Although sex comedies and coming-of-age films have been around since the early days of cinema, “American Pie” set a new standard for the way that modern movies approach the genre. Written by Adam Herz, the series largely follows the adventures of Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) from naive teenagers to adults struggling to cope with the pressures of growing up.Following its debut in 1999, “American Pie” spawned three more films, as well as a series of spinoffs in the form of “American Pie Presents” that feature separate stories and entirely new characters. For people of a certain age, the series is fondly remembered and has provided plenty of laughs down the years.
Yet, the story of how this low-budget film became a comedy phenomenon that inspired countless knock-offs is just as interesting as the plots in the movies. Here are some fascinating things about “American Pie” and its sequels that you probably didn’t know.
The original script was written and sold within six weeks
Kevin, Jim, and Stifler standing togetherUniversal Pictures
Before “American Pie” became a huge success, screenwriter Adam Herz was unknown within the movie industry. In fact, he was a production assistant working in Los Angeles when he began work on the script that would eventually become the 1999 movie. According to Screen Writers Utopia, Herz first started writing the script for the film while on a skiing holiday at the start of 1998. Just six weeks later, he had completed the screenplay and was ready to begin shopping it around to movie studios.
The script was sold for a reported $650,000, a decent amount for a first-time writer who had only worked on the project for less than two months in total (via Trulia). Shooting for the film commenced in July, a mere six months after Herz began writing the script, which was picked up by Universal Pictures after a bidding war. Movieline reported that the studio also agreed to pay another $100,000 when the film was completed and chose Chris and Paul Weitz to direct.
“American Pie” launched Herz’s career and he went on to serve as a writer or producer on a number of sequels, having previously created the short-lived NBC sitcom, “Go Fish,” and later producing films like “My Best Friend’s Girl” (which also starred Biggs) and 2019 animation, “Wonder Park.”
The film was originally called Great Falls
Kevin, Jim and Oz talkingUniversal Pictures/YouTube
When Adam Herz first began shopping around his teenage comedy film at movie studios, it had a very different name. According to Movieline, when it landed on the desks of executives in Hollywood, it went by the name “Unfitted Teenage Sex Comedy Which Can Be Made for Under $10 Million That Studio Readers Will Most Likely Hate but I Think You Will Love.” Of course, that was mainly to grab the attention of the decision-makers rather than a genuine attempt at a name for the film.
During production, “American Pie” actually went by the name “Great Falls.” This would have been an appropriate name in many ways as the action takes place in the fictional town of East Great Falls and the school the main characters attend is called East Great Falls High — locations based on Herz’s own hometown of East Grand Rapids (via Screenrant).
In an interview with DVD Talk, Seann William Scott said that the reason for the change was due to test screenings where audience members had reacted negatively to the name. In the same chat, Chuck Sherman actor Chris Owen explained that the filmmakers had wanted “American Pie” as the name for some time but had been repeatedly turned down by Universal Pictures until late in production.
Universal sold the foreign film rights, losing millions in the process
Finch looking worriedUniversal Pictures
Regardless of what you think of “American Pie,” there is no denying that it was a very successful movie. According to Box Office Mojo, it had an opening weekend of almost $19 million and a domestic gross of over $100 million. It performed even better when you consider the international box office receipts, which were in excess of $130 million. In total, “American Pie” grossed over $235 million, a great result for a movie that only cost $11 million to make.
Unfortunately, at least for Universal Pictures anyway, the studio didn’t see all of that money. That’s because someone at the company decided to sell the international rights to the film before it hit cinemas in 1999 (via the Los Angeles Times). The decision was criticized at the time, largely because many had suggested it could be a surprise hit and because its small budget meant the movie was not much of a risk.
By 2000, it was clear that this decision had been a big mistake and the studio ended up losing out on tens of millions of dollars. Universal Pictures received just $5 million in exchange for the international rights to “American Pie,” a decision that it wouldn’t repeat for the sequel.
Seann William Scott was paid just $8,000 for the first film
Stifler standing in front of lockersUniversal Pictures
Almost all of the cast in “American Pie” was relatively unknown actors at the time, including Seann William Scott, who scored his big break with the film. Before that, he had only appeared briefly in television projects such as “Unhappily Ever After” and “Born Into Exile” along with work in a number of commercials. That meant that he wasn’t in a strong position when it came to negotiating his pay, although he was probably just grateful for the opportunity to appear in a Hollywood movie.
Yet, readers may still be surprised to learn just how little Scott was paid for his work on “American Pie.” During an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show” in 2022, the actor revealed that his pay for the movie was just $8,000. Without knowing what the rest of the cast was paid, it is impossible to tell how low this figure really is. But contrast it with the $5 million he received for “American Reunion” in 2011, in addition to a share of profits (via The Hollywood Reporter), he more than made up for it. In fact, only Jason Biggs earned as much as him, with Alyson Hannigan and Eugene Levy paid just $3 million for their roles in the fourth film.
