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American Flashback

See the American Pie Cast Then and Now

Catch the American Pie movies this month on IFC.

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Universal Pictures

Starring a cast of mostly unknowns, and reviving the raunchy teen comedy genre that had been dead and buried for more than a decade, no one knew what to expect of American Pie when it debuted back in the summer of 1999. But after earning $235 million dollars, spawning eight sequels, and creating one of the most famous pie-based sex scenes in movie history, it’s legendary status is secure. At the time, the film launched a slew of unknown actors into the stratosphere. Some have come back down to Earth hard, while others are just getting started. Much like band camp, let’s look back at the fun we had, and then see where the cast is now.

Jason Biggs (Jim Levenstein)

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Then: Like much of the cast, Jason Biggs was a fresh face when he landed the lead role in American Pie. His previous credits were scant, with a stint on the daytime soap As The World Turns and a Broadway turn opposite Judd Hirsch in Conversations with My Father being the highlights.

Lionsgate Television

Lionsgate Television

Now: While still largely known for his work in the American Pie series, Biggs has had success on the small screen of late. His turn as convict Piper Chapman’s estranged husband Larry on Orange is the New Black got some attention, and kids may recognize his voice as Leonardo on the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But he’s sadly gotten the most attention for being a Twitter troll, making fun of everything from racial issues, to dead celebrities, to the Malaysian plane crash. It has not gone over well.


Chris Klein (Chris “Oz” Ostreicher)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Another unknown at the time, Chris Klein broke out big in 1999, staring in blockbuster American Pie and indie darling Election. It was actually the latter that he shot first, after director Alexander Payne discovered him in the halls of his high school while location scouting for the movie.

Comedy Central

Comedy Central

Now: Klein has had an admittedly tough go of it since the American Pie films ran their course. Beyond losing girlfriend Katie Holmes to Tom Cruise, he also battled alcohol issues and checked himself into rehab back in 2010. He’s since been working on a comeback, popping up on FX’s Wilfred and Comedy Central’s Idiotsitter.


Alyson Hannigan (Michelle Flaherty)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Hannigan, a former child actor, was making a name for herself as nerdy best friend Willow on Buffy The Vampire Slayer when American Pie came knocking. The filmmakers originally wanted her to play the part of Heather, which would go to Mena Suvari, but Hannigan thought band camp loving Michelle seemed like more fun.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

Now: With seven seasons of Buffy, four American Pie movies, and nine seasons on How I Met Your Mother, Hannigan has had one of the best runs of any Pie alum. Now raising a family, she’s slowed down a bit, with her most recent part being a cameo on the CBS sitcom The McCarthys.


Shannon Elizabeth (Nadia)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Elizabeth began her career as a model, before booking small parts on TV shows like Arli$$ and USA High. She was perhaps best known for getting offed by a snowman in the direct-to-video horror cheesefest Jack Frost before her big break in American Pie came about.

ABC Family Original Productions

ABC Family Original Productions

Now: Elizabeth had a bit of a hot streak after American Pie, booking big parts in movies like Scary Movie, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Thir13en Ghosts. While she’s continued to work steadily, more recent projects like In The Dark and A Green Story haven’t gotten as much traction. But the good news is, with a bit more time on her hands, she began a second career as a professional poker player, and has kicked butt, landing in the money at the World Series of Poker.


Tara Reid (Vicky Lathum)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: A child actor best known for a litany of commercials, Reid had costarred in movies as diverse as Urban Legend and The Big Lebowski when she signed on to play Vicky in American Pie.

SyFy Films

SyFy Films

Now: Reid seemed to be on her way to becoming a big star when a wardrobe malfunction on the red carpet turned her into a walking punchline. In the years since, she’s worked to rebuild her career, starring in camp classics like the Sharknado films and The Hungover Games.


Eddie Kaye Thomas (Paul Finch)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: A child actor who’d appeared on Broadway opposite Natalie Portman in The Diary of Anne Frank, Kaye Thomas only had a few small parts to his name when he landed the role of cougar hunter Paul Finch in American Pie. 

Eddie Kaye Thomas Scorpion

CBS

Now: After the breakout hit of American Pie, Kaye started acting in a slew of movies, even landing the title role in Freddy Got Fingered. In more recent years, he’s probably best known for voicing Barry Robinson on the Seth MacFarlane animated series American Dad!, and popping up in shows like ‘Til Death and How to Make It in America. These days, he can be found starring on the CBS drama Scorpion.


Seann William Scott (Steve Stifler)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Stifler, the party bro who loves beer and babes in equal measure, was Scott’s big screen debut. Conceived more as a bit part than a costar at the time, Scott was paid only $8,000 for his time. Thankfully, the role would turn Scott into a breakout star.

