Most people will tell you in the world of the entertainment business, it’s much easier getting famous than it is staying famous. Seann William Scott is one of the many who has weathered such a path of uncertainty.
Almost overnight, he became a bonafide favorite with the teen and college crowd as loveable jerk hooligan Steve Stifler in the American Pie movies. However, almost instantaneously, Scott found himself typecast by the role that made him a star with roles in a string of mostly youth-oriented comedies like the successful Dude, Where’s My Car? and Road Trip and unfortunate bombs like Evolution, Mr. Woodcock, and the film version of The Dukes Of Hazzard.
However, to his great credit, Scott has managed to work through the potentially dreadful “Stifler curse” with unique supporting roles that flex his considerable potential. These include films like Jay And Silent Bob Strikes Back, Old School, Ice Age: The Meltdown, The Rundown, and even playing twins in Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales.
Now 31, Seann continues to flex his comedic muscle with the new comedy The Promotion which he stars alongside Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story lead John C. Reilly. He first discusses his role in the film as grocery store manager Doug Stauber, who competes with a rival for a shot at a promotion, a role quite more down-to-earth than the frat boy hooligans he’s known for playing.
“I would describe him as a down-to-earth guy or really relatable good guy, kind of an average joe,” Scott says, “He’s 31 years old, married, and I don’t think he ever anticipated working in a grocery store at 31 or 33, however, how old he is in the movie. But he’s at a place in his life where he’s trying to give himself the good life and his wife a real chance at happiness and it’s a difference between making $45,000 a year and $60,000 a year.”
“It’s a big jump when you’re in that part of your world and financial economical structuring, so he’s just a good guy, really, just trying to figure things out,” he continues, “This guy, John C. Reilly’s character, comes down and he’s pushed to test his morality and the choices he makes. I think a great character in the sense that a lot of people can relate to him.”
Scott says that this more “average joe” role was actually a welcome break from his more outlandish characters of the past.
“It was a good opportunity for me, because it wasn’t just a one-dimensional character,” he says, “I prefer that style of comedy, the kind in the The Promotion, which more quiet and situational and awkward, as much as I like to play the other stuff that’s more physical, it was nice to be able to, in a subtle way, be able to react to things that are going on, but try to tell a story and try to be funny.”
“It’s easier for me, because I’m such a normal guy, just very average, boring guy at times,” Seann adds, “I like to travel, but I’m kind of a homebody, so I’m pretty quiet and I’m pretty different than most of the characters that I played. But when I’m with my buddies, I can be one of the wild guys, but typically, I spent most time by myself, pretty quiet. I thought it was pretty comfortable to play that character and with everything that I was going through in life, just growing up and having some other personal things going on, it was a really wonderful experience, just to be able to tap in a more grown-up place and trying to figure out things in his life and just realize that his life is changing.”
We also asked Seann what it was like starring alongside John C. Reilly.
“I was really intimidated,” Scott admits, “Sometimes I was sick to my stomach to work with him everyday, because he was so funny and so good. I struggled not to crack up during the take. He would just add all these little things and every take would be just slightly different.”
“I spent most of my time going home, going, I’ll never be able to do what this guy does, he’s just so talented,” he adds, “I mean, he really created this character. What [John] did in this movie is really wonderful. I think he’s extremely funny and a lot of the weird nuances that his character has John created. But he didn’t pull any pranks or anything like that.”
He said that unlike your typical funny men, John C. Reilly was mostly serious business on set.
“He was funny for sure, but no, I’ve had enough pranks pulled on me,” Seann recalls, “I was happy. You never want to be the guy that’s checking your trailer out everyday. Paul Rudd actually was a prankster. He pulled a lot of pranks on Little Big Men.”
We also asked Seann if it actually takes more preparation to do a normal guy rather than a more broadly comedic role.
