Quint chats with Kal Penn, John Cho and Neil Patrick Harris! Possible NPH spin-off movie?!? And a tidbit on STAR TREK!
Published at: March 15, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I still haven’t caught up on my damn Sundance interviews yet and I have a glut that came out of SXSW on the deck. The always great Muldoon had transcription duties again and made it possible for me not to break down and cry to myself in the corner of my bedroom.
I did a few interviews for HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY and the first up are the trio of actors. Kal Penn, John Cho and Neil Motherfucking Patrick Harris. I know that doesn’t work as well when someone already has a middle name as part of their known public identity, but it is well deserved, so why not?
Kal Penn was a last minute addition, so I hadn’t prepared much for him, so if he feels neglected at all that’s all my fault. I really wish I had remembered to give him props for sticking up for my man Barack on CNN during the last round of primaries, but it escaped me.
Anyway, the interview is a short one, but it’s light and funny. We talk about the flick, specifically about a mythical creature that pops up halfway through, we talk about a potential NPH spin-off movie brought up by directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg in the interview session about 10 minutes prior to this chat (keep an eye out for that, coming soon) and, of course, STAR TREK.
As you’ll see below, NPH totally came through for me and got a little teeny tiny tidbit… an inkling of a hint, which, coming from a JJ Abrams project, is amazing. You can read a lot into what John Cho talks about at the end.
Damn, this is a long introduction. If I go on any longer it’ll have a higher word count than the actual interview, so let’s get to it, shall we?
Quint: So, I interviewed you guys the last time you came through Austin. There was that a big White Castle burger importing screening of the first movie.
John Cho: We were just talking about that screening. Yeah, it was a good time.
Quint: It was a lot of fun, but you can’t really duplicate it for this new movie… unless you start importing detainees, you can’t really do the same with this one.
Neil Patrick Harris: Yeah, the swag was very different…
John Cho: It would be less festive, but…
Neil Patrick Harris: [Laughing] You would get powdered meals instead of White Castle.
John Cho: You would feed everybody a cock-meat sandwich.
Neil Patrick Harris: Hey-o!
John Cho: That’s like Ed McMahon!
Neil Patrick Harris: Yeah, that was the joke.
John Cho: What?
Neil Patrick Harris: Your commenting on my humor is going to really irritate me.
Quint: That might go over the heads of a lot of people, though.
John Cho: That’s true, people don’t know…
Kal Penn: Ed McMahon is the guy from STAR SEARCH!
Neil Patrick Harris: Oh dude… How old are you?
Kal Penn: Everybody knows that.
Neil Patrick Harris: Oh god…
Quint: He also takes around giant checks.
John Cho: That’s true.
Quint: Although I remember that it used to be much bigger than it is now.
Neil Patrick Harris: It used to be huge.
Quint: You could not turn on the TV without seeing the giant balloons and the flowers and the giant checks.
John Cho: There’s a lot of ways to get a million bucks these days on television.
Neil Patrick Harris: That’s true.
Quint: But with that one, you just fill out that form that everybody was mailed and it was like a free lotto.
Neil Patrick Harris: But you had to get a magazine subscription, didn’t you?
Quint: That was always in the small print. So I guess everybody is back. How involved were you guys in the process? I didn’t get a chance to really talk too much about that with Jon (Hurwitz) and Hayden (Schlossberg).
John Cho: I think we got calls and we would get updates “This is sort of what’s happening…” but we didn’t read anything until it was finished.
Kal Penn: We were all… We become close friends through the first film, so we all stayed in touch. We don’t live too far from each other and so on occasion I’d get a phone call from Jon Hurwitz or Hayden saying, “You’re going to love this scene that we wrote and we are going to try not to cut it” and then he would tell me the scene and you know, I love these guys and I loved the script, so it was very exciting to get those updates, but we certainly weren’t actively involved in developing the script.
Quint: I think that speaks pretty well to their talent, because it really feels like its tailor made for you guys specifically, so it feels like you had a lot of involvement.
