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CNN International




Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow

Chris and Paul Weitz


(CNN) -- Chris and Paul Weitz may sound familiar to you if you are an ardent movie buff. They penned the animated "Antz" (1998), and they also directed and produced the 1999 hit teen romp "American Pie."

If you follow fashion closely, they may sound familiar to you as the sons of hot 60's designer John Wietz and actress Susan Kohner.

Now, the siblings are also tackling acting, as co-stars in the Sundance Film Festival favorite, "Chuck and Buck." But they aren't giving up their day jobs as writer/directors.

They co-wrote "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," the sequel to the first "Professor" movie starring Eddie Murphy, and are helming a remake of "Heaven Can Wait," this time starring Chris Rock.

In addition, they are cooks, and have another project in development -- this one set in the CIA (not that CIA; this is the Culinary Institute of America).

Showbiz Today Correspondent Lori Blackman talks (and makes sushi) with writers/directors Chris and Paul Weitz

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(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

The favorite meals are Japanese, which is why CNN took them to a Manhattan sushi restaurant to see if their culinary skills are as top-notch as their creative ones.

CNN: You have already written a few films, you have acted in your first one, and you are working on your second directorial film right now. Correct?

Both: Yeah.

CNN: Let's go back first to "Antz." Was that your first big film that you worked on?

Chris Weitz: Right, we've done rewrites and script doctoring on other films before that, but this is the first one we got screen credit for. And it really kind of launched us in a way -- in part because it was such an eccentric film, you know? Its a computer-generated movie about ants -- about Woody Allen, who is the main voice.

CNN: You guys are siblings, and very rarely do you see siblings working so close together.

Paul Weitz: Yeah, somehow when we started working together, things started to click and we started to get employed.

Chris: Yeah, we're basically completely unemployable without each other, so the only way to survive was to team up, and ... the two of us just about make up one person.

CNN: You're totally stuck together.

Chris: Pretty much.

CNN: Post-"Antz," the next project that would come your way -- after a children's film, essentially -- would be "American Pie."

Paul: Yeah, well initially when we were talking with the studio about how we directed, we'd say, "Oh you'll never see any of these things, its all going to be implied because it will be funnier if it's implied. Then we find ourselves on the day actually you know, uh, asking Jason (Biggs), you know, telling Jason, you know "Here's the pie," and the (assistant director) would call out, "Start humping" so ... it ended up being a lot more literal than we thought we would be.

Chris: Yeah, I think because it was essentially a good-natured film we got away with a lot of the edginess which otherwise would be kind of unredeemable.

Paul: It was fun to sort of examine to what degree we were comfortable with sex and whether that was a really taboo subject or not -- which obviously it is -- so that was the first reaction to it.

Chris: You mean we as a country, not you and I.

Paul: Yeah.

CNN: So were you guys surprised at all by the reaction that "American Pie" had?

Paul: We were definitely shocked at how well the movie did. We weren't expecting it to do that well. The film cost 11 million bucks and ... when we were making it, we thought, "Well if it made 20 (million) that would be incredible."

CNN: Your lives have changed professionally, just judging from the projects that you have lined up after that. You're directing a remake of "Heaven Can Wait."

Both: It's called "Down To Earth."

Paul: Yeah, and it was intimidating at first, working with Chris Rock and with Chazz Palminteri and some of the other actors in it. (L)ike with "American Pie," it was all these teenagers who hadn't been in a film before.

Chris: That we could kind of push around. ... Because we're in our 20s, we're ancient; we're like father figures to them.

CNN: I didn't know you were actors. You two star in the new movie "Chuck and Buck."

Paul: We didn't know we were actors either but ..

Chris: Yeah, it's a movie about quite strange, oddball characters who find themselves in strange predicaments in their lives, so...

Paul: My character was sort of this mysoginistic imbecile, who is an incredible bad actor who fancies himself a star. I was supposed to do a dialect from a certain part of New Jersey, and Jason Biggs, who starred in "American Pie," was my dialect coach -- because he is from New Jersey. And so I would work on the script with him, and I taped him doing the part and stuff, and would listen to it in the car.

Chris: Yeah. I play an extremely repressed but successful person who has to kind of come face to face with his dark past. It kind of plays itself out like a mystery. I mean, we're talking like "The Crying Game." ... I play a guy who is essentially stalked by an old childhood friend. Its kind of a stalker comedy.

CNN: So, that's how you categorize it, a stalker comedy? Kind of like a dramatic comedy?

Chris: Yeah, a stalker dramedy -- a new genre we invented.

CNN: In addition to "Chuck and Buck," you also co-wrote the Nutty Professor sequel -- "The Klumps."

Chris: Yeah, that was a great opportunity, too. We got to write for Woody Allen (in "Antz"), and now for Eddie Murphy. We get to write for these great wonderful voices and wonderful comic actors. He (Murphy) is just so amazing in the ability he has to assume so many different personas within one film.

Chris: You know, I'd like to have a foot in the kind of mainstream Hollywood world, and a foot in the independent world, and hope that they don't grow so far apart that --

Paul: You rip in half.

Chris: -- my crotch begins to rip or something. The metaphor is not working for me ...

CNN: And on top of this, the WB has picked up one of your shows for 13 episodes -- sight unseen. You haven't even written it yet.

Paul: We are working on a computer program that you'll hit a button and will automatically generate the 13 episodes.

CNN: You both currently live in Los Angeles, but you grew up in New York -- sons to a very popular designer in the 60's, John Weitz, and your mother, Susan Kohner, who was an Oscar-nominated actress.

Chris: Yeah, we were just talking about that today. She got beaten out by Shelly Winters for the Oscar.

CNN: But when you first kind of went into this and started doing "American Pie," your father kept saying, you know, Merchant Ivory (production company) is looking for some decent writers.

Paul: Yeah. He thought it was a disaster. He kept saying, "Well, doesn't Merchant Ivory need someone to write their films?"

CNN: Instead, you guys did "American Pie."

Chris: Yeah, we did "American Pie" instead of "Howard's End II" or whatever it may have been. But our dad is proud of us anyway.

Paul: We try to bring the Merchant Ivory tone to any sex film that we do, though.

Current crop of guy flicks trades action for emotion
July 25, 2000

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