“I think so, a little bit,” he says, “I’m not that good of an actor. Most of the movies I’ve done, they’re not really roles. It’s just trying to create little bits or funny moments. I’ve always done comedies. This was a real character, where I actually thought about it, and there’s been a couple of movies where I played really well-rounded characters where there was a real thought process behind it, so the preparation is different.”
Scott says, however, that despite whatever shortcomings he feels he may have, he compensates for that by always trying vigorously to inject enough of his own personal vigor into his many of these types of roles.
“Most of the time, I’ve always had to work on scripts that haven’t been very good, so I always go into it trying to figure out how to make the scene better, rewriting my stuff, coming up with ten different alternatives for a line or a way to play it,” Seann says, “So in that sense, it’s the same, but it depends on how good the script is. Like with the American Pie movies, I was always trying to figure out ways to make it funnier and try to come up with memorable quotes.”
Seann says that in a business so fickle where you can go just as quickly as you hit, he has survived the changing tide by learning how to make the situation your given ultimately work to your advantage.
“It’s not really surprised me,” he claims, ” I’m a huge movie fan and I think it’s fairly easy now. If you get a Juno or a Superbad or any movie that makes $100 million, it doesn’t matter if it’s comedy or drama, you’ll have the opportunity to do any comedy or any drama. It’s just the business and the business works that way. You don’t necessarily hire the best actors and I think you just have to have some success.”
“Or a movie like this, the promotion will be nice because I think not everybody’s going to respond in a positive way, but I do think there will be certain filmmakers that I want to work with that may open their eyes a little bit differently and let them see me in a different way and that will give me some success,” Scott continues, “It will give me more chances to do movies like this because I’d rather do movies I feel I could watch at home. I’m not really sitting at home watching The Dukes Of Hazzard (laughing).”
However, Scott also adds that his box-office decline does still currently limit where he’d like to go with his career at this point to a certain degree.
“I haven’t had a hit in a long time,” he says, ” I’d like to get to a point where I can do a movie like The Rundown again and then, do a movie like The Promotion and then, go back and do this movie, like I did called Little Big Men with Paul Rudd. But the last couple of movies that I have done haven’t done so well.”
“If I could, I would love to be able to have the opportunity to play a more specific, nuanced, quiet character like The Promotion, and then, do a big broad comedy and do an action film,” Scott adds, “I think I’m capable of that, but I’m going to need some success, at least in the comedy genre first, that will open up the doors.”
However, while he says he doesn’t regret his idiosyncratic role as Stifler, surprisingly enough, Scott claims it’s no longer the role he most often gets stopped in the street from people about.
“I would say the character is stillâ€¦it’s amazingâ€¦I still every once in a while get the Stifler thing. But The Rundown is the movie I get from most people,” he claims, “Peter Berg is unbelievable and such a great filmmaker, but I get more people that come up to me about that movie than any other movie. But if you’re walking by a bar, you’re probably going to hear a Stifler comment, but if it wasn’t for that character, I wouldn’t have a career, so it’s fine with me.”
On the contrary, Seann says that his being pigeonholed has actually had less of an effect on his career than how he’s perceived of being in real life.
“I think people within the business know that I’m nice, but people on the streets, I think they’re kind of shocked when they meet me, because they expect me to be just kind of running around, dancing, drinking, or doing shots,” he says, “I actually do all those things, but not to the extent that Stifler does.
“But I think they’re surprised that I’m not like that character,” Scott continues, “I’ve also played characters that are a little similar to that, too, like even in The Dukes Of Hazzard and Road Trip, they’re all kind of full of energy and stuff like that and I’m much more laid back.”
A particular key, Scott claims, that has been crucial in keeping his career intact is avoiding the often glaring and destructive limelight of the paparazzi and the tabloid media.
“I’m a pretty private guy,” Seann says, “I don’t tend to date actresses or anybody famous. You’re just asking for trouble in more ways than one, but I also think people don’t really care about, I think you have to give them a story for the paparazzi. You have to give them something that will sell magazines and, thank goodness, I have nothing to offer that would be interesting in a magazine article.”
