Sometimes celebrities really are just like us: Take Natasha Lyonne, for instance, who recently stopped by PeopleTV to revisit several roles from her decades-long career, including oft-forgotten parts in Pee-wee’s Playhouse and the Dennis The Menace movie, as well as more notable titles like Slums Of Beverly Hills and American Pie, which was released 20 years ago this week. It’s the latter that’s of significance here, as Lyonne—in her typically frank style—admits that she was “very confused by this movie.” That bit starts around the 4:10 mark, and if you’ve revisited American Pie in recent years, you know exactly what she’s talking about when she criticizes the film for being about “white middle class kids having this suburban, kind of fratty experience.” The story was so alien to her own experience that Lyonne says she turned the role down several times before finally accepting it. Her reasoning? “Money,” she says, while also conceding that starring in American Pie was ultimately good for her career and allowed her to appear in more indie projects.
Released in 1999, American Pie is sort of a fascinating time capsule; as Lyonne notes, the ’90s—though not that long ago—were “like this other era,” where social norms were entirely different. The storyline of foreign exchange student Nadia, played by Shannon Elizabeth, is a good example of how poorly the film has aged: Jason Biggs’ Jim (he of the iconic pie-fucking) manages to get Nadia over to his house in a bid to have sex with her because he and his buddies have made a pact to lose their virginities by prom night. When Jim leaves the room, Nadia takes her clothes off, unaware that Jim has set up a webcam to stream the footage to his friends. In a highly unfortunate turn of events, the footage is streamed to the entire student body at their high school, and Nadia is sent back home to Slovakia for her indecent behavior. There’s a lot of problematic material to unpack there: A teen girl being recorded without her consent, the sharing of what amounts to child pornography in many states, the same young woman being punished for taking her clothes off in an empty room without knowing she was being filmed for public consumption (while the boys escape punishment entirely)—it’s a lot. Elizabeth herself agrees, as she recently told Page Six that if American Pie “had come out after the #MeToo movement, there would definitely be a problem. I think that it would have gone down differently.” Had director Paul Weitz made American Pie today, it would be a horror film, or a Lifetime Movie at the very least.