Jason Biggs
Jason Biggs

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By Brian Conant

For Cruise it was dancing through the house clad in sunglasses and underwear. For Cusack it was standing outside his girlfriend's house holding a blaring boom box aloft. For Jason Biggs it could be humping an apple pie.

Indeed Tom Cruise and John Cusack's stints as teenagers in the movies like "Risky Business" and "Say Anything" not only made for long cherished moments in teenage cinema, but also made them household names. Though newcomer Biggs, who stars in Universal Picture's new film "American Pie" (which opens July 9th) isn't expecting the same accolade, he does expect his role to stick with America for a while.

"When I read the script I knew I had to do this movie," said the 20-year-old actor who resides in Los Angeles. "Though most people won't be able to relate to this stuff directly, everybody had to deal with the curiosity and anxiety of virginity as a teenager. Nobody in the theater will be like, 'Ya, I remember when I humped a pie,' but most will identify with the troubles of the main characters."

The film comes from the brain trust of brothers Chris and Paul Weitz, (Chris produces, Paul directs) and follows Biggs' character Jim and three of his high school buddies as they try to make good on a pact to lose their virginity by the senior prom.

One of the many uncomfortably hilarious scenes in the film involves Jim; some scrambled cable porn, a tube sock and a surprise visit from his parents. Another gut-wrencher involves Jim, with the aforementioned tube sock replaced by an apple pie, and another surprise visit from dad.

Of course the humor doesn't just deal with Jim's untimely sense for shagging in the singular. Everything from body fluids to oral sex becomes fuel for the Weitzes' sick sense of humor.

Biggs said the role was no piece of pie.

"The challenge was trying to make Jim a character that audiences would root for, even though he did these stupid things. I don't want them to come and just say, 'Look at what this jackass is doing now,' but I wanted Jim to be a little more endearing." Biggs explained.

"It had a lot to do with contrasting the crazy things that Jim does with a real human reaction. I wanted it to seem like Jim just falls into these situations without any malice," he said.

"It was a hard, because I can only imagine what some of the situations Jim gets himself into would be like," he added.

Perhaps the most important part of his job, though, was to get the laugh, and for Biggs there was only one way to go.

"With situational comedy like this there you really just have to go over the top. The more over the top -- the more embarrassed you are -- the better."

Having a veteran comic on the set like Eugene Levy (who plays Jim's father) didn't help Biggs because, as he puts it, "It was hard to keep a straight face around him.

"Eugene is an amazing comedic genius, and he insisted we ad-lib everything. It was great to go off the page with him. I learned a lot."

The film, which has thus far generated a good deal of buzz, has also laid claim to an unavoidable comparison to the infamous Farrelly brothers 1998 blockbuster "There's Something About Mary."

Though both films rely heavily upon graphic gags and bodily secretions, "Mary" is not necessarily "Pie's" inspiration.

"It's a logical comparison to make," said Biggs but he pointed out that "Pie" began filming well before "Mary" became popular. "I'm not bothered by the comparison though - I see it as a compliment. In fact the success of "Mary" probably helped us get away with some stuff the studio might not have agreed to before.

"People will realize this is a different movie. What we are really trying to do is bring back this type of humor to teens. This is the first time in a long time that humor of this type has been offered to the teen market."

Yet if "Pie" is this year's "Mary" will Biggs be this summer's Ben Stiller?

"You know I loved him in that movie, and I know he had the same qualms about doing some of the stuff he did in that movie as I did in this one. It's just stuff you don't see every day, which is what makes it so great," he said.

Yet as excited as he is about the movie, Biggs admitted there was some hesitation to take the role, which would introduce him to the world as Jim.

The actor started his career on Broadway at the age of 13, opposite Judd Hirsch in "Conversations With My Father," and before his role in "Pie" he had also taken on several substantial television roles and garnered a Daytime Emmy nomination for his work on "As the World Turns."

Yet despite his body of work "I did wonder at first if I was going to be known to the world as 'the pie-guy' for the rest of my career," he said.

It didn't take much convincing. "I have a great management team, and they were not concerned about typecasting. They know I can do dramatic stuff, too, and I plan to. It even gives me a chance to shock the world again when they see Jason Biggs in a dramatic role."

Biggs is also able to accept that some may not be willing to see a movie with such graphic subject matter. "There is a lot of gross-out humor, and it is not going to be everybody's kind of movie. For those who don't like it or think we stepped over the line, there is not much I can say but 'I'm sorry.' But a lot of people went to see "Mary" - and a lot went to see it again. People want to be shocked."

Fans won't be the first to see "Pie" several times. The film snagged an NC-17 rating from the MPAA in four screenings before enough of the film had been edited for an R rating.

"It was fair for them to ask us to make some cuts - but the good thing is that everything is still there. We had to shave some off the sides but every joke is there," he said.

Biggs said that a majority of the editing came to a masturbation scene involving his co-star Shannon Elizabeth ("She couldn't put her [hand] 'down there.'") and to the infamous pie scene.

"They said no thrusting into the pie, which is fine, because you don't need to see the thrusting - everybody knows what's going on," he said.

Also cut were scenes with Jim actually on top of the pie, he said.

"The bottom line is what we were going for was something a little more real. A teenager's life isn't PG or even PG-13, and we wanted to capture that."

Another more salient aspect of the teen sex issue the filmmakers hoped to capture was the woman's take on the subject.

"One thing we are all very proud of is that this isn't jus a movie about guys getting laid. Basically, if anything it shows how women have the upper hand. They think they will be able to do it whenever they want, but they find out pretty quickly that it's not that easy," he said.

It's hard to watch "American Pie" and not wonder if Biggs' parents have snuck in to see the movie themselves.

"Yes my parents have seen the movie and they both really liked it." Said the star. "This is the kind of movie my dad likes and I loved doing a movie he could enjoy. My mom felt a lot better about it when she found out I wasn't going to be naked."


7/6/99