American Pie star 'one dimensional character' specialist

By Peter Mitchell

Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott on the American Pie promo circuit. Photo / Getty Images
Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott on the American Pie promo circuit. Photo / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES - A decade ago the success of teen comedy film American Pie transformed Seann William Scott from a struggling, chubby unknown actor from Minnesota living off rice and oatmeal into a worldwide star beloved by adolescents and college lads.

The character he played in American Pie and two sequels was sex-crazed Steve Stifler, a young fella with a few screws loose in his noggin.

Scott was so great in the role the Hollywood studio system finds it difficult to let him escape, casting him in the post-American Pie years as variations of Stifler in comedies Dude, Where's My Car?, Old School, Welcome to the Jungle, Mr Woodcock, Role Models and others.

In his new film, the buddy police comedy Cop Out with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, 33-year-old Scott again is cast as a deviant, playing a crazed armed bandit and burglar proficient in the rooftop-to-rooftop jumping discipline of parkour.

Scott did not mind taking the role because he is a huge Willis fan.

"When I first saw Bruce on set I had to stop myself from saying 'I watched you in Die Hard on TV last night. I've seen it a million times'," Scott admitted.

"I had to control myself a bit."

Scott thinks he may finally make Hollywood sit back and realise he can do more on screen than a Stifler incarnation, with French director Xavier Gens taking a chance and casting him in the thriller The Fallout, set for release later this year.

When he heard Gens, best known outside of France for the 2007 action film Hitman, was interested in casting him, Scott demanded his agent set up a meeting.

"I met with Xavier," Scott laughs.

"I don't know how I convinced him. Maybe it was a financing thing like 'Let's get the asshole from American Pie to get the budget up'.

"But, The Fallout is visually stunning and I play a very dark character.

"If it does well it will give filmmakers a chance to see me do something different.

"I've played so many broad comedies where I play a version of the character so often they have to see me do something that sparks their interest."

Scott points to Eric Bana for inspiration, hoping to follow the Australian actor's path from comedy to serious roles including Black Hawk Down, Munich and Troy.

"Before Eric Bana became a big star he did stand-up comedy," Scott says.

"I look at Eric Bana in Chopper and think 'I won't be able to do what he did, but I could do something like that'.

"I could never do what Christoph Waltz did in Inglourious Basterds.

"That to me is the best performance and that's saying a lot because I'm a cinephile. I see a lot of films."

Despite his craving for Hollywood to take him seriously, Kevin Smith, who directed Cop Out, thinks Scott is a comic genius.

Smith knows plenty about the comedy genre, breaking into Hollywood with the 1994 small budget comedy Clerks and following it up with Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back and 2008's Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

With Willis playing the straight man, NYPD detective Jimmy Monroe, in Cop Out, Smith surrounded him with wise-cracking guys Tracy Morgan, a former Saturday Night Live comedian, and Scott.

In Cop Out, Monroe and his roly-poly partner Paul Hodges (Morgan), force nutty criminal Dave (Scott) to help them track down a stolen baseball card worth US$80,000. Dave stole the card during an armed hold-up, but handed it over to a New York drug lord.

Smith often abandoned the script and allowed Morgan and Scott to riff.

"If there was ever a crack, Tracy or Seann would fill it in," Smith says.

"I'd tell them what to do and they'd do it, then they'd come up with three things funnier than what I suggested."

One of the running gags in Cop Out involves Scott's character repeating what others say, just like a parrot or annoying younger brother.

"Seann started the repeating thing. That wasn't in the script," Smith says.

"We were in the car and we were shooting Tracy and he said 'I'll shoot you in the face'.

"Then off camera you hear Seann say 'I'll shoot you in the face'.

"I said 'STOP! That is hysterical. Do it again'.

"It just kept building and building and is throughout the film."

Scott worked with Smith on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back so was aware how the director worked, but did not consciously think acting like a chatty parrot would be so funny.

"The script was already very funny for my character, but then it just happened," Scott says.

"It started when Tracy says 'I'm going to shoot you in the face'.

"For whatever reason I said 'I'm going to shoot you in the face'.

"I started repeating everything they said and I became this really annoying character.

"It's maybe not the most three dimensional character ever played, but I think that I'm maybe one of the best actors to play a one-dimensional character.

"I've got that nailed down."

- AAP

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