Whatever else he achieves in his acting career 27 year old Jason Biggs will go down in screen history as the man who engaged in an unnatural act with pastry product in American Pie. Two subsequent sequels subjected him to more embarrassment, and box office success, but he has continued to ring the changes in other roles. He starred opposite Woody Allen in Say Anything, and with Christina Ricci on Prozac Nation; played the title role in Loser and was directed by Kevin Smith on Jersey Girl.
In Guy X, Saul (Late Night Shopping) Metzstein's new film, Biggs plays Rudy Spruance, a victim of mistaken identity deposited on the God forsaken Qangattarsa American army base in Greenland, in the bleak winter of 1979, rather than the lush Hawaiian posting he had been expecting. Forced to stay, he learns the strange rituals of the place and begins to get an idea of the secrets that lie at the heart of the base and the man who runs it.
A Gent Although it is set in a very specific time and place, Guy X deals in universal themes doesn't it?
Jason Biggs It's about an ordinary guy in this very extraordinary place. The location is such a huge part of this movie, this base in Greenland. The weather becomes a huge factor, and it was kind of funny to watch it play such a huge part in the film. It's like another character almost. The challenge for me was keeping Rudy grounded and identifiable because you need to take this journey with him.
AG Did his sympathetic side shine through in the script, or is that something you brought to it?
JB It was definitely on the page, although - this is going to sound immodest - I think there's an inherent sympathetic quality to me, or at least the characters I've played up to this point. And maybe that's why there's this sympathy right off the bat, because I have played characters like that in the past. I'm used to doing comedies that are broader, going for the joke, but here I couldn't do that. I had to be disciplined about keeping the performance subtle and that's what I loved about the script. I just hope that I did it justice.
AG Can you define the difference between this and one of those broader comedies?
JB It's tough to put your finger on it. I come from the theatre world, so I'm used to performing for the last row, and in a lot of the film work that I've done I was still able to play things up a bit because the role required it of me. Here I had to be reined in a little bit more. I tried to be conscious of it, I talked to Saul Metzstein, the director, about it and at times I felt like I was not giving enough. I'm my own worst critic and I felt like I wasn't giving Saul what he wanted. He reminded me that the camera would pick up all that stuff, even those minor adjustments, whether they are physical things, line deliveries or a reaction - it's going to be picked up by the camera. I tend to forget that when I'm performing on stage, or 'having sexual relations' with a pie.
AG You're working with a great cast here, do scenes with someone like Michael Ironside - the Guy X of the title - inevitably raise the stakes for you as an actor?
JB Absolutely. And similarly in scenes with Jeremy Northam who is also a very intense actor. And Natascha McElhone. These are amazing people I'm getting to work with in this film, so you've got to step it up when you're around them. And in terms of keeping it realistic, when you're working opposite someone like Michael Ironside, he just exudes this intensity and this realism that contagious. He just sort of takes over, and you follow him along.
AG Ironside is Canadian, and Northam and McElhone are British, so as one of the few Americans here were you the "conscience" of the film, helping to keep it real?
JB Yes and no. There were certainly conversations that we had, I was a bit of a sounding board. But the thing is I probably only know as much if not less about that era, and the American military in general, as the British members of the cast. And of course Saul did his research, and being a Scotsman it didn't hinder his ability to direct what some people call an American film. I don't even think it is an American film, it's a great story about these people who could be from anywhere.
AG But there are moments, like when Jeremy's character wields a baseball bat, that a non-American would do less instinctively aren't there?
JB Actually that was really funny, Jeremy kept wanting to use it like a cricket bat. In the movie it's him who's giving me the lesson in how to stand but right before we shot that scene I was actually showing him how to position me for the proper stance. He was a bit nervous about the baseball stuff but I think he pulled it off quite credibly.
AG How do you feel now about your feathery co-stars, the puffins?
JB They bite, man, they really bite. For the one or two scenes where we had real puffins walking around we had a puffin wrangler who, after each take, would go and run after them. I'd join in, because we were losing time, but if you caught one or two you'd have to wear gloves because they clamp right down with their beaks and they really hurt.
AG Was one of the appealing things about the film political parallels between the upheaval of the mid to late 70s and the world as it is now?
JB That was part of what attracted me to the script, that apart from it being set in 1979 I feel like it's kind of a contemporary piece. And it's certainly timely given the state of political affairs in the world. So I was attracted to the script because of the political nature of it. I'm a relatively diplomatic person, I have my convictions but I'm not very outspoken about them. For me it's ultimately more about the character and this great story we tell than it is about me saying 'I'm an anti war actor and this is why I did this film!'. I happened to enjoy this story, I thought it was compelling and a great role for me to do. That being said I like that there is this edge to it, I think it's cool.
AG How did you feel about working in Iceland, which was doubling in the film for Greenland?
JB It's an amazing place. The landscape is amazing and diverse, you've got the lava fields, the mountains and the fields, snow capped glaciers - you've got it all. It's just so beautiful.
AG And cold?
JB The craziest thing about the weather, the thing that got to me was that it was inconsistent. Amazingly inconsistent. One minute the sun would be out and it would warm up and feel like spring. And then in a moment clouds would roll in and the winds would pick up and it was freezing. The winds were really the craziest thing, but it was beautiful still, and an amazing experience. And the people are wonderful too. It was cool. I'd go back in a heartbeat.