We all know and love Jason Biggs as the, ahem, sexually adventurous Jim from the "American Pie" franchise ... and he's okay with that. After all, Jim will probably go down in celluloid history as one of the most iconic virgins ever.
That said, however, if there was ever any doubt that there's more to Biggs than Jim, his new dramedy, "Grassroots," will put those fears to rest. Biggs plays Phil Campbell, a recently-fired journalist who agrees to help his quirky friend Grant Cogswell (Joel David Moore) campaign for a seat in the Seattle City Council. There's picketing. There's the FBI lurking. There's even a giant polar bear suit. Oh, and this tale happens to be (mostly) true.
We sat down with Biggs to talk about this departure from "American Pie" and whether he thinks that part of his life has really, finally been put to bed.
"Grassroots" is very different than "American Pie."
Ah, you noticed.
What made you want to be in "Grassroots?"
Well, I think you said it. One of the big reasons is that it is different than a lot of the stuff I've done, particularly the "American Pie" stuff. I really liked the story. I think it's a very specific, small story. I mean, it's about the 2001 Seattle city council race — which I suspect you didn't follow at the time — but I think it's pretty universal in the themes that it's dealing with. I liked the David versus Goliath aspect of it.
Did you have any reservations or were you nervous at all about portraying a real person?
It is and it isn't. It's not like Jamie Foxx doing Ray Charles, because it's no one you know. You don't know who Phil Campbell is.
I do now!
(Laughs.) You do now, that's right. But generally speaking, there are no audience expectations of who this guy is so I had a bit of freedom and Stephen [Gyllenhaal], the writer/ director, was pretty adamant that while it's based on truth, he wanted to put his own stamp on it and he wanted me to do my thing. So if there was any pressure, it was really on Stephen about what liberties he was going to take with the story and he did take some. I imagine if there was any pressure, it would have been on him.
Was it as fun to make as the "American Pie" movies? Or was it more stressful since it's not part of that established machine?
I liked that it was smaller and based on a true story. Especially as it relates to the Grant Cogswell character, it's the kind of thing where you go, you can't make this up. Part of its charm lies in the fact that it is based in real events and there's this guy who was crazy enough to put this campaign together and actually go for it and damn near well pulled it off, so that for me was a big part of it, and working with Stephen because I was a fan of his and then Joel [David] Moore. Joel and I had a chemistry read and we really hit it off right away and I felt that was really fantastic because that relationship is really what I think is at the heart of the movie and I just felt like we could really have fun together.
So, did you have fun together?
You know what? We did.
It's interesting to see you as someone who's not Jim. In what ways did you relate to Phil?
Well, when meet him, he's fired and he's really melancholic and kind of just floating. He has no idea. He has no real sense of direction. I think everyone has been in a place where they felt that.
Have you felt that?
Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, in this industry, success is measured differently to different people and on paper it looks like I've worked non-stop ... but I can tell you that I definitely haven't ... There's times that are very fruitful and busy and there's times where it's not that. But in those down times, it allows you to sort of take stock and take inventory. In this industry there's no real sense of security. I just think about that saying, that you're only as good as your last job. It's like, I don't really believe that, but there's this sense that this could really all go away. So I take stock often. I go, "What's happening?" It's not all rainbows and sunshine and unicorns.
Have you struggled to find your acting identity in a post-Jim world?
There have been some difficulties, but I use that word very loosely. I have to preface this by saying that at no point have I ever, ever questioned being in it, being involved, or have I ever thought the bad outweighs the good. It's always positive. It's been one of the biggest blessings in my life, if not the biggest — you know, besides my family. But yeah, career-wise, professionally, while it has opened a bunch of doors, it has also closed a lot, or it's kind of opened them, but they've sort of gotten stuck. It's like, "Damn, why is this door jammed? My foot's stuck!" The good news is I still feel like I'm young and I have a lot more stuff to do. I just have to keep chipping away at it and kind of take the right opportunities when I can, "Grassroots" being one of those. I have to meet people that will trust me and see in me something different.
That said, do you think there's going to be another "American Pie" or do you think that's done?
(Laughs) You know, I said after the other ones that we were done, and obviously I got egg on my face so I have to say who knows, never say never. And, frankly, I love doing those films. I love playing that character and I love working with those people and it's been very good to me in many ways.
Do you have a dream role that you'd love to play?
That's a really good question. Oh man, I don't know. I tell you, I really wish I could sing. I can't sing for s**t, but I really wish I could do a Broadway musical. I love doing theater and I just wish I could do that.
Maybe you could do like a William Shatner talking-singing thing.
Yeah, yeah. Actually, no, I don't think so. (Laughs.) Really?