Seann William Scott broke out onto the scene in 1999 with raunchy comedy “American Pie,” which went on to become one of the most successful teen franchises with Scott creating an iconic character in his inappropriately lovable Steve Stifler.
Today, more than 15 years later, Scott is taking his darkest turn yet, as a man with plans to commit suicide, in Courteney Cox’s dramedy “Just Before I Go.” The film marks Cox’s directorial debut, and a leading role for Scott, now 38-years-old, which defies his fun-loving frat boy type-casting of the past, which made him a star.
“I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for those movies,” Scott tells Variety, of the notion of being stereotyped as a party boy. “I didn’t really give a sh-t about being type-cast. I don’t care because I just feel so blessed to be doing what we’re doing.”
Scott adds that he never planned on doing comedy, and just fell into the genre. “In the beginning, I was really keen on trying to do dramatic work because that’s what I always wanted to do, but I just kept getting comedies.”
Though he ultimately got his start and found much success in comedy, going on to star in movies “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “Road Trip,” Scott is now flexing his dramatic muscles. “It was rewarding to play pretty much the antithesis of what I’ve done in the past,” he says of “Just Before I Go.”
As for “American Pie,” Scott never anticipated the success that came with the career-making ensemble, even though early reviews of the first flick were favorable.
“I didn’t think of reading the reviews, as my character drinks a beer laced with semen in the film, and I didn’t really think I was going to get compared to DeNiro,” Scott jokes, admitting he did not read his first mention in Variety, which hailed “American Pie” as “the must-see comedy for audiences in their teens and early 20’s” (see below).
Here, Scott — who kindly apologized for using vulgar language during this interview — looks back on his “American Pie” days, reveals if he’d want to do another “Pie” sequel and tells Variety about working with Cox on his latest film.
How was the experience of exploring the darker side of comedy in “Just Before I Go?”
To get a chance to play a totally different character — because he’s just a good, average, relatable guy going through obviously an awful moment in his life — was great. It was nice to be the more straight-foward guy, while everyone else around me is pretty nuts.
What was it like working with Courteney Cox, as your director?
I loved working with Courteney. She’s brilliant and I’m a huge fan so it was surreal working with her every day, being someone I have so much respect for and [grew] up watching. Watching how she balanced the more serious stuff in the movie with really inappropriate humor was awesome.
When you filmed the first movie, did you have any feeling that ‘American Pie’ would become such a huge phenomenon or were you shocked by the success?
“Dumb and Dumber” had come out a while before that, “Something About Mary” was coming out. The kind of grossed-out comedy was just happening and I had a good feeling. I just didn’t know if I was going to be going back to Home Depot or getting another job. I didn’t know that I would sign on to do 100 more.
Was there any hesitation when you saw the script, knowing the crazy things you’d have to do, as Stifler?
No, I just wanted to get into a movie. But to be honest, when I read the script, I thought it was hilarious. And it was one of the first times I ever got a script for an audition. The Stifler character was only in two or three scenes, and he was written to be kind of an unlikeable d-ck. I thought, I’m 22 and I look like I’m 40. There’s no way I’m going to be cast in this thing anyway, and I’m not funny, so I might as well just play around with the dialogue a bit and make him a combination of a bunch of kids I went to school with, and make him the guy you’re not supposed to love, but you just do. I got lucky — they liked what I did and I got the job.
You don’t consider yourself to be a funny guy?
Not really. I was always jealous of the funny kids in school because all the girls liked those guys. I still can’t tell a joke to save myself. As much as I was probably a bit of a ham because I’m the youngest of seven kids, no, I was never really a funny guy and I never even thought of doing comedy. When I moved to LA, I wanted to do a movie with Jack Nicholson…I wanted to do what Malcolm McDowell did in “Clockwork Orange.” And then I ended up doing a thousand “American Pie” movies.
But it paid off! People absolutely love Stifler and ‘American Pie.’
I love to have the chance to try to make somebody laugh, and I think in the comedy world, that’s such a fun character to play — I have the freedom to be as inappropriate as I want to be with a character that kind of gets away with everything. I think in comedies, that type of character is more fun to play.
Do people still come up to you on the street and call you Stifler?
Not as much. It’s weird. I live in New York and people are just always busy — I don’t think they notice anyone — but if I went to a smaller town, maybe, but that kind of stopped about four years ago. But for the longest time, I just thought that people really thought that I was that character. People love that character so much and they identify with him so much, and eventually I just went along with it. They’d start calling me that, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to disappoint these guys. What if they think this character is actually real?’
Do you recall any awkward moments from the audition, given the dialogue?
No. I improvised a bit and the casting director liked it, and then he said, ‘Can you come back and read for the directors later in the day?’ and I was just really stressed because I was working at Home Depot at the time, and I was just wondering how I was going to get off work to go back to the audition because I got promoting to plumbing and that’s like a big deal when you go to plumbing!
Did your mom see “American Pie” when it came out?
She went with her church friends! I told her, ‘Mom, a guy has sex with a pie in the movie.’ I thought I dropped as many hints as I could that there is some weird sh-t in the movie. And I never really swore around my mom, so how am I going to say there is this substance in a beer that I drink? I just didn’t anticipate that she was going to see it, but I also didn’t think she was going to go straight from church with all of her church friends to the Mall of America and watch the movie. I think it was a combination of confusion for her, horror and pride. She’ll go to Best Buy and she’ll be like, ‘Do you have ‘American Pie? I’m Stifler’s mom.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, don’t do that!’
Are you still in touch with any of your costars?
I see Jason Biggs more often because he’s in New York, but I haven’t seen a lot of the guys since the last movie, but when we get together, it’s even more special now because we’ve all grown up a bit and we all know that we wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for that movie so we have that really great bond.
Would you ever want to do another “American Pie?”
I personally feel like through the character in the last one, it kind of came full circle and bookended his little journey well. He ended up coming off more like a human being and not Wile E. Coyote so I don’t know — honestly, it’s such a fun character that I would do it again, but I don’t know. It’s so much fun though honestly just to hang out with everybody and have a laugh with the whole cast, I mean, it would be impossible to turn that down.
Have you talked to any of the other cast members to see if you’d all want to do another one?
I keep hearing little rumors. The last one did really well, and I think the studio is talking about it. I keep hearing things every once and a while. I’m sure all the cast would love to do it. Personally, I think the last one was the most fun because we’re older and it’s funny to be these characters older, especially for me because I think the fact that he never really grows up makes it all the more funnier to me. I don’t really know. It’s such a fun weird character that I’d have a hard time turning it down. I’ve done a ton, why not do a ton more?
What types of projects are you looking to do in the future — more dark comedy and drama, or back to crazy comedies?
I would love to do things that I haven’t done yet. I definitely would love to do dramatic work and maybe move out to LA and pursue films, but honestly, I love comedy. When someone comes up to you and says, ‘I had a bad day, but I watched that goofy movie you did and it just made me forget about my day,’ it’s impossible to forget those kind of things, so I would definitely like to keep doing comedy, as well.