It wouldn’t be a Harold & Kumar movie without Neil Patrick Harris, and once again the actor is reprising the role …of a very odd version of himself, in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
The multitalented Harris stars on the successful sitcom How I Met Your Mother, has appeared on Broadway in Assassins, Proof and Cabaret, and starred in the hit movie The Smurfs earlier this year.
In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Neil died, making his appearance in this movie doubtful – but all is explained, and he returns to sing and dance in a holiday extravaganza, in which Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are unwillingly dressed as toy soldiers.
How was it coming back to this franchise for you?
It was great, silly fun. I did the second one because I felt morally obligated to do it, because the first one went so well. It was such a nice boost to the randomness that is my career. And then the third one they sat down and told me what their plan was and I was cautious in listening to their story.
They started by saying, ‘We want to do a Christmas movie,’ and I started laughing right away, because I thought that was a very clever conceit for a third movie in this franchise. So I was on board from the beginning.
Was it your idea to do the big musical number?
No, that was all their stuff, they pitched what they thought would be funny for my little chunk of the movie, because they wanted to see if I was on board or not before they sat down and wrote everything. I loved it. I thought the song and dance thing made sense.
I like the weird hyper-duality of ‘Neil Patrick Harris’ in these movies, so I enjoyed that you see me singing and dancing, almost a little too frenetically, and then it’s explained why when I’m dark and smoking crack in my dressing room. So I enjoy that back-and-forth.
I really respect the writers, Jon (Hurwitz) and Hayden (Schlossberg) and what they do with the films, but that being said it’s a fine line because it’s me playing me, but a really hyper strange version of me, but it’s a gray area because if you’re too cocky about it I feel like it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Is there ever a concern that fans will confuse the Harold and Kumar Neil Patrick Harris with the real one?
In the movie your character goes to heaven, did you enjoy that part?
Yeah, that was hilarious. It was nice that they explained what happened and it’s relatively sacrilegious, fighting with JC, getting a hand job from angels, just another day at work!
This movie had a first time director, Todd Strauss-Schulson. Did that worry you when you were considering doing it?
When I heard it was a new director I thought that was intriguing and so I looked him up and he was easy to look up because Todd, before this movie, had done a lot of short films that were on the internet.
You quickly got a sense of his comedy and he thankfully valued holding a shot for a long time for an uncomfortable laugh, and so I appreciated that he had a good sense of humor.
I also valued that in this third movie they hired a director who had a lot of interest in representing himself and the brand, as opposed to someone who had directed 75,000 movies and this was just another one. This is a guy who really wanted the movie to be impressive, so that was exciting.
Did you have to work differently because it was shot in 3D?
The 3D element was just interesting, as we filmed it in 3D proper, it wasn’t transferred to 3D later. The Smurfs movie that I did the previous summer was filmed like a regular movie and then transferred to 3D.
This was two cameras, one camera pointed right at you, and another camera directly above, pointed straight down with a 45 degree mirror that would literally be able to adjust to the one camera so it was exactly like 3D. So you could go into another room and put glasses on and watch every take in 3D.
I think that that encouraged the director of photography and everyone to maintain lots of reaching to the camera shots. And for a stoner film 3D seems perfect. They used it obscenely well!
Do you ever get together with Kal and John between films?
We don’t really get together to hang, all three of us are thankfully pretty busy, but Kal’s doing an eight episode arc on How I Met Your Mother this season. He’s filmed five of those already, so I see him with great regularity at work right now.
I wish I saw more of John, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and probably one of the funnier people you’ll come across.
How strange is it to have Kal on your show where you’re both playing totally different characters?
Yeah, totally different roles, he’s a psychologist, so it’s very anti-Kumar. It’s great because he’s a really talented actor. I remember when they met with me before their very first movie, they hadn’t cast either guy. It was hard to find an Indian/American and an Asian/American that fit this dynamic.
They chose two guys that are really talented in their own right, both of them have gone on to do other things that are much more high brow and much more complicated than this work needs to be, but I think in turn it adds some depth to Harold and Kumar in a way that if you had different actors I don’t think you’d get that. It kind of grounds the movie.