“But it’s also been a real decision on my part because I would prefer if I was getting the chance to do this that people would have a little bit of mystery about me that they don’t have to see my ugly mug on a magazine over and over and hear about me,” he continues, “I would rather hear them say, ‘OK, I can’t wait! I haven’t seem him in a long time in a movie, instead of getting burnt out after seeing me with some actress, which actually wouldn’t probably be a bad thing either.”
However, Seann claims that his low profile has not completely protected him from the watchful glare of the paparazzi, recalling how he ended up on the tabloid TMZ without even knowing it.
“Actually, my friend said I was on TMZ a couple days ago,” he recalls, “And this guy had a camera and I just walked up to him and go, ‘What do you do all day? What do you guys do? You just follow people?’ He’s like, ‘What? What do you mean, following?’ I mean, he was caught up like this, but he thought I didn’t know it was on. I go, ‘What? You basically follow people with your cameras?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, we get tipped off if we know where people are.'”
“And I’m like, ‘That’s weird, don’t you think?'” Scott adds, “And he’s like, ‘No, no.’ And I’m like, ‘You got because you think that they ask for it right, because they’re actors. They said, ‘I’m going to be an actor, because I’ll get a guy that has a camera in my face.” And he goes, ‘But you guys did some funny shit with John Mayer though,’ because somebody sent me a couple of things, they follow him around, so what they put in there is ‘Seann William Scott has a man-crush on John Mayer.’ And I’m like, ‘You dicks!’ (laughing) Man, I just asked him one question, so I was on there.”
All in all, Scott says that another thing that keeps him going in his career is his work ethic as he has three films in the pipeline which will soon be released.
“I did a movie called Tranwreck: My Life As An Idiot, based on a true story, the same company that produced Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and 21 Grams,” Seann says, “I play the title character, named Jeff Nichols. It’s a really interesting and really smart dramedy, small movie that I think that’s going to come out in September. But it’s like often with small films, the risks you take in trying to find distribution, but I think a really important performance for me.”
“And then, another movie I did, right now called Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story, but it could be called “Gary The Tennis Coach”, which was our working title,” he continues, “It’s the same director who did Dude, Where’s My Car? and Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle and it’s just the craziest comedy ever that I may ever do, but we might be screwed. I produced it actually, but it might actually be NC-17. It’s really rowdy, so we might go straight-to-DVD, because in the theatres the studio’s afraid.”
However, the one the actor’s most excited about is the comedy Little Big Men, which he stars alongside Paul Rudd.
Little Big Men, which I just saw, I was blown away,” he says, “I think for the kind of commercial comedy, like studio comedy, It’s funnier than any rated R comedy I’ve done, funnier than Road Trip, Old School. It’s in the same vein as Old School, Old School’s pretty good. But it’s like a Judd Apatow feel and Jane Lynch is in it, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who’s McLovin, and Elizabeth Banks.”
“It’s just got a great feel and I kind of went back and catered to that audience that gave me a great career and tried to create a new iconic character, a wild man,” Seann continues, “He still has that Stifler feel, but very different and has got a unique voice, so we’ll see. I think it’s going to be great though.”
However, despite the ups and downs he’s experienced in his career, Seann says he has no regrets and continues to stand by the films he’s enjoyed the most doing, regardless whether they succeed or fail.
“As far as whether the movie’s good or not, no, I don’t think so,” Scott says, “I mean the movies that I like that I’ve done are the movies coming out. The movies I have done that haven’t done well, I haven’t really responded to it. That’s why clearly didn’t work.”
With that in mind, we finally asked him whether Scott did in fact “respond” to doing The Promotion.
“I love the movie,” Seann gushes, “I think I may be biased because I’m in it, but I think I’m at a point where I can actually tell when it is good or I want to believe that it’s good because I’m in it, because I’ve been often wrong. But this movie’s special.”