Our Very Awkward Interview with Jon Lucas, Writer and Director of 21 and Over
(Publisher's Note: I met with Mr. Lucas at a hotel bar to discuss his latest movie, 21 and Over. His co-writer and director, Scott Moore, had originally planned to participate in the interview, as well. Unfortunately, before we began the interview, he was called away to attend to a personal matter).
Pajiba: Good afternoon, Mr. Lucas. Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me.
Jon Lucas: Of course. It's my pleasure, and please call me Jon.
Pajiba: Thanks, Jon. You and your writing partner, Scott Moore, shot to fame a few years ago with your screenplay for The Hangover. I was a big fan, as were most people, I imagine, since it made nearly $300 million.
Lucas: Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.
Pajiba: I've always wanted to ask something, though. I also saw The Hangover II, and no offense or anything, but I didn't really care for it.
Lucas: Oh, well. We didn't actually work on the sequel.
Pajiba: Yeah, that's the weird thing. The guys that came in and wrote the sequel basically duplicated every element of the original. It was virtually the same movie, only it was set in a different country. Did that bother you?
Lucas: Well, you know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that. But yes, it was a strange experience when I finally sat down and watched it. It felt very familiar, didn't it?
Pajiba: Yes! To say the least. Could I ask why you weren't asked back to write the sequel.
Lucas: That was actually mine and Scott's choice. We felt like that was terrain we'd already covered, and we weren't really interested in repeating ourselves.
Pajiba: Right. I totally understand and appreciate that, especially because after the success of The Hangover, there were a lot of copycats movies. For a couple of years there, it was like, "It's the Female Hangover" or "The Hangover for a new generation," or "The Hangover for pet lovers." Was that annoying or satisfying?
Lucas: It's too bad writers aren't paid royalties for marketing taglines, right?
Pajiba: Right! You guys would've been obscenely wealthy!
Lucas: (laughs) But you know, like I said, it was really important for Scott and I to move on to other stories. We felt like we explored that story and we were ready to move on to newer, original ideas. We didn't want to spend the rest of our careers writing The Hangover sequels.
Pajiba: Sure, sure. Totally! Let's talk about your new movie, which opens in theaters today. 21 and Over is about three college friends who get completely wasted and can't find their way back home the night before one of the kid's interview for medical school.
Pajiba: Does that premise sound oddly familiar to you?
Lucas: What do you mean?
Pajiba: Well, I mean. Like, The Hangover was about three friends who got completely wasted and couldn't find their friend the night before his wedding.
Lucas: I don't follow.
Pajiba: Not to point out the obvious or anything, but 21 and Over sounds awfully similar in premise to The Hangover.
Lucas: No. I don't think so. 21 and Over is set on a college campus. The Hangover was set in Las Vegas.
Pajiba: Well, yeah. I mean, the settings were different, but the overall structure of the stories were the same.
Lucas: Well, that's true of a lot of films. I mean, how's that saying go? Every story can be reduced to one of six general plotlines: Cinderella, Achilles, Faust, Romeo & Juliet, Orpheus and Road Trip.
Pajiba: Yeah, I guess. I mean, it's just that you had spoken before about wanting to tackle new terrain after The Hangover, and, well, they were ... it was kind of the same terrain.
Lucas: Not really. These were college kids. Those were adults. They're two completely separate age groups. I mean, there was a baby in The Hangover.
Pajiba: Yes, true. There wasn't a baby in 21 and Over, but Jeff Chang was passed out and helpless for most of the movie, so he kind of fulfilled the same purpose, you know, minus the front pack.
Lucas: I guess I could see where you're coming from, but I don't think that's what we were doing. They're completely different animals. Different settings. Different age groups. Different actors. Did you see the movie?
Pajiba: Yes! In fact, I'm generally fairly vulnerable to these types of films. I'm easily swept up in them. The alt-pop music. The drinking. College kids making asses of themselves. You know, give up your whole boring career and do what you really love kind of film! I threw away my law school education to write about movies, so I'm very susceptible to the charms of these teenage slash college films slash finding your true calling kind of films.
Lucas: That's great. I'm glad you liked it.
Pajiba: Oh, sorry. No. I actually didn't like this particular film. I like the milieu in general, but 21 and Over didn't do it for me, no offense.
Lucas: None taken. I mean, you're not really the target demo or anything.
Pajiba: No, I suppose you're right. This movie is for, like, drunk college kids looking for an escape on a Saturday night, right?
Lucas: (awkwardly) Yeah. I guess. Sure.
Paiba: Jon. You went to Yale, right?
Lucas: I did. How is that relevant?
Pajiba: Well, I was just wondering if you feel it's a good use of your Ivy League education to write movies targeted at drunk college kids?
Lucas: (showing obvious irritation) That's a dumb question. Let me ask you, Dustin, where did you go to law school.
Pajiba: Boston University.
Lucas: Do you think it's a good use of your education to post pictures of Jennifer Lawrence all over your blog and harass movie directors?
Pajiba: Touché. I apologize. I'm being rude, aren't I?
Lucas: It's fine.
Pajiba. Let's get back to 21 and Over. I did want to say that I really like the two leads in the film. Skylar Astin -- the kid from Pitch Perfect is charming -- and Miles Teller has a real Vince Vaughn thing going on there. They had great timing and chemistry together. It's a shame they didn't have a better script to work with because I actually think they're gifted.
Lucas: You know what? I think it's time we wrapped up here.
Pajiba: But you haven't finished your beer yet.
Lucas: I'm all set.
Pajiba: One last question.
Lucas (sighs) OK. Shoot.
Pajiba: Can I just ask what you and Scott Moore are working on next.
Lucas: Actually, we just finished a script and we're shopping it around now.
Pajiba: Really? What's it about?
Lucas: It's a comedy. It's about three lifelong friends, senior citizens actually, who get sprung out of the old folks home, get completely trashed, and then spend the night searching for ... (stops. Considers what he's saying). You know what? I think we're done here.
Pajiba: OK. Sure. Thanks for your time! Good luck with your movie.