|Harold, Kumar and some lovely ladies in "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay"|
A genuine love for the characters and their world, thoughtful new spins on racial issues in America, and more naked women than in the first Harold and Kumar movie.
"We loved the first movie," writer-director Hayden Schlossberg said. "But there wasn't enough nudity. So there's more female nudity in this movie than any widely released movie we've ever seen."
After a handful of preview scenes from the movie, which opened the panel, Schlossberg took the stage with fellow writer-director Jon Hurwitz and actor John Cho, who plays Harold.
Several audience questions had to do with the pressures of making a sequel to a loved movie.
"We care about Harold and Kumar as much as any fan out there," Hurwitz said. "A lot of movies are made to bring in profits for the studios; this movie was made out of passion for the Harold and Kumar universe."
Schlossberg invoked the memory of '80s trilogies like "Back to the Future" and "The Karate Kid," saying he prefers when sequels begin, within the story, right after the end of the previous movie, suggesting that "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" picks up right on the heels of the end of "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle."
Asked about a comparison between the Cheech and Chong movies and the Harold and Kumar movies, Schlossberg said he hopes to mirror the success of the earlier series, but hopes to accomplish something more.
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Richard Christy of the Howard Stern Show is in the movie, along with Neal Patrick Harris, who will have a larger role than he did in the first Harold and Kumar flick.
"In the first movie, Neal snorts a line of coke off a stripper's ass," Hayden said. "In this movie, he does something else to a woman's ass. I won't say what, but it's disturbing."
Asked about fellow screen star Kal Penn's absence, Cho paused, as if taking a personal moment.
"I don't want to say anything. He's in rehab. For Quaaludes," Cho said. As the audience laughter subsided, he said, "Actually, I think he's trying to get Barack Obama elected president of these here United States."
Asked about the experience of returning to the Harold character, Cho said it "barely resembled a job."
Trying to prepare for the first movie, Cho said, he wanted the friendship between the two main characters to be believable, so he tried to make sure he and Penn spent as much time together as possible.
"We're actual friends now, not fake Hollywood friends," Cho said. "We went off on location together and drank a lot of scotch and made a movie."
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He said that when he was a child, he'd admired Takei's work as one of the few Asian actors playing non-stereotypical roles.
"He wasn't wearing a cone-shaped hat or building a railroad," Cho said. "It's an honor for me to step in to fill his very big slippers."
Returning to the issue of sequels, Hurwitz said the movies had been considered at least a trilogy from the writing of the first script, adding he will be happy to make even a fourth movie if the opportunity arises.
"Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" arrives in theaters on April 25.