Porky’s and Bachelor Party were major influences
Characters in Porky’s standing outside school20th Century Fox
While “American Pie” has an undeniable place in the history of teen comedies, it is far from the first film of its type. Long before hit cinema screens, audiences had been able to see the likes of “Risky Business” and “The Last American Virgin,” and before that, “National Lampoon’s Animal House” set the tone for raunchy teen comedies that would follow in the late 1970s and 1980s. Meanwhile, “There’s Something About Mary” demonstrated that there was still an appetite for this type of comedy just a year before the release of “American Pie.”
Two films that were particularly influential to Adam Herz when he was writing “American Pie” were “Porky’s” and “Bachelor Party.” The first of these is a Bob Clark film that shares a similar premise of teenage boys trying to lose their virginity, although the events that take place are widely different. Meanwhile, “Bachelor Party” is a 1984 film that starred Tom Hanks as a groom whose friends throw him a sex-fuelled bachelor party in celebration of his upcoming marriage. The writer told Movieline: “I went back to “Porky’s” over and over and studied “Bachelor Party” beat by beat to see how the jokes worked.”
Chris Klein has said he wasn’t asked to appear in American Pie: The Wedding
Oz smilingUniversal Pictures/YouTube
Although all of the main cast returned for “American Pie 2” in 2001 and went on to reprise their roles in the 2012 film “American Reunion,” that wasn’t the case for “American Wedding.” There were some notable absences in the 2003 film, including Chris Klein’s Oz and Chris Owen’s Sherman, along with Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, and Natasha Lyonne. While many of these characters are understandably not part of the story, the fact that Oz doesn’t appear is strange considering how close he is with Jim.
Many people had assumed that Klein had simply decided not to take part in the film but the truth is far more complicated than that. Speaking to The Huffington Post in 2012, he confirmed that it was not his decision to miss “American Wedding,” although didn’t elaborate why he was excluded, saying: “Unfortunately, that was a creative decision made way above my pay grade, my man.”
The pie scene had to be edited to land an R-rating
The apple pie on a kitchen counterUniversal Pictures
Arguably the most memorable scene from “American Pie” is between Jim and the apple pie in his kitchen. Unfortunately, the character is caught when his parents come home while he is in the middle of the sordid event and is in a hugely compromising position. It’s likely one of the first things that come to mind when fans think of the film.
It turns out, though, that this scene was a little too much for the MPAA, which decided to give the film a rating of NC-17 (via Entertainment Weekly). This would have been a major problem for the studio as it would mean only those over the age of 17 could see the film. According to Blu-Ray.com, the producers and directors were determined to get an R-rating to ensure that it was as realistic as possible to how teenagers talk and behave in high school.
To achieve that goal, Jason Biggs revealed in an episode of Justin Long’s “Life is Short” podcast that the MPAA was not sure how they should deal with the pie scene. A compromise was eventually reached and the filmmakers agreed to reduce the total number of thrusts that Jim performs in the final edit.
Originally, there was no infamous pie scene in the movie
Jim and Noah sitting next to the pieUniversal Pictures
While the apple pie scene in “American Pie” might have caused some issues when it came to getting that much-desired R-rating from the MPAA, it wasn’t originally intended to be part of the movie. In an interview with the New York Times, Adam Herz explained how the act was completely missing from the draft of the script that was sold to Universal Pictures. It was eventually inserted into the script after a line about sexual intercourse feeling like “warm apple pie.”
Once the pie scene was in the movie, how it would be filmed posed a major question to the filmmakers. Producer Chris Moore explained that it was a major conversation within the crew about what the pie would look like following such an act, while Biggs revealed how they shot multiple versions of the scene, including one with him on a counter mounting the pie that was later in the unrated version released on home media.
Most of the cast have had little success outside of the series
Vicky talkingUniversal Pictures
The “American Pie” series helped make household names of much of the cast, including the likes of Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, and Natasha Lyonne. But most of the actors who took part in the series have failed to make much of a career outside of the teen comedy franchise. Even Biggs spent years without any other successful roles and only began to turn his career around after landing a role as part of the main cast of “Orange is the New Black.”
Chris Klein has done very little until his role in “The Flash” as the villain Cicada and a member of the cast “Sweet Magnolias,” Thomas Ian Nicholas has mainly had minor roles outside of the film “Adverse” with Mickey Rourke and Sean Astin, Eddie Kaye Thomas landed a role in “Harold & Kumar” and has appeared in “Off Centre,” and Tara Reid starred in all six “Sharknado” films.
