Harold & Kumar: Making a Sequel

For the follow-up to 2004s “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” in which the title characters embarked on a hilarious and often surreal all-night quest for White Castle hamburgers, writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (screenwriters of the original film) decided to work on an exponentially grander scale Harold and Kumars cross-country race against time to avoid life behind bars.

Hurwitz and Schlossbergs original inspiration for Harold & Kumar can partially be credited to that old chestnut, write what you know. Before there were screenplays, there was a Harold Lee, who both Hurwitz and Schlossberg refer to as one of our favorite people on the planet. Hurwitz went to junior high with Lee, then moved during high school and became good friends with Schlossberg. All three linked up again in college at University of Pennsylvania. Schlossberg fondly remembers one summer during which they all lived and worked together in Philadelphia and bonded over Saved by the Bell and Conan OBrien. During the same time, Hurwitz & Schlossberg began writing together.

After a number of scripts with Harold and Kumar as friend characters–Harold based on the real-life Harold Lee, Kumar an amalgamation of several Indian friends, Hurwitz and Schlossberg decided to write a script where the pair took center stage. And it turned out to be our first script to be made into movie, recalls Hurwitz.

When it came to casting Harold for the first film, John Cho was the obvious choice because wherever wed go with Harold, says Schlossberg, people would shout MILF! (a reference to a saying by Chos character in the original American Pie.) People would ask him if he was in American Pie a lot, says Hurwitz.

I started to reply no, but then I thought, why not Lee confirms. So I ultimately just agreed.

The three are still very close. After Schlossberg and Hurwitz relocated to Los Angeles, Lee quickly followed. I moved to L.A. to clear my name, Lee jokes, cause my life is not just about marijuana and eating burgers.
Lee has also spent time on the set of both movies. He says seeing himself portrayed on screen is the weirdest thing one could ever go through. He admits to sharing some of Harolds neurotic tendencies, but that hes not the wuss that Harolds often portrayed to be. Though seeing his on-screen depiction is a little scary to him, its simultaneously awesome, he says.

Writer-director Jon Hurwitz sees the sequel as an extension of the maturation that he, his writing partner Hayden Schlossberg and the leads, John Cho & Kal Penn (who portrays Kumar in both films), have undergone in the four years since the first film. As Hayden and I get older, and as John and Kal get older, even though this movie takes place a day later, we feel like this ones a little bit more mature, while being significantly more immature, says Hurwitz. This movie validates John and Kal not just as youth comedy stars, but as this generations Odd Couple.

John Cho articulates the contrast between first and second films: Harold and Kumar get lost going to a hamburger place in the first one, and we get thrown into Guantanamo Bay in this one. It's a little more intense. And that's where you get the comedy.

Eddie Kaye Thomas and David Krumholtz, back to reprise their roles as Harold and Kumars neighbors, Rosenberg and Goldstein concur. This ones more epic, says Krumholtz. Its more advanced than your typical Hollywood fare. This is really something special for the audience.

To Eddie Kaye Thomas, Hurwitz and Schlossberg have succeeded in staying true to the spirit of the what makes the original film great while making the new film even bigger and better without hitting the old stuff too dead on, and without ever veering off course.

In the first one, we had the munchies, says Kal Penn. In this film, we're accused of being terrorists. The stakes are much higher the second time around. Infinitely higher.

Penn also observes that along with higher stakes comes a deepening of character: You learn a lot about Kumar that you didn't see the first time around. You didn't know that Kumar is still in love with his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa. You learn that he really has a sensitive side to him, that he's not just a player, that he's got this soft spot for the woman that he loves.

As the creators of the world of Harold and Kumar, there was no question about Hurwitz and Schlossberg returning as writers for Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Getting the job as directors, however, was not a lock. In terms of landing the job, it was something we had to fight for like any other director, says Hurwitz. Though confessing that he and Schlossberg had directed literally zero footage before the first day of shooting, the pair had gained some exposure to the demands of the job during production of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.

Danny Leiner, the director of the first film, is an awesome, awesome guy, enthuses Hurwitz. He took us under his wing and allowed us to work with the actors. Danny really kept us involved, and it was just an incredible experience.

With Leiner unavailable to direct the follow-up, Hurwitz and Schlossberg put together a huge presentation for studio executives of what the movie would look like, says Hurwitz. We hired a storyboard artist ourselves. We had a strong grasp of the characters, and we figured theres no one better to direct this movie and no better first directing project for us.

Executive producer Carsten Lorenz agrees that the duos familiarity with the material gave Mandate Pictures and New Line Cinema confidence in the first-time directors. When they approached us about directing this one, he says, everybody felt pretty good about giving them this opportunity. They did a great job.

The cast heartily agrees with Lorenzs assessment of Hurwitz and Schlossbergs freshman turn behind the camera. Its a real pleasure to work with Jon and Hayden, who are just very generous directors, John Cho says. Both Kal Penn and I are long-time friends of Jon and Hayden now, which makes the work environment a dream situation where we come in and pitch ideas and were always laughing.

Theres no one better to direct this film, states Eddie Kaye Thomas, a veteran of “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.” Jon and Hayden created Harold and Kumar and their whole world. They also happen to be really funny guys who are easy to work with.