Seann William Scott Is a ‘Role Model’
by Del Harvey
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Seann William Scott would be the first to admit if he’s done a stinker. But he returns to his more hardcore comedic roots, those he found on the original American Pie films, in Role Models, playing an energy-drink rep whose unsavory behavior lands him and a close friend and partner in a Big Brother program. And the actor tells Paul Fischer that he’s happy to be back in the kind of comedy that made him a star.
Paul Fischer: With Role Models, is there a danger when you first read the script and you saw the character that he was going to be too much like some of these other sort of coarse—
Seann William Scott: That’s why I did it, actually. Yeah, I remember—the first draft was like—it was very different. I mean, the guys, I think, worked at a beer company and the characters were actually too unlikable. They were too, like, frat-boyish. And I was like—you know, after doing some smaller movies, and—I didn’t think that [Mr.] Woodcock and Dukes [of Hazzard] really played to my strengths with the audience that gave me a career. I was like—you know, “I want to go back and kind of”—I mean, in a strange way—and I would never compare myself to Vince Vaughn, because I think he’s a genius. But it’s like, when he did Wedding Crashers, it was like, “Wow. It’s so great to see him in that Swingers mode, you know?” And I was just like, “I need to find a movie that’s gonna make some money, and that’s going to be funny, and put a little bit of a different spin on a character that’s allowed me to have a career.” So I wasn’t concerned. That’s actually why I went after it, yeah.
PF: What makes it different, do you think? I mean, there’s a lot more heart.
SWS: I think so. He’s just not a jerk, really. You know, like—I thought Stifler was, like, my swearing all the time. And he loves—he chases women, and he says inappropriate things. So for sure there’s a similarity there. But I think that—because he’s not that jock guy. I mean, he’s not really mean to anybody. He’s actually a very optimistic guy. But clearly just the whole kind of physicality of it, and just that vibe is very similar. And—but I had wanted to add something, that just made him a little more irreverent. A guy who just kind of always tried to give advice to Paul that doesn’t really made sense. And just add a little bit more—you know, something a little bit different than the American Pie character. But I knew it was going to be similar, and I was like, “I don’t really care.” Because, you know, I see kids out there, and I’m like, “It’s because of you guys I have a career. So I’m gonna try to make you laugh.”
PF: You don’t have many scenes with Christopher Mintz Plasse.
SWS: Yeah. It’s too bad.
PF: It looks like McLovin is gonna be a real defining role for him, like Stifler was for you. Did you have any advice for—you’re like, “You don’t want to just be McLovin forever”?
SWS: Well, he’s really talented. It was interesting, because he was going through basically the same thing I went through, because this was his next movie after Superbad. And I remember after American Pie came out, my next movie, I think, was Road Trip. And that whole thing where you go out and girls are talking to you, and you’re just like—“Whoa, this is cool.” And you kind of know it’s only because you’re in a movie. He would come up to me. He was like, “Was it kind of weird when people called you Stifler when the movie came out?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s weird. But it’s a compliment. It means that you did a good job.” I mean, how many movies do you see, that you don’t remember the character’s names? I’m like, “You gotta embrace that.” And I think he’s smart enough to know that he wants to keep trying different things. But you still kind of try as much as you can to find some movies that make some money, which will create some freedom for you, you know? And if that means that you have to do a variation of what seemed to have worked, then you kind of have to do it. It’s a business, at the end of the day. But he did say—he’s like, “Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool. Because I was in Santa Barbara, and I hooked up with these two girls”—I think he said at the same time, or whatever. Maybe it was the same night. And he’s like, “And I know they only wanted to hook up with me because I was McLovin.” [laughs]
PF: Stifler really never grew up. I mean, he was a character who never grew up and never changed. Do you feel very differently about this character, in that, do you feel that he’s much more of an evolving character, somebody that people can identify with more readily than Stifler?