John Cho: I tell you what, these guys are the biggest fans of what they’ve written and the biggest fans of these actors right here. It just comes from an extremely enthusiastic place and I think you can smell that enthusiasm in the product that they make. I think that’s why it feels really tailor made for us, because they are just so enthusiastic.
Quint: Yeah, their eyes are just as wide now as they were back when they first sat me down with them for the first one.
John Cho: I think that’s why they get away with, and the movie gets away with, and the characters get away with doing so many wrong things, because their attitude translates into what we do and it’s just an innocent wide eyed, almost adolescent way of looking at really criminal things. (laughs)
Quint: They go whole hog in this one. There are no boundaries in this one.
John Cho: Well, it is a sequel… More explosions and more of everything…
Quint: And more female genitalia.
Neil Patrick Harris: Lots more. Lots more.
John Cho: A lot of female genitalia… more than in all of movie history.
Neil Patrick Harris: Plus they were smart for actually hiring two actors that were actual actors playing parts, instead of hiring two sort of dudes that were those guys. They didn’t hire like Jason Mewes and the other dude… Silent Bob… What is that movie Jay and Silent Bob, like what’s Jay’s name?
Quint: Jason Mewes, you were right.
Neil Patrick Harris: He was this drugged out mess of a guy that was his friend and so he just cast him in the movie and filmed him doing crazy shit.
John Cho: Fascinating to watch, that guy, though.
Neil Patrick Harris: Yeah, fascinating to watch, but you guys are able to craft comedy and they could write probably more specific bits on a broader spectrum, which I think is impressive since it’s sort of the modern day Cheech and Chong kind of casting call.
Quint: Yeah, they very much… I mean you guys definitely moved from being just a straight up stoner comedy to… In this one, it's just a little at the beginning and at the end and then I guess that part with the Cyclops…
Kal Penn: That was scary and awesome.
Quint: I loved the Cyclops.
John Cho: Yeah, it’s a guy with one eye… in a bed with me.
Kal Penn: I know we shouldn’t give this stuff away, but is the bed scene still there?
Neil Patrick Harris: Yep.
Kal Penn: And is the crying in the whorehouse still there?
Neil Patrick Harris: Yep.
Kal Penn: Yes! That was my favorite.
John Cho: [To Neil] So what where you saying?
Neil Patrick Harris: I was complimenting you two on your “chops,” because you say that it raised from just a stoner comedy to like a social commentary…
Quint: Yeah, it’s definitely more satire.
Neil Patrick Harris: And I genuinely think that without the subtle hand of these two kids that it probably wouldn’t have gone there.
Kal Penn: Kids…
John Cho: Look at that…
Neil Patrick Harris: Chillens.
John Cho: Look at that. Props from NPH…
Quint: That’s great. One thing I wanted to bring up with Jon and Hayden, and they even beat me to it… They were talking about “We want to keep making these movies and we were talking about doing spin-off movies…” and I was like “NPH movies!” What would you think about that? It’s a unique situation… because it’s you, but it’s not you… at least I’d imagine….
Neil Patrick Harris: Part of me thinks that would be really hilarious just to make up this fictitious back story of my family and that makes me think of Steve Martin in THE JERK, just going really outlandish and then part of me thinks that is just truly jumping the shark, so I don’t know. When you are spinning off a character that’s based on a real person, but not real… I don’t know, it might be too much, but if anyone can write it…
Quint: It worked for John Malkovich.
Neil Patrick Harris: That’s true. If anyone could write it, they can, so who knows? I think that would honestly entirely depend upon the success of the next couple of months.
Quint: Did you see a big change in how you were perceived after the first movie?
Neil Patrick Harris: A big change in how I was perceived. Yeah, tons of people come up to me, more so than ever, and just comment on that. “You were excellent in HAROLD AND KUMAR, dude! That movie’s kickass, dude! It’s the shit, dude.”
Kal Penn: People come up to me and say that about him. “So, I saw the poster for that new movie, is Neil Patrick Harris in it?” I say “yes” and then they walk away going “yes!” and I’m not kidding, sometimes they will go “Yo, he said yes!” and then this person will go meet up with a group of people and then celebrate.
Neil Patrick Harris: That’s so weird.
