SHREVEPORT, Louisiana — Back by popular demand, and after more than $30 million in DVD sales, the famously stoned buddies who stop at nothing to get their White Castle fix are at it again — only this time, Harold and Kumar take on the Deep South, Guantanamo Bay and the KKK. Munchies, anyone?
In 2004, this comeback wouldn't have seemed plausible. "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" failed to ignite at the box office that summer, pulling in just $18 million. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Land of Great Films that Nobody Saw — audiences discovered it.
"Yes, we saw it coming completely," said writer/director Jon Hurwitz, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg wrote the original screenplay and the film's sequel, in which they are also making their directorial debuts. "We expected it to be an underground hit, and we thought it would blow up huge on DVD and people would want to see a sequel," continued Schlossberg, without missing a beat.
The sequel begins the same morning that Harold and Kumar finally get to their beloved White Castle. After the love of Harold's life, Maria, heads off to Amsterdam, the pair take off in pursuit of her so Harold can profess his love (see "Not-So-Kind Buds Harold And Kumar Bash Bush In 'Amsterdam' "). But when the half-baked Kumar attempts to light a bong onboard the flight, the bong is mistaken for a "bomb," and the Indian-American Kumar is identified as a terrorist. So rather than chasing after Maria, the duo end up being chased by none other than the Department of Homeland Security.
On a recent visit to the set of "Harold & Kumar 2," Hurwitz and Schlossberg admitted to the unmistakably political undercurrents in the sequel, but prefer the term equal-opportunity offenders.
"When it comes to things politically in this movie, it pokes fun at everybody," said Hurwitz. "That's what's fun about the 'Harold & Kumar' movies. You can make fun of everyone with the plot of this movie. I think that the most important thing about the movies is making people laugh, having a really fun time with these characters. If there could be a little bit of a message underneath then that's a great thing too."
Schlossberg interjected: "And there's going to be more nudity in this movie."
"More Neil Patrick Harris this time," followed Hurwitz (see " 'Harold & Kumar' Sequel: Doogie Howser Is In, Superman Might Be").
"With more Neil Patrick Harris comes more nudity," Schlossberg said.
"Of course," said Hurwitz. "You can't really separate the two," Hurwitz said.
Of course, as much as it's about Harris (and his nudity), the sequel is about the stars: Harold and Kumar themselves. Kal Penn and John Cho saw themselves catapulted to pop culture hero-dom in 2004, collecting MTV Movie Award nominations and being selected as two of People magazine's "Sexiest Bachelors." When reminded of his "Sexiest" status, Penn quipped, "It was a very scientific poll. Thank you for objectifying us."
"I'll tell you what's going on — it's called sexy," said Cho, pointing to his white snake flats, gleaming white trousers and retro multicolored button-down '70s shirt. "The reason we're wearing this garb is because Harold and Kumar get sent to Guantanamo Bay and we escape and end up at a friend's house who has poor taste in clothing."
"Poor taste?" asked Penn. "I'd say these pink pants are pretty rad," he said, pointing at his silky bottoms.
"Not really," Cho said.
Fashion faux pas aside, the actors say they're happy to be back in the shoes of Harold and Kumar.
"It's like going back to school," Cho said.
"We had a really good time making the first one, four years ago," Penn added. "It's bizarre going back to do that. We've done a couple films since then. To return to a character you loved is a little weird."
"What is great about [Harold and Kumar] is what is true of most compelling characters," Penn said. "What defines them or drives them are things in their personalities. In the first film, they smoke weed. It's not because they're Asian that they like weed. ... It's kind of a new concept for Hollywood to see Asian-American characters in a normal light."
Asked to comment on his protagonists, Hurwitz said, "John Cho and Kal Penn are so f---ing talented. One of the funniest things about them is that they are very different from Harold and Kumar. John Cho [who plays Harold] is definitely more of a Kumar and Kal Penn [who plays Kumar] is definitely more of a Harold in real life. And it's fun watching them transform from their off-screen dynamic to their on-set dynamic."
"It's hard to say where John Cho ends and Kal Penn begins," added actress Missi Pyle who was on-set shooting her scenes as Raylene, a Southern belle married to her brother Raymus, played by comedian-actor Jon Reep. But of Cho, she said, "I think John Cho and I, although born on separate days and from different mothers, I think we were split at birth. There's a special song and I'd like to take a moment and sing it to him." As Pyle began to sing the lyrics to Depeche Mode's "Somebody," Cho walked up. As if on cue, mic in hand, singing along: "I want somebody to share ... "
Another standout among the cast is Rob Corddry, best known as a former "Daily Show" correspondent. Playing federal agent Ron Fox, Corddry summed up his character as "quite possibly the most racist character put to celluloid, rivaling those characters in 'Birth of a Nation' and, quite possibly, 'Mississippi Burning.' "
"Frankly, I was told that this was about Indian and Korean relations," Corddry said with a playful hint of irony. "I was told this was going to be a socially relevant film and frankly haven't seen any evidence of that whatsoever. It might be this movie is just about weed."
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