FX Productions

FX Productions

Now: Scott went on to star in a succession of hits, including Final Destination, Dude, Where’s My Car? and The Rundown. But his new lifestyle would catch up with him, and he entered rehab in 2011 for “health and personal issues.” Since completing his treatment, he’s slowly made his way back into the fold, starring in the hockey comedy Goon and a classic episode of the FX hit It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.


Mena Suvari (Heather)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: 1999 was a big year for Suvari. After working sporadically for years as a child actor, she broke into the big time with the one/two punch of American Pie and American Beauty. This all-American year helped turn her into a star and sex symbol galore.

Blumhouse Television

Blumhouse Television

Now: While Suvari has worked steadily since her breakout year, popping up in everything from Six Feet Under to American Horror Story, she’s never again been the center of attention. In recent years she’s starred on the WE tv horror drama South of Hell, and focused on her charity work, with such organizations as Starlight Children’s Foundation and the “End Violence Against Women” campaign.


Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin Myers)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Thomas Ian Nicholas was arguably the biggest star amongst the teens cast in American Pie. You probably remember him as the titular kid(s) in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court and Rookie of the Year.

ABC Studios

ABC Studios

Now: Ian Nicholas has worked steadily over the last 20 years, playing Abbie Hoffman in The Chicago 8 and guest starring on hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Party of Five. Still, his real focus seems to be music. He released his first album, Without Warning, in 2008, and even got a song on the American Reunion soundtrack. He has since recorded with Blues Traveler and sung the national anthem at a Cubs game.


Natasha Lyonne (Jessica)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: The other legit star of the American Pie teens, Lyonne had already fronted Slums of Beverly Hills and had a role in Woody Allen’s Everybody Says I Love You. She was also popular for playing Opal on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

IFC Originals

IFC Originals

Now: A serious drug addiction almost sidelined her career, but thankfully Natasha got clean, and returned to acting full-time. Since sobering up, she’s had an impressive resurgence, starring alongside Pie vet Jason Biggs on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, and recurring on IFC’s Portlandia.


John Cho (John)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Cho had just a few small, bit parts to his name when he was cast in American Pie. While this was another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role, the movie was such a massive hit, even the small parts led to stardom. In a Reddit AMA, Cho said “I was out of the country, shooting another movie, and had missed the release of American Pie, and was unaware it was a really big hit. So I came back to America, and kids were chanting ‘MILF! MILF!’ at me on the street. And I was really confused, and it took me a while to understand what was happening actually.”

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Now: Cho has since become a big star, fronting the Harold and Kumar franchise, and playing Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek films. He’s also been named one of the sexiest men alive by People magazine not once, but twice, boldly going where no American Pie cast member had gone before.


Chris Owen (The Sherminator)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Owen had booked a few small parts in the years preceding American Pie. Most notably, he had a bit part opposite longtime friend and collaborator Charlie Talbert in the family film Angus. Still, it was “The Sherminator” that would come to define his career, for better or worse.

Universal

Universal

Now: While Owen hasn’t struggled for work, his association with the American Pie franchise has defined his career. He popped up in a number of similarly raunchy National Lampoon movies, including National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers and National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze 1 and 2.


Eugene Levy (Jim’s Dad)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Levy was already hugely popular in comedy circles, having starring on SCTV, and popped up in classic movies like Splash, Armed and Dangerous and Waiting for Guffman. But it was the part of Jim’s Dad that would prove to be a mainstream breakthrough for the comic with the caterpillar eyebrows.

Not a Real Company Productions

Not a Real Company Productions

Now: Levy has continued his hall-of-fame career over the last two decades, continuing to star in Christopher Guest directed classics like A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. He’s also proved to be a loyal American Pie costar, appearing alongside Tara Reid in Josie and the Pussycats and Sean William Scott in Goon. And god love him, he’s appeared as Jim’s dad (aka Noah Levenstein) in every American Pie sequel, including four straight-to-video releases.


Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mom)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then: Coolidge was an alum of the legendary comedy school The Groundlings, but she had struggled to book a breakout part when American Pie came around. She was perhaps best known as the masseuse Jerry dated on an episode of Seinfeld, when she landed the part of Stifler’s randy mother.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Now: Playing the hottest mom in film since The Graduate launched Coolidge to another level. She went on to costar in everything from Legally Blonde to Sex in the City, and starred in a run of Christopher Guest’s improv mockumentaries, like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, alongside Pie vet Eugene Levy. Lately, she has been a regular on the long running CBS hit 2 Broke Girls.

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Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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