Kal Penn: It’s crazy.
Neil Patrick Harris: I don’t understand it, but I’m happy for it.
John Cho: You are a hero of hedonism.
Kal Penn: Yeah.
Neil Patrick Harris: Of what? Hedonism?
John Cho: You’re like an epic Greco-Roman hero of hedonism.
Neil Patrick Harris: (laughs) Not Richard Grieco, though, right?
John Cho: No, not Richard Grieco.
Kal Penn: From 21 JUMPSTREET?
John Cho: No, your hair is all wrong for Grieco. He had “the ram.”
Quint: And he couldn’t pull off the unicorn.
Neil Patrick Harris: He had “the ram,” I had “the unicorn…”
John Cho: His eyebrows were sculpted… they were beautiful.
Quint: So tell me more about the Cyclops.
Quint: You are being really professional and complimentary and humble with each other and I’m sitting here just going “I just want to know what’s going on with the Cyclops.”
John Cho: It was really weird.
Kal Penn: It was a stunt guy and I forget his name, but he was great.
Neil Patrick Harris: Did he have a way to see once they put the prosthetic on?
Kal Penn: Yes.
John Cho: He didn’t have a whole lot of vision.
Neil Patrick Harris: Through gills on the side or something?
Kal Penn: Yes.
John Cho: And he had that weird noise that he made.
[They all make weird noises.]
Quint: You know what sold me though was the teeth, or lack thereof, but that grin was I think my favorite part.
Kal Penn: He freaked me out and I can’t really talk about that.
John Cho: Did he really freak you out?
Kal Penn: Yes! He was a Cyclops.
John Cho: I thought it was the greatest thing.
Kal Penn: Do you remember how during takes the guy couldn’t see, so people had to escort him out? He would shuffle… I just couldn’t do it.
Quint: They should have given you the head for a wrap present or something. Watch, you are going to wake up and it’s going to be on your mantle or something. So, I would be absolutely murdered if I didn’t bring it up, but I need to know what you are not supposed to tell me about STAR TREK.
John Cho: Oh OK, well the plot involves the return of an epic… [Laughs] I can’t…
Quint: I saw you very successfully dodging the questions at WonderCon. You were doing well, but I had to ask.
John Cho: The reason JJ [Abrams] wants to keep that under wraps is he just thinks that the surprise… He really is looking out for the audience. He feels like it’s a good move, so that the audience really experiences it in a fresh way, but what I can say about it is the spirit of it feels like it’s honoring what has come before it, just visually and the script and all of the actors he has chosen and it just feels like it is honoring what has come before and I feel like, fingers crossed, we will garner some new fans as well.
Kal Penn: Hey, was it annoying to put on those ears every day?
John Cho: I didn’t put on the ears.
Kal Penn: What about that face? That head? Was that weird?
John Cho: I played Sulu… He didn’t uh…
Quint: Did you have to deepen your voice?
John Cho: I couldn’t do that. [He lowers his voice] This is about as low as I can go. This is pretty uncomfortable and he’s like three octaves below that.
Neil Patrick Harris: Can I ask a question?
John Cho: Yeah.
Neil Patrick Harris: A serious question that you might not be able to answer? Are they anticipating a franchise? Is that the plan? Did they make the movie to get it going again or did they make a movie to homage the pasts?
John Cho: I’m not really sure how I can answer that without giving something away. I think there’s a possibility of them making more of these, yeah.
Neil Patrick Harris: Cool. I can’t wait. I’ll be first in line.
Quint: So, what else do you guys have in the works, besides TREK?
Kal Penn: I’m working on the TV show HOUSE, so hopefully that goes a few more seasons, that would be nice.
John Cho: That’s it for me.
Neil Patrick Harris: I’m doing a web short film that Joss Whedon is directing and wrote called DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG. That’s a musical about super villains and crossing my fingers for the next round of Dancing With The Stars. (long pause) No…
John Cho: Why do I keep falling for this?
Kal Penn: I was about to… wow…
Quint: Thanks guys, it’s good to see you guys again and good luck with the film and the screening tonight. I think it will go off really well.