick of a challenge so why not just make things even more difficult for us by shooting all sorts of extra stuff that’s not even going to be in the feature? And it was a crazy experience just throughout pre-production just writing all sorts of new scenes that we knew weren’t even going to be in the feature but again, as Hayden was saying, it feels really good that it’s paid off so well. It really came together well and the actors really stepped up and usually had only 1 or 2 takes with a lot of the stuff that we did in the do change the movie thing and I think a lot of the stuff turned out really well.

And how was it with John and Kal when you guys were filming? I mean, how early on did you get them involved and were they incredibly excited to be filming all this extra stuff?

Hayden Schlossberg: I think everybody is excited about it in concept but then when you’re shooting a movie there’s a lot of time pressure and so it’s frustrating when these actors don’t get a ton of takes to begin with and then we need to like rush the day even more for stuff that isn’t ever going to be in the movie, you know? So I think there’s not a frustration but it just adds to the pressure of everything. However, when you see a lot of the scenes that they’re in in the dude change the movie feature, you know, they had a real fun time doing it at the same time, because you know there’s one choice the viewer can make is whether or not they decide…a decision over whether or not they should escape Guantanamo Bay. And if they stay there you sort of see them years down the road in the jail cells and they’re wearing these you know beards and it was a lot of fun to do but it also created a lot of pressure.

Jon Hurwitz: I think the thing that we all enjoyed most about shooting that stuff was that a lot of the times the comedy we were able to do in these features, in the dude change the movie choices, they were types of comedy that couldn’t exactly be in the movie simply because they would just at times hurt the integrity of our ridiculous film, even though it’s a pretty absurd movie we like to keep a certain type of groundedness throughout the film and some of the types of options whether it’s Maria choosing the other guy instead of Harold at the end of the movie. Or, like Hayden was saying, the guys not escaping Guantanamo Bay or our personal favorite which is the whole Amsterdam sequence. Those are the types of things that you’re allowed to go a little crazy and have strange stuff going on that you wouldn’t necessarily have in a theatrical version of the film.

Speaking of Amsterdam, I was watching it last night and I noticed the first choice was having them not smoke on the plane, which in turn leads to a huge Amsterdam sequence that wasn’t in the theatrical version. I wanted to know what is it like filming a “Harold & Kumar” film in Amsterdam? You know, did you have people there just in disbelief that you guys were there filming the sequel?

Jon Hurwitz: It was amazing and this is Jon speaking. When we were there for the Amsterdam thing, we had literally 3 days to shoot. And we were also shooting stuff for the very end of the movie, so we had a kind of running gun type of filming style. Hayden and I at times were holding the cameras and we’re not experienced cameramen. And we had certain locations that knew we were going to be filming at, but a lot of stuff was just picking stuff up wherever we could and it was completely surreal being in Amsterdam and seeing people from countries all over the world recognize the guys. There were people who didn’t speak English coming over and wanting their pictures taken with the guys and we ended up….I remember we were shooting in this public park there and the next day, you know, Harold, Kumar, Maria and Vanessa were on the cover of the newspaper in Amsterdam. So it was definitely a big deal there and it was really an experience where you got to see the worldwide kind of fan base of this movie that people from probably 10 different countries were running over to the guys and wanted their pictures taken with them.

Hayden Schlossberg: It was also interesting because anybody who shoots in Amsterdam—most movies—it’s very difficult if not impossible to shoot in the red-light district because they don’t….because that area obviously makes a lot of money and there’s a lot of people there that don’t want to be seen in the background and to shut it down is a whole ordeal because the people who run these things are sort of, you know, are sometimes a little bit shady. But because we had this run and gun style approach, we were able to make a deal with some of the shady people there and shoot on the actual red-light district and that was a real crazy experience.

Jon Hurwitz: I mean we even got to shoot in a sex show—a live sex show in Amsterdam and had Harold and Kumar in the audience for the sex show and Hayden Schlossberg was basically on-stage at the sex show filming the sex and Harold and Kumar. And unfortunately some of that stuff was not allowed on our unrated DVD. That’s the one area that we were censored in this entire process was on the unrated DVD. We were not able to actually show porn.

Unrated meaning….who censored you?

Hayden Schlossberg: Well, you know I think what happened was that when we showed it with….it obviously had people having sex, you know, so it’s a big deal and I think what happened is these unrated DVD’s are bought in bulk now by huge companies like Wal-Mart and….

Oh yeah.

Hayden Schlossberg: …and Best Buy and they actually now have the unrated DVD’s—all those big companies—and so when they see that type of thing they get a little bit crazy, so I think there’s been like some sort of corporate thing going on where we’re not able to do that but it’s fun, Jon and I ride that boundary and we ride that edge and we literally rode up to the edge of what an unrated DVD could allow and we hit the wall like in the Truman show at the end, you know.