SWS: I think so. I think a little bit. I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like—he’s not like a stand-out in the film. You know, like, whereas American Pie, he just kind of popped a little bit, because he was just so different than the other guys. Whereas this movie, everybody’s so good. But I think that—I mean, it really is a variation of the American Pie guy. But it does seem a little bit more—it’s not as one-dimensional. So I think that possibly—I mean, if people respond to the movie like that, then it’d be pretty great that they were like, “Ah, I kind of know this guy. And I know that it’s never too late to grow up.” And truthfully, all I kept thinking about was trying to create little moments that people would quote, you know? And just try to make people laugh. I’m not a Method actor by any means.
PF: You’re not a Method actor?
SWS: Surprise surprise, right? [laughs]
PF: In the rehearsals for this movie, was there ever any apprehension of, like, cursing in front of Bobby? Was it ever shocking to hear him saying some of the lines?
SWS: No. I was always encouraging him to swear. No, I mean—he’s a stand-up comedian. He’s got a foul mouth, you know? He’s like a little Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy. Like the guys.
PF: How old is he?
SWS: I think he’s 12 now. But I think when he started the film—I guess he must have been 11. Maybe he’s 13. But—you know, we had to be careful. But I had to just kind of do it without his Mom knowing, and stuff like that. So I never felt weird about it. I mean, I know there’s been some people that are like, “It’s kind of weird to be swearing to a kid.” But people do that. And that’s kind of the point of the movie. Like, you know? That’s what makes it kind of funny, is hearing a little kid swear, and then adults speaking to a kid as if he’s 32.
PF: What about working with Paul Rudd? Had you two worked together before?
SWS: We never did, no. I was attached, like, a year before. And I was like—they gave me a list of guys to work with, and I was like, “Let’s go out for Paul.” And Paul was already big, but not nearly as huge. Because I think it was before Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and the Dewey Cox one, whatever it’s called [Walk Hard]. And we were really psyched to get him on board. And then he and I just kind of developed our characters, went through a real process of, like, different writers. And then when—you know, his relationship with David Wain was fantastic. So we got Dave on board. And so we worked with him, and just kind of came up with ideas. And just different—you know, just the voice of our characters. And it was great. We didn’t really hang out that much other than just kind of going through the creative process.
PF: He’s got a writing credit on this. What did he do on the script?
SWS: I don’t know. I don’t know. He worked hard, though. You know, he worked with David on it. But I’m not very good with—I never really said anything that anybody else wrote for me. Although—you know, David wrote some good stuff, too. But yeah, I think Paul wrote a draft of the script. And then we got David on board, and David and Ken Marino rewrote it, you know? So he definitely was working on it.
PF: Are you a Kiss fan?
SWS: I am now, actually. At first I was like, “Wouldn’t it be cooler if it was Rolling Stones?” And I realized that was David’s idea, it was like—it was such a great idea. Because at first I was like, “It doesn’t seem”—I mean, it’s cool. But like, does this fit this guy? Would he be talking—and then I was like, “He was so right.” Not to mention just that moment at the end when we show up as Kiss. But just the one way, the one time that I relate to the kid—you know, with “Love Gun,” I was like—it’s so inappropriate and strange, but it’s so effective. So.
PF: When you see yourself in the mirror with that Kiss makeup on, what went through your mind?
SWS: Well, it was really just uncomfortable wearing those tight leather pants. You know? It was just like, “Wow. How did these guys do it?” It’s like, “Well, they’re making millions of dollars.” You know, then—but—I kind of liked the long hair, because it reminded me of Lou Diamond Philips in Young Guns. I kind of felt like an action hero. [laughs]
PF: Was it fun doing all that fighting, in the medieval scenes?
SWS: I didn’t think it was so fun, actually. Like, that was David—David really did a great job, because I remember being on set. I was like, “This is kind of weird.” Like, “You know, this is kind of a strange thing? Is it kind of goofy?” And he was so right. Because it’s such a strange world, and there’s so much potential for comedy, or comedic moments, that—there’s one—I don’t really get—I had an idea. I was like, “I should be the guy who’s like, taking it too seriously and really crushing people.” But we didn’t have enough time to film that. But it was fun just to watch all these people. We had real LARP people. It’s LARP, in real life, I guess, not LAIR. And so we—there’s real people that are, like, talking about it. And like, twirling foam axes and stuff. It’s like, “Whoa. This is a strange world.” I would do it, if you could really crush president with it. Otherwise, what’s the point, you know? [laughs]
PF: Will you ever revisit Stifler, or do you think that’s enough?
