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John Cho, Kal Penn and Danny Leiner Interview

From "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"


John Cho Kal Penn Harold and Kumar

John Cho and Kal Penn star in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"

Photo © New Line Cinema
And now you’re both members of the White Castle Hall of Fame? How’s that feel?
KAL PENN: Amazing. They had a ceremony.

JOHN CHO: Vindicated (laughing). I was on the White Castle blacklist for a while and I had to turn in names and stuff, it was awful. It was awesome. The Comic Con is actually to me, you know, there’s some similarities there. I also feels like it’s a superbly American thing that people can find love for things that are non-traditional. You go to other cultures and there isn’t that kind of freedom to be a fan, you know, of new things in culture. So it’s kind of fantastic. You go there and these are people that got married at White Castle, tattoos of White Castle…

KAL PENN: People drove hundreds of miles to go to White Castle.

JOHN CHO: You have to be kind of in awe of that kind of raw passion. People live for that event. It kind of was a stupendous night.

KAL PENN: They are jealous because we have plaques that say White Castle.

JOHN CHO: And polo shirts – blue polo shirts.

White Castle really bought into this, didn’t they?
DANNY LEINER: It was in the script. They saw it. We wanted to use White Castle and once they came onboard, they didn’t just give us permission but they definitely embraced it. New Line partnered up with them and we did this promotion on Sunset Blvd. where they had a temporary White Castle and they were serving all these free burgers. And they’ve done promotions in stores. So the answer is, once they agreed to come onboard and to let us use their name, they also took full advantage – with New Line’s blessing – to cross-promote the movie.

KAL PENN: There’s an interesting article that just came out in Reuters about the business model of like the cross-promotion of White Castle and New Line. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t know. It was definitely a very good fit and a thing that just came together.

What’s your record for White Castle hamburgers eaten? Danny has said his is 12.
JOHN CHO: Our guess is like around 50.
KAL PENN: In the scene we had to constantly be eating so we must have consumed – I don’t eat meat so mine were veggie burgers – but they were the exact same size. I didn’t eat breakfast that day, which saved a lot more room. So maybe I ate 60…

DANNY LEINER: In the beginning of the scene, we were like shooting these wide [shots] and then we’re going to go in closer and do the close-ups. And you know you’re going to do a lot of takes. And John and I are watching and Kal’s like eating these burgers…

JOHN CHO: I would spit them out as we were eating, otherwise…

KAL PENN: They were so good I just ate them.

DANNY LEINER: I’m like, “Kal, in 10 minutes you’re going to be full and you’ve got like 20 takes to go.”

KAL PENN: You know why? I didn’t eat breakfast and I get very excited when I taste a good veggie burger because there’s so many bad ones. So, I didn’t eat breakfast, it was a good veggie burger, Kumar loves the White Castle [burgers], it was like the climatic moment in the movie.

DANNY LEINER: And we’re in this place where we had built this White Castle in the middle of nowhere.

KAL PENN: It was all the excitement of everything. I was just happy. It was like Kumar’s enthusiasm and mine met, and we were one in eating.

As a vegetarian, did you have a problem playing someone who loves meat?
KAL PENN: No. Total non-issue. It’s like playing a stockbroker... What I mean is, to me that’s not a defining thing about the character at all. The diet of a character isn’t a defining thing for me.


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