Jon Hurwitz: I think, you know for us, when we were making an unrated DVD we wanted to deliver an unrated DVD that didn’t disappoint. I mean, people who are specifically seeking out the unrated, they want extra nudity. They want extra bad language. They want the kinds of stuff that you can’t normally see in a film and usually people are disappointed with an unrated version of a movie, so what was important to us in this film was that in our unrated cut of the movie, we gave the viewers kind of what they wanted by providing extra smut in the movie and in our special features, we made sure to have unrated content—the kind of stuff that doesn’t necessarily work a theatrical version of a film but for the frat boys who are buying the movie and watching it as a group at a frat house definitely this unrated version of the movie delivers as well as any could.

Many times a film gets released on DVD and then a year or 2 years later there’s a 2nd special edition with a little bit of extra footage. So my question is, did you throw everything at this DVD or is there like even more deleted scenes that are being held back? You know, the studio said, please don’t put these 10 minutes on the DVD?

Hayden Schlossberg: There’s definitely some stuff left. There’s one thing that Jon and I loved and its not that we held it back, it’s that someone it got lost in the process and didn’t end up on the DVD and we’re frustrated. It’s an extended version of the George W. Bush scene. What we shot in the movie was just a short version of what we actually…or what was in the movie is a short version of what we shot and there were so many great things and so many funny things. It’s probably our best deleted scene or extra thing and somehow it didn’t end up on there. So somehow that has to be seen someday.

Jon Hurwitz: Exactly and beyond that there are a number of other things that got shot that haven’t made it onto the DVD yet. We definitely held a few things back, not necessarily with the intent on waiting for the re-packaging it in 2 years—that wasn’t really the intent of holding some stuff back—but there was just a certain amount of space. It was a real time crunch to put this DVD together because we were still finishing up the theatrical version of the film, so we put together loads of material for this but, you know, we kept thinking of after being finished with the DVD we kept thinking of oh what about this? What about this take? What about this scene? So I think we have a lot of other things that are definitely funny and will be enjoyable for fans in future editions.

continued on page 2 ———–>


So I’m down at Comic-Con and I’m getting ready to interview John and Kal, and low and behold Variety reports that you guys are working on a 3rd “Harold & Kumar” film.

Jon Hurwitz: We are.

Yeah, exactly. It brought a smile to my face because I realized I’d be interviewing you guys and those guys and when I brought it up with them, they said that no one had really spoken with them. They sort of found out about it in Variety themselves.

Jon Hurwitz: They’re aware that we were writing another one. I think it’s just one of the situations where they haven’t had their….frankly their negotiation with the studio yet for their deal on the 3rd movie. As far as we know, having talked to the guys, they’re both very interested in doing a 3rd one of these movies. We know that we’re clearing writing another Harold & Kumar movie with those guys back in it and we’re just at a stage where all of the business deals need to be made but I know that our group of people are all hoping that this movie will come together and we’re confident that it will.

So I asked this question to those guys and I’ll ask it to you guys. With the success of the “Saw” movies that come out every Halloween, how is there not a “Harold & Kumar” movie every 4/20?

Jon Hurwitz: Ha, ha, ha, ha. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Hayden Schlossberg: Well, you know it is a brilliant idea. The one thing is Jon and I, we have a real passion for movies and for comedy and you know we love the “Harold & Kumar” movies and for us it’s a great opportunity now to use those characters to joke about a lot of outrageous things and we’ll continue to do that. But there’s a lot of other types movies that Jon and I want to make and to do it every year, I think that that’s probably not going to allow us to do what we really want to do, but what I think would be a great thing for us is to work on a different type of movie that’s still awesome and then do a “Harold & Kumar” movie and then kind of go back and forth—something like that.

I guess what I was saying is I understand the concept of making one of these every year is impossible, but I guess what I was saying is the amount of time it took to get from the 1st to the 2nd, you know, you’d think that it would not take that long with the success of the film.

Jon Hurwitz: What happens is….the first time around it was an interesting thing—before the 1st movie was released in theatres, Hayden and I were hired to write a 2nd movie because the movie tested through the roof and the studio assumed it was just going to be a massive hit in theatres and that we’d be shortly after making a sequel and those were good times. And then the movie came out and it did reasonably well in theatres but not well enough where the studio is like, okay we’re definitely making a sequel. So we were kind of told to stop writing the sequel and for a while it looked like we were never going to get to have the opportunity to make a 2nd one of these movies. We kept saying to them, like trust us. People are going to buy it on DVD. This is the kind of movie that is going to be a DVD hit and you’re going to want to make another one and they kind of thought we were crazy at first, but as time went on when the DVD came out and it had really good sales immediately, they started talking to us about maybe doing another one and it was important to us that if we did another one it would be a theatrical release. So it took a year or two before we were able to kind of get the studio to agree to do a theatrical version of the film and once that happened…now we’ve been lucky enough to have the success on the 2nd film and unlike the 1st scenario, the day after the movie came out in theatres we found out the studio was interested in doing a 3rd one of these movies. So we’re in a different situation now where we’re lucky that there’s definitely a thirst from the studio to continue making these films and that’s why this one will hopefully come together much quicker than the distance between the 1st and 2nd films. In an ideal world for us, by sometime in 2010 hopefully the world will be able to see another “Harold & Kumar”.

