Naomi Pfefferman is Arts and Entertainment editor for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
An Interview with Adam Herz, Screenwriter (American Pie Series)
This article is reprinted with permission of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES, July 31--If the summer's most anticipated movie groom is Jewish, credit American Pie franchise creator Adam Herz. The Jewish screenwriter based the fictional Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and friends on himself and his high school pals. His iconic 1999 Pie, with its infamous pastry-nooky scene, drew on their teenage sexual pecadillos. The equally raunchy sequel explored how they struggled to stay friends after graduation.
For his third slice of Pie, Herz upgraded to wedding cake because "I was hosting bachelor parties and going to like, 10 weddings a year." The movie revolves around Levenstein, his ex-band geek fiancee (Alyson Hannigan) and "some a------ who wants to crash the wedding," he said.
Levenstein's stereotypically kvetchy bubbe isn't thrilled about the non-Jewish bride, which also drew on Herz's experience. "My grandparents are terrified I'm going to interrupt the bloodline," he said. "But I have a Jewish girlfriend now, which should make them happy."
Herz, 30, was anything but happy while struggling to finish the Wedding script in March 2002. Universal had commissioned it after the first two Pies devoured close to $250 million domestically--even though the actors had sworn they wouldn't return. "So the pressure was on, and I just couldn't crack the story," he said. "I went through the depths of, 'I'm horrible and I'll never work again.'"
When Herz begged a Universal executive for more time, he sounded like the bumbling Levenstein pleading for an extension on his homework. "But she said 'I don't care if you scribble a few lines on a napkin, I need something funny to show the actors," he said.
Herz burned the midnight oil and, two weeks later, he delivered a script that convinced everyone to sign on.
"Adam has the gift of embellishment to the point of creating scenes that are shocking but hysterical," said Eugene Levy, who plays Jim's dad.
In the nuptial sequence, Levy gets to look aghast when the bride's clueless father toasts, "Let's hope we sit many happy shivas together."
The Jewish actor likes that pere Levenstein comes off as the quintessential, supportive Jewish dad.
"He's not prudish about sex," Levy said. "He thinks the idea that his son is messing around with a girl instead of baked goods is a good thing."