Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics


Reconnecting with Harold, Hold the Kumar

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a 3D film. This might have to do with a childhood trauma of mine: the last 3D film I saw was Michael Jackson’s Captain Eo at Disneyland back in the ’80s. The sight of mutant chickens, the hissing, tentacled Supreme Leader, and Michael’s whispery voice were enough to make me to tear the glasses off my 6-year-old face. Still finding it unnerving sans glasses (and seeing that everyone else I came with was enjoying it -- infidels), I sat with my eyes closed until it ended.

So suffice to say, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas was a great way to get back on the 3D horse. The glasses stayed on. Puffs of smoke, a wreath, Bobby Lee’s pointer finger, a burning Christmas tree -- all pleasant. 3D elements aside, the film is absurd, heartwarming, and offers us more of our favorite Asian American odd coupling. Hyphen got a 1 for 2 deal and caught up with John Cho over the weekend. Kal, give us a smoke ring!

I read that the second film was more of a collaborative process than the first. Was that true for this one?

I think it continued that spirit. We don’t typically get into the big stuff. Kal and I are more concerned with making the dialogue work -- “Does that make sense from what he says there and they go there.” [Laughs] People would be saddened to know how seriously we took this ridiculous comedy.

Your favorite improv line to make it into the film?

“I shot Santa in the face. He’s real and I shot him in the face.”

What do you think of the back history of Korean punks killing the mother of Harold’s father-in-law (played by Danny Trejo)?

Oh, I thought that was so fucking hilarious when I read that. I’m curious to know what you think as a Korean.

I thought it was probably the worst thing you could possibly do to such a scary man.

[Laughs.]

The styling of your gangster characters actually kind of reminded me of the film West 32nd.

Oh, interesting. I went through Old Boy and did screengrabs. I emailed them to the director so that the costume department could get ready. I wanted to have that kind of look to it, but I thought it was the most ridiculous thing of all time that a gang of Korean punks killed his mother.

In a past interview with Oliver Wang, you said that you’ve always thought of performance as a political act. After the success of the first two films, with the third one does it feel less political?

Yes and it should, but it’s a genre picture and we really intended to make an honest to goodness Christmas movie and I think we have. In a way it was radical to not talk about race and to do a traditional movie.

I was remembering with Kal when we started this press tour how we were constantly talking about race in our first tour (and again, that was due to the movie being obsessed with it as well), but I was speculating that the aftermath of the first movie was we had to justify our presence on the screen, our coupling, and it was working out the issues. 

Now we’re not talking about it as much and it’s very interesting. I’m glad of it, not that it was such a pain to talk about it, but I’m glad it’s not coming up. It’s so fascinating to me.

Have you seen the film Withnail and I?

Withnail and I? No.

It’s this British comedy about a pair of friends who are unemployed actors, one’s very neurotic, the other one’s very loose. There’s a scene with a huge doobie and it’s called the Camberwell Carrot so I was wondering if the mysterious spliff in HK3D was a reference to it.

I have heard of it, but I haven’t seen it, but having said that, it’s an odd couple thing that we do and it’s just a formula that works. We dress it up and what’s new is it’s a Korean and an Indian guy and I feel like we’ve duped people into thinking we’re fresh, but really it’s just something you’ve been seeing for years and it works for a reason. Odd couple friendships speak to people.

I recently heard that Kal is developing a new TV show. Since you were an English Lit major at Berkeley I was wondering if you were interested in doing some writing of your own?

This past year I’ve taken an interest in developing something. I’ve tried writing on my own and I find dialogue the hardest thing to write, I don’t know why, it should be the easiest thing as an actor.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve been working with a cool writer and we have been hammering out an idea for a television show. I’ve long wanted to do a story about my parents’ generation, all of whom have such interesting stories of risk, such dramatic tales and I feel, to be morbid about it, they’re dying and I want to capture something about that generation.

In the film Harold and Kumar reconnect after two years. Who in your life would you most like to reconnect with?

Good question. You know I have a buddy from college who I had a falling out with. We haven’t spoken in many years and we should probably talk at some point.

It’s weird that I revealed that to you.

And to end, what’s the best way to get altered during the holidays?

I prefer wine, myself.


A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas opens in theaters today.

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