SWS: Oh, that was enough. After American Wedding—like, I knew when I did it, I was like, “I just want to complete this character. Like, I want—for whatever kid that liked it.” I was like, “I want to answer every question, and I just want to go out with a bang.” So I was like—especially after eating shit. It was like, what else can I do that’s disgusting? You know? It’s like, what’s the point of doing a movie if you can’t do anything else to top the last one? It’s like, there’s nothing else to do.
PF: I know that last year there was a script floating around for Old School II. Do you know if your character was gonna come back for that?
SWS: Oh, I hope so. I heard that too, yeah. And I was like—I just thought, “How—they’re never gonna make that.” I mean, Vince Vaughn? I mean, it’s gonna be a hundred million dollar comedy. Like, you know, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell… Like—I wish, though. I should almost send the letter to Ivan Reitman saying, “Why don’t we just base it on Peppers? Let’s do Old School II just about the petting zoo guy.”
PF: Just two hours of the laugh.
SWS: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]
PF: I remember running into you at an AMC theatre just hanging out. Are you still able to go to regular places and do that?
SWS: Yeah, all the time. You know, it’s easier in New York. I spend a lot of time in New York, and people just don’t really care about actors out there. But—yeah. I still am amazed how much people like American Pie. But people actually liked Rundown. I hear that more than anything. I saw it the other day with my nephews and I was like, “Oh, this was really good.” We were lucky to get Peter Berg early on. Because now he’s just a phenom, you know? But—yeah. I’d go anywhere. And also, because of the character, I have a really interesting relationship with the audience. Because I play a guy that everybody knows. So I don’t play, like, the cool guy. I’m not, like, Brad Pitt on a horse in Legends of the Fall. So people come up to me and they’re just like, “Hey, man!” You know, like, we feel like we’re friends. So it’s really cool.
PF: What are you working on now?
SWS: Well, right now I’m writing a film, and I’m writing a book. But I haven’t decided—there’s a couple really great comedy scripts. I’m gonna try to do another comedy again. I tried some independent dramedies, and—like, you lose momentum. God, I haven’t had a movie come out, really, other than—The Promotions came out for, what, two days? And like—I’d rather go back, and—I don’t worry as much about being typecast. As much as I’d like to—I mean, there’s only—you really only have—I mean, I guess other than Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where he plays a really different character, it really only feels like there’s the Ben Stiller kind of character, and there’s the Vince Vaughn kind of character in most of these movies. You know, it’s so formulaic. It’s so derivative. But—so I don’t think I do the Ben Stiller rip-off as well as other guys. So in the movies I’m looking at with commercial comedies, it’s more like—looking at things that would play to what I think people would like to see me do. And so there’s a couple really good ones.
PF: So you look at things from a business perspective more than from an acting perspective these days?
SWS: I think I have to. You know, I think at this point—you know, a guy like Seth Rogen, right? He’s had so many monster hits. He can do whatever he wants to do. And it’s because he really catered to what people want to see him do. He had his hands in a lot of the stuff. And now he can do The Green Hornet, you know? And so right now, I think it’s important for me to find some films that work, and make money. Whether I’m like—I’d much prefer to do Eric Bana’s role in Chopper. You know, something cool like that. Some movie that I’d rather watch at home. But for me, I think after Mr. Woodcock and Dukes of Hazzard and some independent films, it’s like, I just need to do some movies that make money. Because at the end of the day—
PF: And that are good.
SWS: Hopefully good, yeah. But in the business, though, it doesn’t even matter if they’re good. If it’s like—you’re not very good in it, you’re okay, and it’s not even well-received but it makes $100 million, all of a sudden you have a chance to maybe work with Sam Mendes. It’s weird, yeah.
PF: How do you look back on Southland Tales now? Because that was such an ambitious project as it started out. I liked it.
SWS: You liked it?