Scott and Hannigan have arguably had the most success outside of “American Pie.” Scott features in the Fox series, “Welcome to Flatch” — considered one of the best network TV shows of 2022 — while Hannigan has starred in some of TV’s most beloved shows, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
The studio wanted Jonathan Taylor Thomas to play Jim
Jim looking confused in his bedroomUniversal Pictures
It would be hard to imagine anyone else playing Jim in “American Pie” other than Jason Biggs as he embodies the character with his combination of charm, naivety, and downright silliness. But Biggs was not the first choice for Universal Pictures. Speaking to the New York Times, the actor revealed how he was excited to get the lead part as when he first read the script he would have been willing to portray any of the characters.
After auditioning, he found out that the directors wanted him for the part and he was their first choice for the role. However, the studio had other ideas and wanted someone who was potentially more well-known than Biggs to help give the film a bit of star power. The actor went on to say: “The name that I was hearing the most at the time was Jonathan Taylor Thomas.” Thomas was best known for his role on the sitcom “Home Improvement” and for voicing Simba in “The Lion King.” Biggs eventually got the part, although he had to wait a month before getting confirmation.
Thomas was not the only actor that almost had a role in “American Pie.” According to Ze Catalist, Bill Murray was proposed to take on the role of Jim’s dad, otherwise known as Noah Levenstein. Ultimately, the part went to Eugene Levy, who at the time was best known for his work in the Canadian television sketch comedy series, “SCTV.”
Eugene Levy improvised much of his material
Noah talking to Jim in his bedroomUniversal Pictures
Out of all the characters in “American Pie,” Noah Levenstein is perhaps the most wholesome and relatable. Portrayed by Eugene Levy, the character has gone on to become synonymous with the franchise, appearing in eight films in total. These include direct-to-DVD standalone films such as “American Pie Presents: The Book of Love” and “American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile.”
What fans know as the geeky dad figure was very different from his original form. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Levy explained how the character “had a little bit of an edge” and a “little nudge-nudge, wink-wink with the son.” The actor revealed that Noah was trying to be more of a friend to Jim than a dad. Speaking to the New York Times, the directors agreed to make some changes to stop Levy from walking away from the movie and even allowed him to improvise many of his lines. This changed the character from a creepy figure to a more out-of-date father.
Blink-182 make a brief cameo in the first film
Blink-182 watching the computerUniversal Pictures
The “American Pie” series is known for a lot of things, but one of the most notable is its alternative and punk-focused soundtrack. Songs from the likes of Third Eye Blind, Sugar Ray, Goldfinger, and even blink-182 all contributed to the soundtrack. This was a trend that continued into the sequels, with Sum 41, Alien Ant Farm, Green Day, and 3 Doors Down all having tracks in “American Pie 2.”
Blink-182’s involvement in the first film was not just for the music. The band also appeared as actors in the scene when Jim and Nadia are being secretly filmed via a webcam. The group portrays a band watching the stream in their bedroom. In a rather unfortunate mistake, in the credits for the film, the members of the band are not credited correctly. Drummer Travis Barker was instead credited as Scott Raynor, the band’s previous drummer before he was replaced by Barker in 1998.
Jason Biggs’ body double was fired
Jim sitting topless on his bedUniversal Pictures
Any production with sex scenes is likely to feature body doubles. This not only allows directors to get extra footage but gives the actors some privacy and the opportunity to avoid the embarrassment of appearing nude on set. That wasn’t the case for Jason Biggs, though, who was forced to perform his own sex scenes in “American Pie” due to a specific set of circumstances that most fans will be completely unaware of.
Speaking to Bullett Media, director Paul Weitz explained that they had hired a body double for the moment when Jim and Michelle sleep together at the end of the film. When the body double showed up to shoot the scene and took off his clothes it became clear that he had a deep scar across his stomach. This 8-inch scar was obviously not on Jim’s body earlier in the film, posing a continuity issue. To solve the issue, Biggs ended up doing the scene and the body double was let go.
A fifth film could happen
Jim, Oz, Kevin and Finch toastUniversal Pictures/YouTube
Following the success of “American Pie,” Universal Pictures quickly greenlit a sequel, and over the next decade or so, there were many more films in the franchise. Now there are now nine entries in the franchise, including the most recent film “American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules,” which was released in 2020. Before that, the last release in the series was the 2012 film “American Reunion.”
Per The Hollywood Reporter, plans for a fifth film in the mainline continuity were first proposed in 2012 after the success of “American Reunion.” Since then, there have been various reports about the progress of any new film. Seann William Scott was doubtful that “American Pie 5” would be made in 2017 (via Forbes), although Tara Reid suggested that a script had been written when she spoke to Entertainment Tonight in 2021.
In 2013, director Paul Weitz said that he believed that “American Pie 5” would eventually be made but there has been no news about a possible sequel other than a report by The Hollywood Reporter in 2022 that indicated Universal Pictures was looking to have a fresh take on the series. The article stated that Sujata Day would helm the new project that she pitched.