In the National Lampoon comedy Gold Diggers, Will Friedle and Chris Owen star as Cal and Lenny, a pair of small-time schemers who want the good life without having to work for it. To further their goal, the duo plots to marry a pair of elderly women, off them, and collect on their alleged life insurance policies.
In this interview, Chris Owen spoke to us about his role as Lenny. Chris is best known to audiences as "The Shermanator" from the first two American Pie films, and has also appeared in Angus, Can't Hardly Wait, and October Sky.
Gold Diggers opens in theaters September 17.
Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
August 24, 2004
RadioFree.com: Is being so easily recognized as "The Shermanator" from the American Pie series a blessing or a curse?
Chris: You know, man, throughout my life since doing American Pie, it's definitely been both. There's definitely times where it's been very nice to be the Shermanator, and people are always ready to buy a round. But then there's always the fact that even if you don't want them to buy a round, they're going to buy a round. [laughs] Even if you just feel like hanging out with your friends and relaxing.
And it might be nice to remembered for your work in October Sky instead of American Pie every once in a while, right?
Yeah, exactly. But American Pie is what's going to drive your audience, you know?
Aside from Gold Diggers, you've also appeared in two other National Lampoon movies: Van Wilder and Dorm Daze. Has Dorm Daze been released yet?
Dorm Daze actually was a very small film that they ended up purchasing, and it was a very, very limited release. It pretty much played in like maybe fourteen theaters or something like that, and they decided to throw it on DVD. Actually, it was just recently released, which is weird because I keep getting calls from friends who have watched it. And I'm like, "Why did you pick that movie up? How do you even know what it is?"
So what's your favorite movie with the National Lampoon stamp?
Oh, that's a tough one because I've always been a huge, huge fan of Animal House. But at the same time, the first Vacation films are just...Chevy Chase is just ridiculous. I really don't think I could pin it down to one, man.
How would you summarize what Gold Diggers is about?
Gold Diggers is about two guys, Cal and Lenny, who want riches and beautiful women without having to put forth any real kind of effort. So they try their different schemes, and nothing seems to work out, until they end up getting paired up with this couple of women, played by Renee Taylor and Louise Lasser, who they think are rich and live in a mansion. Cal talks my character, Lenny, into marrying them so that we can insure them and when they pass on, we can be able to enjoy their wealth. But in truth, they are penniless and actually are marrying us because they want to put insurance out on us and kill us.
And it also appears that these two women are not quite ready to kick the bucket?
No, no they're not. They are still filled with life.
What was the chemistry like between you and co-star Will Friedle?
Like I was actually saying before in another interview, when you get a film, there's always, "Man, I hope the other guy is cool, or this is going to be hell." And I couldn't have been any happier when me and Will started working. He's hilarious and incredibly grounded, and he's a great guy.
You were in an early episode of Will's TV show Boy Meets World. Did the two of you have scenes together back then?
No. When I saw that Will was doing it, I told him, "You know, I did an episode of your show." It was like first or second season. And he's like, "No way." Because my whole thing was with [Ben Savage] and not with Will.
In Gold Diggers, what differentiates your character from Will's?
The whole quest for riches and beautiful women, that really kind of falls on Will's character Cal, who is definitely the mastermind of the two idiots. My character Lenny is just looking for love. He wants to find his soul mate and live happily ever after with them.
So he's probably the one who's a little more innocent between the two?
Oh, most definitely.
What did you think was the funniest scene to shoot in this movie?
There's this one scene where we bust into the room with shotguns and we unload the shotgun into the bed, and at the same time, the women are unloading into the bed as well. And we all stop and look at each other and scream. But while we were filming that, it was later on in the night, and me and Will were definitely getting a little bit more whippy. We've got these wads of cotton in our ears because our characters don't want the shots to be too loud. And we've got these sunglasses on that they had to spray with this stuff so that it doesn't reflect. So in doing that, we can't see a damned thing out of them. And every time we bust through there with that shotgun, I always had to remind myself, "No, no, you're not enjoying this. Your character is nervous and doesn't want to do this." You know, you just get up and unload that thing, and all of a sudden I turn into Rambo.
In the final cut, does it look like a John Woo scene with all the characters pointing guns at each other?
It's funny, we're all so incompetent that we never actually get to that point. All of our scenes get right before that scene would take place, and then something goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Gold Diggers was actually shot quite a while ago?
Yeah, it was something like two years ago.
And it was screened at the CineVegas Film Festival last year?
Did you attend the screening?
No, I couldn't make it. I think I was out of town at the time.
Do you know what the audience reaction was?
I remember hearing that it was pretty well received.
Despite some positive feedback from fans, there are still critics with negative reviews...
Oh, of course.
How do you deal with the reviews from critics that are negative?
To tell you the truth, it's never really meant all that much to me. For me, it's much more the experience of making the film and having a good time and playing somebody that's different from who you are. And I'm already my worst critic. I watch myself and the entire time am just like, "What am I doing, why am I doing that?" So I've learned early on that you enjoy the good ones and you just kind of try and look past the bad ones.
Is it difficult promoting a film two years after shooting has wrapped?
It's definitely been a different experience from the other films where you have your day of PR, which is maybe a couple of months later. I'm so happy that National Lampoon actually purchased it and something's happening with it, because this thing's just become like an epic to make, you know?
Any future projects to mention?
No, pretty much the only thing I've got going on is Gold Diggers and Dear Wendy.
What's Dear Wendy about?
Dear Wendy is this dark, dramatic film that was written by this Danish writer/director, Lars von Trier, and was directed by another Danish writer/director named Thomas Vinterberg. And it's a complete 180. It's about Lars' take on Americans' fascination with firearms. And it's me and five other young actors, and we play a bunch of outsiders in a small town, and our lives all become completely altered by the fact that we start carrying firearms.
Is it a documentary?
No. Lars is doing his look at America. Like he did the film Dogville with Nicole Kidman. I bevlieve he's never even been to America. It's just his take on us.
So an outsider's perspective on American culture?
Was it nice to get a chance to play a dark, dramatic role that was completely different from anything you've previously done?
Oh, yeah, man. You have no idea how stoked I was when I found out that I was going to be doing that film. I was really starved for some drama.
Many actors who have done a lot of comedy want to do drama, and vice versa.
Exactly. It's that "grass is always greener" thing going on.
Chris, thanks for your time.
No problem, man.