SWS: Yeah. You know, I liked it, too. I really appreciated what he did. And he took many risks with the casting. Casting me, and some other guys. And I just appreciate somebody doing something different. And he put his career on the line. And I appreciate what he did. I’m not quite sure if I know exactly what was going on in the movie. But I liked it. You know? For a $15 million budget, it looked like a huge budget film. And he got—he wrangled all these amazing musicians to be a part of the soundtrack. And, yeah. We’re actually talking about trying to do another movie together.
SWS: Yeah. And it was nice for me to, like, get a chance to do something slightly different. You know, whether people think it worked or not. Just to be able to hold a gun was fun.
PF: Now, with the rise of the mainstream-appeal R-rated comedy, do you feel like there’s a lot more options on the table now? That maybe—right after American Pie, it seemed like the genre was still veering towards PG-13. And now, like, with Role Models, R-rated, do you feel like that opens you up a little bit more?
SWS: I think so, yeah. A lot of the scripts that I’ve read have been R-rated. And they’ve been funny. Way funnier than PG-13 films. And—I mean, it depends on the movie. But I feel like—unless the dialogue’s lazy. There’s a lot of R-rated films where it’s just like—it feels like lazy dialogue. You’re just throwing in F-bombs here and there. And people could make the same argument for this movie. But I’ve read a lot of really funny scripts that are R-rated. Because I think they seem to be really working, if they’re done right. It seems like they’re the ones that people seem to watch more and more. And it helps me out, because I think it’s better when I swear. [laughs]
PF: You mentioned the kinds of movies you like to watch yourself at home. What are you watching these days? What are you rediscovering?
SWS: You know, I’ve watched more foreign films. I mean, I love Susanne Bier. She did After the Wedding. The Danish girl, I think. She did After the Wedding, Brothers, Open the Hearts.
PF: You said you’re writing a book?
SWS: Yeah. Just an experience about my Dad, and just kind of a personal project.
PF: Is it a nonfiction book, or is it a novel?
SWS: Well, it’s about—it’s called A Year to the Day. We ended up—my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, so we ended up burying him a year to the day that he was diagnosed. So it’s just about my experience. And—really honest. You know. I think it depends if I rework it at all. But it’s like—this isn’t going to be Tuesdays with Morrie, or Diving Bell and the Butterfly. You know, it’s not going to be as special as that. It’s just special to me. So, it’s just a personal little project.
PF: Do you want to have it published? I mean, are you looking for a publisher?
PF: It’s cool that movies are still your reference for that experience.
SWS: Yeah. Yeah. I can’t help it. I feel like that. I’m like, I—I love The Matrix, actually. But you just see how he just looks at the world differently, as he starts to open his eyes, and his mind to it. And sometimes I’m like—every little thing sticks out. Every little human moment now, after that. You know? You almost want to get to a point where you can still have that in your life, but still relaxed a bit, and still—you know. Really, like, alive. And we can’t be so heavy-hearted all the time.
PF: Is the film you’re writing also based on that, or is that a different one altogether?
SWS: It’s a comedy. Yeah. It’s going to be a mockumentary. At first it was—yeah. I love mockumentaries. When they’re done right, they’re really good. And I think as a beginning screenwriter—like, who knows if it’ll ever get made. But I like the format. I think it gives you a lot of freedom. I mean, one of my favorite actors, if not my favorite actor, is Ricky Gervais. And I think what he did in the BBC Office is just incredible. I mean, I’ve seen every episode 20 times, and I think the guy’s a genius. But I love American Movie, even though that’s a documentary.
PF: Have you talked to Jane Lynch about this? Because Jane is obviously very familiar with that.
SWS: Oh, yeah. I’m gonna go after her—I mean, there’s two ways I’m gonna go with it. I’m either gonna go after people that I’ve had a relationship with and really try to get them, or go with, like, total non-actors, and try to really—although you guys will know about this now. Try to really make people think it’s a real documentary. Because I think those are actually—we’ve never really seen—well, Office was kind of like that, actually. The BBC Office. When that first came out, when I first kind of watched it, it was like, “Is this real?” Like, I knew it wasn’t. But it was like, “Wow, this is so good.” And if you have so many familiar faces—one character I’m writing for myself that I would like to play, I’m basing it on my brother. But I thought, “It might be better if actually you don’t have any familiar faces in it, and people are just watching going, “Holy shit, this is hilarious. Is this real? These people are crazy.”
