Seann William Scott on kissing Ashton Kutcher, getting knifed by the Rock and why he's entering his Villain Era
The "American Pie" star looks back on some of his signature roles including "Dude, Where's My Car?," "Role Models" and "Goon"
Lock up your cars and hide your apple pies, because Seann William Scott is officially entering his Villain Era. The American Pie star breaks bad in a big way in The Wrath of Becky, the sequel to 2020's indie hit Becky, which introduced Lulu Wilson's eponymous teen warrior. That film featured The King of Queens himself, Kevin James, going seriously against type as a Neo-Nazi, and Scott tells Yahoo Entertainment that Wrath writer/directors Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote reached out to him directly with a similar offer of a major career makeover by playing the villain on the receiving end of Becky's wrath.
"They grew up watching my movies from the early 2000s and were like, 'We'd like to see this guy in this type of role,'" Scott says. "So even though it was a very different project and a very different type of part, having directors who already believe in you is great — as opposed to the ones who are like, 'He's not really my top choice.'"
Watch our full Role Recall interview with Seann William Scott on YouTube:
Still, Scott's initial flattery about being the filmmakers's top choice soon gave way to self-doubt. "I told them, 'I'm not sure how to play this part,'" he confesses of his first reaction to his alter ego, Darryl, the leader of a Proud Boys-esque group of insurgents plotting a major terrorist incident on U.S. shores. Eventually, he found his motivation in one of Darryl's revealing monologues about his past as an ex-Army Ranger and worked with the directors to flesh out some of the ideas that were already on the page.
"I thought that we could give so much information on the character in this one scene that would create more of a threat and more intensity," Scott explains. "I told that idea to the writer/directors and they were like, 'Great, let's do it!' It was very collaborative like that."
While The Wrath of Becky is light years removed from the kinds of big-screen comedies that made Scott a star, the movie does have a strong streak of dark humor. In that way, it's just another example of how comedy has become an added ingredient to genres like superhero movies and thrillers as opposed to the main course in early aughts favorites like Dude, Where's My Car? and Old School.
"It sucks for me, because that's what I was doing," Scott says, laughing. "But it also pushes movies to evolve: The Wrath of Becky is a love letter to Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright, and has a great combination of dark comedy and stylized action. But as far as the more basic comedies that I've spent most of my career in, they're not making them that much anymore! That means I'm gonna keep fighting for parts where maybe I won't be the first choice, but it's even more fulfilling when it ends up happening."
And Scott makes it clear that he'll definitely be fighting for more villain roles after his Wrath of Becky experience. "Let's do a Villain Era!" he says, enthusiastically endorsing the idea of a #Seannaissance. "I haven't had a chance to really do stuff like this, so it's extra-fun for me. I just want to play villains now!"
Scott may be in his Villain Era now, but he's been through plenty of other eras over the course of his two decades and counting big screen career. In our latest Role Recall, we look back at his Comedy Era, Action Hero Era and... Hockey Era?
American Pie (1999)
Some might argue that Scott's Villain Era actually began when he played Great Falls High's resident sex-crazed jerk, Steve Stifler, in Paul Weitz's era-defining, franchise-launching teen comedy. But if you think Stifler is bad in the movie, you should have read the original script. "I remember him being a little less funny — more of the one-dimensional jock jerk and less of a weirdo," Scott remembers of his experience reading for the role that shot him to stardom. "I thought there was an opportunity to add some colors to the character, so I pulled characteristics from my own friends to make him the guy you really shouldn't love because he's such an a**hole. And then it evolved from there."
One of the other keys to Stifler's evolution was Scott's notion that Steve — despite his boasting — had the least amount of game with the opposite sex. "To me, he was the guy who's always talking about sex, but was the virgin of the group. He's like 'Woah, you haven't lost your virginity?' And meanwhile, he's totally inexperienced. That was my main thing, because I knew those guys."
Sure enough, Stifler evolved into one of American Pie's most popular characters and Scott reprised the role in three sequels, most recently in 2012's American Reunion. And he admits that he's eager to see where Steve might be in a modern-day landscape where the conversation around sexuality and consent have also evolved. "I love the character so much, and I miss him," Scott says. "The idea of seeing him again in his mid-40s feels like a really great opportunity for another story and a chance to comment on this guy navigating the world today. There might be a chance for that — we just have to figure out exactly what the story would be."
Dude, Where's My Car? (2000)
It takes smart actors like Scott and Ashton Kutcher to make a genuinely hilarious dumb comedy like Dude, Where's My Car? — although Scott would humbly quibble with the "smart" part. "It's very easy for me to play dumb," he says, laughing. "Ashton's a smart guy, so that was probably a bigger challenge for him! I was just like, 'I got this.'"
Seen today, Dude, Where's My Car? is like a precursor to The Hangover in the way it follows its badly-behaving heroes on a ribald quest to piece together all the wild things that happened to them the previous night. And like The Hangover, Scott says that Dude was intended to be an R-rated comedy. "The first draft of that script was so dark and awesome," he remembers. "Then they made the switch to PG-13, and the movie is still funny, but a little different."