So I have to ask, I definitely have 2 more questions for you guys. People on my site would be very mad at me if I didn’t ask you both about the 3rd film and like the direction you think you might take it in. You know if you have any ideas right now as to what the adventure you guys are going to be placing Harold and Kumar in?

Hayden Schlossberg: We haven’t written it yet but we have some ideas and I think what’s most important for us, obviously we don’t want to spoil anything, and we really haven’t talked about stuff with everybody yet so, I mean, things can constantly change. But what’s important to us is to maintain the quality of these movies. You know, some people may like the 2nd more than the 1st or the 1st more than the 2nd, but we feel like both movies—you know we’re trying to make a really good quality movie that’s going to make you laugh a lot in the theatres. And I think that, for us we need to keep that same comedy intensity that the first 2 movies have where it’s just going to be a laugh-fest in the theatres and there’s going to be so many jokes that you’re going to need to get it on DVD and re-watch it to get all of them. And also for us obviously, you know, you look at the first 2 movies and if you stripped away the comedy, there’s still something there that’s interesting and socially relevant about these movies.

If I can interrupt you for a second…that’s one of the things that I personally really like about the films, is that they do comment on what’s going on in our country. So I guess that’s where I was going at with the 3rd film is that what social angle are you going to take or are you already thinking about that?

Hayden Schlossberg: Well, we’re thinking about some stuff, you know, but all I would say is that that’s important to us in these movies that it have that 2nd layer to it without overdoing it and we always know that it’s the comedy that’s really bringing the fans to this thing so I think we understand the balance and I would say with the sequel it was important for us to make it feel bigger and I feel like with the 3rd movie we’d still want it to still feel big but there may not be that kind of pressure. But we’re still working on it right now and we think that we have some good ideas.

And final questions for you guys, you mentioned you’re working on other things, so I have to ask what are the other comedy projects or drama or whatever you might be working on…what else is being put together on your end?

Jon Hurwitz: There’s a script we recently wrote for Warner Bros. called “Til Beth Do Us Part” –Beth instead of death— And that’s a comedy that basically deals with the way male friendships change when one guy in a duo of friends is getting married. And it’s a movie that has a lot of the same comedy as “Harold & Kumar” only a little bit more grounded, a little bit more real world and it’s a project that we’re eager to do and that the people at the studio are excited about, so we’re examining the cast…the casting process for that right now and on top of that there’s just a few other things that we’re developing that we can’t really talk about yet so we’re not entirely sure what the next movie that we’re going to be shooting is. But everyone out there should know that we’re discussing a few potential options that we think are going to definitely please our fan base.

Is it interesting for you how things have changed since the 2nd film came out and now that you’ve proven that you guys that you can direct a film?

Jon Hurwitz: It’s been a great thing for us. Hayden and I are just a couple of guys from New Jersey who met in high school and bonded over comedy. We loved the Zucker Brothers. We loved the Farrelly Brothers and we hoped that one day we’d have the opportunity to make movies like those guys do. And we’re right now living our wildest dreams and it’s just unbelievable. Being in college and expecting to be an investment banker and for Hayden expecting to be a lawyer and then 10 years later being at Comic-Con and seeing a unicorn that people are lining up to sit on because Neil Patrick Harris was riding it in our movie. It’s the most surreal and fulfilling experience you can have.

Yeah, I do actually have one other question for you. Is there any chance of you guys trying to introduce another like former TV star in the 3rd film or in the future?

Jon Hurwitz: It’s definitely conceivable. We’ve thought about that kind of thing. We’re not sure whether or not that would work in a “Harold & Kumar 3” or not, but definitely it worked really, really well the first time we tried that sort of thing.

It did.

Jon Hurwitz: So it’s definitely not something we’d shy away from but it’s important to us in “Harold & Kumar 3” to introduce new characters in general that hopefully people will fall in love with and enjoy. I know on the sequel we’ve had a lot of fans tell us how much they enjoyed the scenes of George W. Bush and people who loved Rob Corddry’s character as Ron Fox or just fell in love with the Cyclops or were horrified by the Cyclops. So it’s always fun for us to figure out new characters that fans of the franchise can really get excited about and get behind.

Cool. I can tell you as a fan of both films that I’m definitely happy that you guys are working on a 3rd. A lot of other movies get made that probably shouldn’t but a 3rd “Harold & Kumar” definitely, definitely should.

Hayden Schlossberg: Well, thanks and it’s important for us, like I said, to keep the quality of these things going. It’s not often that by the 3rd movie that the main creative people are still involved. And we don’t see a world where these “Harold & Kumar” movies get made without us. We try to make them the best they can be.

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