BEVERLY HILLS, California — Weed-smoking, hamburger-devouring buds Harold and Kumar are not blessed with a tremendous amount of motivation. Luckily, their real-life counterparts John Cho and Kal Penn are much more willing to get up off the couch and get to work.
"We definitely laughed at each other," revealed Penn this week, remembering their recent first day on the set of the highly anticipated, currently filming sequel to "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." "There was this weird, surreal moment where we both looked at each other [because] they ironed my hair straight up for that Kumar look, and he was dressed very conservatively like Harold is. We just looked at each other, and I completely burst out laughing. I was like, 'Dude, we are doing this again!' "
After three years holding their breath, the irreverent duo met up in Louisiana this month to exhale, thankful for a bluntly funny script that will finally deliver the sequel promised at the end of the uproarious "White Castle" next year. "Harold and Kumar start out [following up on] their intention, which is to go to Amsterdam," Penn said. "Kumar gets on the plane and one thing leads to another — he tries to smoke weed on the plane, somebody thinks it's a bomb — and they get sent to Guantánamo Bay.
"They end up escaping from Guantánamo and [returning to the U.S.] through the South," the "Epic Movie" star continued. "A lot of the same characters from the first one end up coming back. Neil Patrick Harris makes another cameo, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Chris Meloni and Dave Krumholtz are all back in some capacity. Eddie and Dave are playing the same characters, Rosenberg and Goldstein, but Chris Meloni for example, is playing the grand wizard of the KKK" (see " 'Harold & Kumar' Sequel: Doogie Howser Is In, Superman Might Be").
"Harold & Kumar" fans might be disappointed to hear that news, as Meloni's odd re-casting means his breakout character (a deformed tow truck driver) doesn't appear in the script. "Freakshow doesn't!" Penn admitted. "I wish that he did."
Discussing the return of "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris, Penn said there'll be even more pop culture references this time around. "There are some throwbacks to 'The Goonies' in this one," he grinned. "There were some 'Karate Kid' references in the first one, and there was 'Sixteen Candles.' [In the sequel] there are a whole bunch of things that will not disappoint."
The most anticipated of these is sure to be a meeting between the half-baked buddies and — get this — George W. Bush. "A great comedian, James Adomian, is playing President Bush, who we run into at some point in our journey through the South," Penn laughed (see "Not-So-Kind Buds Harold And Kumar Bash Bush In 'Amsterdam' ").
While Penn isn't sure how Katie Holmes fan Krumholtz feels about her marriage to Tom Cruise ("I don't know if any of that is in this; I know he gets arrested in our movie, but I don't know for what"), he did acknowledge that the sequel will skewer the cultural conservatism of the Bush-Cheney years, and that Harold and Kumar will indeed eventually reach the land of hash bars. "Ultimately, we end up in Amsterdam," he revealed.
"It's been fun so far. We've only shot a third of the movie," he said of the still-untitled film, which is being directed by the writers of the first flick. "We're shooting the second one in the middle of Louisiana, like the middle of nowhere! It's a three-hour drive from the nearest major city. You are totally out of the loop.
"We shot [the first movie] for no money, and we are shooting the second one for no money," he continued, praising the cult fanbase who convinced the studio to bring Harold and Kumar back. "But the script is awesome. We love the characters. We are really going into it for the love of it. With the first one, we had no idea if anybody would find it funny. It didn't do well at the box office, then suddenly it takes off on DVD and people are enjoying the movie and MTV is calling and saying, 'You just got nominated for an MTV Movie Award.' "
And Penn holds the MTV Movie Awards' unusual trophy in the highest regard: "You want the Popcorn more than you want the Oscar."
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