July 31, 2003
Writer’s Race to the Chuppah
If the summer's wackiest movie groom is Jewish, credit "American Pie" franchise creator Adam Herz. The Jewish screenwriter based the fictional Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and friends on himself and his high school pals. His iconic 1999 "Pie," with its infamous pastry-nooky scene, drew on their teenage sexual peccadilloes. The equally raunchy sequel explored how they struggled to stay friends after graduation.
For his third slice of "Pie," Herz upgraded to wedding cake because "I was hosting bachelor parties and going to like, 10 weddings a year."
The movie revolves around Jim, his ex-band geek fiancée (Alyson Hannigan) and "the as -- who wants to crash the wedding," he said.
Levenstein's stereotypically kvetchy bubbe isn't thrilled about the non-Jewish bride, which also drew on Herz's experience. "My grandparents are terrified I'm going to interrupt the bloodline," he said. "But I have a Jewish girlfriend now, which should make them happy."
Herz, 30, was anything but happy while struggling to finish the "Wedding" script in March 2002. Universal had commissioned it after the first two "Pies" devoured close to $250 million domestically -- even though the actors had sworn they wouldn't return.
"So the pressure was on, and I just couldn't crack the story," he said. "I went through the depths of, 'I'm horrible and I'll never work again.'"
When Herz begged a Universal executive for more time, he sounded like the bumbling Levenstein pleading for an extension on his homework.
"But she said 'I don't care if you scribble a few lines on a napkin, I need something funny to show the actors," he said.
Herz burned the midnight oil and, two weeks later, he delivered a script that convinced everyone to sign on.
"Adam has the gift of embellishment to the point of creating scenes that are shocking but hysterical," said Eugene Levy, who plays Jim's dad.
In the nuptial sequence, Levy gets to look aghast when the bride's clueless father toasts, "Let's hope we can sit many happy shivas together."
The Jewish actor likes that pere Levenstein comes off as the quintessential, supportive Jewish dad.
"He's not prudish about sex," Levy said. "He thinks the idea that his son is messing around with a girl instead of baked goods is a good thing."