Case in point: Scott and Kutcher's penchant for saying "Shibby!" came about because the filmmakers had to pull back on the original script's profanity in order to secure the PG-13 rating. "In the original script, we said things like, 'Dude, how f***ed up did we get last night?'" Scott reveals. "So certain language changed."
One scene that didn't change was a hilarious cameo by Fabio, who pulls up alongside Kutcher and Scott and plants a kiss on his female companion. To top the romance novel cover model, the duo lock lips themselves. "Ashton and I knew this scene was going to be super-funny, so we were like, 'We've gotta go hard — we've got to French [kiss] like animals,'" Scott says now. "But before we filmed it, we were really quiet. I remember we said 'How long do we do this for?' and they told us 'Just keep it going — get as much as you need.'"
"They yelled 'Action!' and we just go for it," he continues. "The director [Danny Leiner] intentionally waited forever to yell 'Cut.' Afterwards it was a little awkward, because I didn't want to ask Ashton, 'Was it all right for you? Was it good for you, bud?'"
Kutcher later revealed to Vanity Fair that kissing Scott was like "kissing sandpaper" due to his co-star's stubble. For the record, Scott has a kinder assessment of smooching Kutcher. "Ashton's a good kisser," he says. "I guess I'm still a little bit affected by it."
Bulletproof Monk (2003)
After a string of comedies, Scott got the chance to throw some punches in Bulletproof Monk, a martial arts fantasy based on the Image Comics title that he jokingly says both began and ended his Action Hero Era. "The movie's not great, but the experience making it sure was," Scott recalls, adding that it was another case where the darker original script changed substantially during production. "The comic book was much darker, and when I came onboard, they were like, 'Let's make it silly and comedic!' That really changed the tone of it."
Still, Scott appreciates that he had the chance to learn the art of being an action star from one of the world's biggest action heroes: Chow Yun-Fat, who parlayed his Hong Kong stardom into a run of Hollywood movies. "Unfortunately, I'm in his worst North American movie — maybe that's why he hasn't kept in touch," Scott jokes. "But he's just a class act. As far as the action goes, one of the things he was really clear about was to just do what you've got to do. Actors want to do everything, but there's a way to sell the action where you don't have to do it, and use the stunt people instead."
Bulletproof Monk was part of the first wave of comic book movies that followed the successes of X-Men, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Around the same time, Warner Bros. was plotting a new Superman movie penned by J.J. Abrams and auditioned almost every young actor in Hollywood, from Paul Walker to Brendan Fraser. Even though he was in the right age bracket, Scott says he never got the invitation to try on the Man of Steel's tights.
"I never got the call or the e-mail," he says. "Not even for a charity audition! Even my agent was smart enough to know, 'You're not Clark Kent, buddy.'" That said, Scott remembers that he did meet with a studio for one of that era's many superhero projects. "I walked into the meeting, and they were like, 'Well, it's so nice to meet you.' Meanwhile, I'm like, 'I didn't even sit down yet!'"
The Rundown (2003)
Truthfully, Bulletproof Monk didn't end Scott's Action Hero Era — a few months later, he embarked on adventure-filled trip through the Brazilian jungle alongside Dwayne Johnson in the WWE star's first solo action vehicle. And he's still got literal scars from that close encounter with the Rock.
"There was a scene where he was supposed to cut these ties that were keeping my hands tied behind my back," Scott remembers. "His prop knife was incredibly sharp and he cut my hand! It was clean, big cut and you could see inside. And Dwayne was so unaffected by it. He closed the knife and was like, 'Sliced 'em,' and then just walked away! I was like, 'That's all you got? Dude!'"
Fortunately, the wound healed along with Scott's feelings towards his stone-faced co-star. After The Rundown wrapped production, Johnson presented him with a one-of-a-kind memento as a capper to an injury he'll never forget. "He gave me the prop knife in a case with a cool description. So it's cool, man — I can be like, 'Dwayne cut me!'"
Southland Tales (2006)
No hands were sliced when Scott teamed up with the Rock again for Richard Kelly's mid-aughts oddity, Southland Tales — the follow-up to his acclaimed debut feature, Donnie Darko. But maybe that's because the two stars were spending too much time trying to figure about the movie's beyond-complicated plot. "I didn't know what it was about," Scott confesses with a laugh. "I met Richard Kelly and I just wanted to work with him. Donnie Darko was great, and he told me, 'I've got this project and there could be a really cool part for you. There's actually two parts.'"
That was the Scott's first clue that he was about to embark on an awfully strange adventure. Set in a dystopian America, Southland Tales follows a group of unlikely allies — including Johnson's ex-action hero, Sarah Michelle Gellar's porn star and Scott's double role as twin brothers — as they navigate a landscape populated by surveillance-happy government agents and neo-Marxist rebels. The film ends with the revelation that Scott's two characters may actually be the world's one true savior. Or something like that.
"I think I was Jesus!" Scott remembers. "I can't believe I continued to act after that. Once you play Jesus, where do you go from there?"