PF: What’s the general set-up?
SWS: It’s about ice fishing in Minnesota. It’s called Jack Pine Savages.
PF: Are you an ice fisherman?
SWS: Well, I grew up in Minnesota. And so it’s just the strangest culture, community. Like, it’s really the weirdest sport on the planet. And it’s just about these guys that are—all these different people that are—it takes place in one week, called The Jack Pine Savage Days. And they actually have these festivals in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And it’s on Lake Winnebegosh. And it’s—all these people need to win the money for one reason or another. But just—they all have shacks out in the lake. And it’s really—imagine the Minnesota—you think about Fargo, stuff like that. That dialect, that culture, you know? It’s really rich with opportunities for comedic moments. At least I think so. Maybe you’ll read it, you’ll be like, “What the fuck is this?”
PF: Have you completed a first draft yet?
SWS: Yeah, I’m close. You know, I haven’t had a chance, because I’m working on that and the book. And it’s one of those things where—I usually kind of rewrite my own stuff in these movies. But it’s not like I’m really rewriting. I’m playing “crazy guy.” So we could probably all play this character in this movie. But this is the first time I’ve actually written a whole thing. I like to write short stories. So I’m taking my time before I send it out to somebody, because I want to make sure it’s good.
PF: You said Jack Pint Savages?
SWS: Jack Pine. Jack Pine Savages is a term in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Kind of like redneck or hick. Yeah. But they actually have Jack Pine Savage Days. This big icefishing festival. And it’s the weirdest shit you’ve ever seen. It’s awesome.
PF: How disciplined are you as a writer?
SWS: It depends on my time. Like, you know, I’m disciplined, but it just seems to be—I just need to be able to sit down. I have a hard time relaxing. Once I sit down and write, then I’m just going and going. But I’m careful, though. Because, you know, I want to make sure it’s good. It’s easier to write the book than the script, actually. I think because it’s a personal experience.
PF: Is it very cathartic, writing the book?
SWS: It is. Yeah. It’s a little tough, though. But it is. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do it, for sure. Because I don’t know if you guys have ever—I mean, you’ve suffered a loss. So it’s like—one of those things where you just—sometimes you can’t even deal with it. The mind works in such a strange way, where you just don’t deal with it. You don’t allow yourself to suffer or to grieve. And you go through it, and you just keep going. You keep moving on, instead of actually feeling the experience and thinking about it, and then letting it go.
PF: How surprised are you by your success as an actor?
SWS: I’m always surprised. I’m surprised I have a career. You know? Like, ever since American Pie, I’m just blown away. But I want to keep doing—I’m really happy with this movie. I really love it. I think it’s really, really funny. Sitting in the screenings with the kids was like—whether the movie has flaws in it, or whatever—I think I might even read reviews for this movie. Because it’ll be interesting to see what you guys think. But I’m just happy to sit in a theatre with an audience that, the kids are just laughing. Because I think it’s a good time to laugh. There’s never a bad time to laugh. And like—I haven’t felt this excited since probably the American Pie movies. But I remember, I went out to Woodcock and Dukes of Hazzard. I went to an audience. People are like, “Phhhh.” You know? It’s nice just to hear a big laugh. And so—but to answer your question, I’m very surprised.
PF: Do you see yourself as a role model for kids?
SWS: I could be, yeah. I was kind of a role model for Bobby, actually. Like, he has a genius mind. And the first couple days, I think he really felt like he had something to prove. And then I just spent a lot of time with him, and then he let his guard down. And he showed himself to be a typical 11-year-old, ten-year-old sweet kid. And so I spent a lot of time with him, and I tried to be a good influence. But I’m not the best role model. I am with my nephew. Although when his dad’s been away, I’ve had him watch all the American Pie movies, and Road Trip. And Old School. And so he’s like—I’m like—you know, what is it? Ear muffs! I’m like, ear muffs! Don’t tell your dad this stuff! And he’s like, “Okay, I promise, Uncle Seann. I love you. I promise I won’t tell anybody.” [laughs] So maybe not the best role model.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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