Kelly famously premiered Southland Tales at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, where the negative reaction was so intense that Universal Studios — which was originally set to release the film in the U.S. — sold it to Sony. The movie's release was delayed for a year while the director tinkered with it in the editing room. When it finally arrived in theaters on Nov. 14, 2007, reviewers and audiences weren't particularly kind. Kelly went on to direct one more studio film, 2009's The Box, but hasn't stepped behind the camera since.
Over the years, though, Southland Tales has cultivated a base of passionate fans and defenders, and Kelly has said that he'd love to return to the universe he created some 15 years ago. Despite his lingering confusion about the first movie, Scott says he'd absolutely be in for a trip back to the Southland. "That would be awesome," he enthuses. "I ended up loving that movie; it's not for everybody, but I definitely love it. That's what happens when you work with a really fascinating filmmaker. And I have a better understanding of what it's about now. There are maybe a couple of things I'm still confused about, but that's for the best. I don't want to be told exactly what's going on."
Role Models (2008)
After his detour into action movies and dystopian mind-benders, Scott entered his second Comedy Era with David Wain's hit buddy picture about a pair of manchildren who hang out with actual children after a trip to traffic court gets them sentenced to a community service gig. Those kids end up giving both guys a crash course in Live Action Role Playing or LARPing — the forum where modern-day cosplay and medieval battles meet.
"I remember thinking, 'Oh, this sucks,'" Scott says of the two-week shoot required to bring the climactic LARP battle to life. "It seemed so boring. But I was so wrong, because I saw the movie and it was awesome! All those scenes were so funny and had so much heart. It was hard to get a sense of how it was going to turn out, but then I watched it and it became one of my favorite movies."
Off-screen, Scott says that he spent much of Role Models locked in an ever-escalating prank war with his co-star, Paul Rudd, which started when the future Ant-Man hit him below the belt. "He knocked me in the nuts with a sword, hard," Scott remembers. "That was painful. But I got him back when I put a dead fish underneath his trailer. Then he got me back when he put a dirty diaper underneath my sofa! We're just class acts."
Scott's Action Hero Era and Comedy Era collided in grand fashion with Goon, a made-in-Canada hockey picture that sends him to center ice as Doug "The Thug" Glatt — a bouncer whose ability to absorb a bruising makes him the perfect enforcer. But the actor says that no bruises were sustained during the making of the movie, either by him or any of his opponents.
"I think I landed a couple of real punches by accident," he admits of the film's intense (and bloody) fisticuffs. "Those fight scenes were challenging, because we could only film the hockey stuff from midnight to six or seven in the morning. So we'd be out there skating, and then have to do fight choreography, like, 'You're gonna throw three punches and he's gonna throw four.' All while we're on skates! It all worked out and looked really good, but it was challenging to film those scenes."
Scott was actually offered two hockey projects around the time of Goon, which officially makes that period his Hockey Era. Clerks auteur Kevin Smith wanted the actor to headline Hit Somebody, inspired by the Warren Zevon song. "I'd just worked with Kevin [on Cop Out] and he told me about Hit Somebody," Scott remembers. "I was attached to Goon at that point, and they got their financing [first] so I went and did that. It was a bummer, because if I had been able to do two hockey movies, it would have been amazing."
Scott did get a second skate in with the 2017 Goon sequel, Last of the Enforcers. But he knows the puck has sailed on Hit Somebody if the always-busy Smith ever does decide to circle back to that script. "I'm sure Kevin is like, 'You're not doing Hit Somebody, buddy — you already did your hockey movie,'" Scott says, laughing. "But I hope he makes it, because the script was awesome."
Lethal Weapon (2018)
Talk about your lethally awkward situations. Scott joined the cast of Fox's Lethal Weapon reboot in the show's third season, after the original star, Clayne Crawford, was fired over allegations of bad behavior behind the scenes, including fighting with his co-star, Damon Wayans. Instead of playing Martin Riggs to Wayans's Roger Murtaugh, Scott originated the role of Wesley Cole, who joins the LAPD after a stint in the CIA.
Scott calls the experience of joining an in-progress show "weird," especially since Crawford's fans were adamant about not accepting the new guy. "I had never done a show where people hate you before they've even seen an episode," the actor says of the backlash to his casting. "It was stressful, but I understood it, too. I mean, it was a show about Riggs and Murtaugh."
"But I saw it as a great opportunity, and I tried to tune out the noise," Scott continues. "I ended up having a great experience. I remember watching the first episode [of Season 3] and going, 'Oh, we've got a chance. This is pretty fun.'"
Unfortunately, Scott's tenure was cut short when Wayans announced that he'd also be leaving the show at the end of the third year. While Lethal Weapon had survived the loss of Riggs, Fox decided that the series couldn't lose Murtaugh as well and canceled the show despite good ratings.
"Damon was done," Scott remembers of his co-star's decision. "He was exhausted. And I got it! The hours were insane — we worked like 16 hours a day. I was disappointed, because I really loved that character and hadn't had the chance to play that kind of part before. But without Damon, it's not Lethal Weapon anymore."
The Wrath of Becky premieres Friday, May 26 in theaters.