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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

Seann William Scott Sofitel Legend The Grand Hotel Amsterdam.

In June 2010 I arrived in The Netherlands with the notion of finally ‘settling down’. Young, in love and still just a little wet behind the ears, my girl and I had all the typical rat race dreams. Get the jobs so we could save money. Save money so we could get the house. Get the house so we could have kids. Have kids so we could be a happy family, a regular functioning cog in this big old machine we call society. What could possibly go wrong?

Those first few years in Amsterdam were a blast! I loved the city, had the job of my dreams and S and I were saving plenty of money. As a result, we soon began looking to buy a place of our own. In January 2011 a bunch of my old schoolmates flew over from London for Adam’s stag weekend. He was finally getting married and it was up to me to make sure he saw the best (and worst) of Amsterdam.  “How was Cameron Diaz?” enquired my old friend Palmer as we exchanged hugs in Rembrandt Square’s Old Bell Pub. “Delightful!” I grinned, “she complimented me on my shoes”. “I see”, he mused, “crap interview, great shoes”. 

It was a really fantastic weekend, the last time we were all together in one place. And we certainly made it count, devouring plate after plate of delicious Indian food at Tagore Restaurant. Needless to say we also hit the city bars and did The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam’s old brewery. 

Visit The Heineken Experience Museum.

The Heineken Experience, Amsterdam.

I had hardly got all the beer out of my system when it was time to go back to so-called work for interviews with the cast of The Impossible. The film has been great, a surprisingly affecting dramatisation of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. I’d expected stunning visual effects and ferocious carnage, but I hadn’t anticipated Naomi Watts’ excellent Oscar nominated performance.

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

Furthermore, the movie marked the beginning of big things for Tom Holland, who would later go on to become Spider-Man. I had to do some serious homework on Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona, who I’d admittedly never heard of. It was Bayona’s first Hollywood film following his Spanish language debut The Orphanage, a chilling horror that went down a storm at The Cannes Film Festival.

J.A. Bayona and Naomi Watts The Impossible.

J.A. Bayona with Naomi Watts on the set of ‘The Impossible’.

Bayona the man meanwhile proved to be a lovely guy. Thoughtful, humble and softly spoken, he greeted me with a pat on the shoulder before inviting me to sit down. It was as if I’d just wandered into his living room. Happily, this was one of those interviews that felt more like an informal chat than anything official. We could have just met on a train or something as we discussed the delicacy of working with child actors. He also admitted to feeling a great responsibility for bringing such a tragic, real life disaster to the big screen. When the junket rep began to motion that I was running out of time, Bayona immediately requested that they give us an extra five minutes. “It was nice to meet you,” he said as we parted ways. “This is a great city, don’t take it for granted!”

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

Instinctively I felt Bayona was destined for great things. And so it proved. Four years on from our Amsterdam meeting, his critically acclaimed fantasy drama A Monster Calls hit cinemas starring Liam Neeson and Sigourney Weaver. Good enough apparently for him to be entrusted with the Jurassic Park reigns for a new instalment, Fallen Kingdom.

Short story The Netherlands

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

“What do you think?” asked S with a twinkle in her eyes, “I feel like it’s really starting to come together!” It was exciting times for my girl and I. After a short and reasonably painless search we’d bought a three-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam’s allegedly up and coming Bos en Lommer neighbourhood. The area was a little rough and ready, particularly the ghetto-like network of ugly social housing that dominated the view from our living room window.

Our building however was a brand new structure called The New Kit, located right next to a subway and tram stop. This was the first home either of us had owned and the next logical step in our marriage. “It’ll be kids next!” said absolutely everyone upon hearing about our step onto the property ladder. And, I figured, they were probably right.

The New Kit, Amsterdam.

The New Kit Building Amsterdam.

The New Kit building, Amsterdam.

Not that we’d even begun thinking about a family. Both S and I were crazy busy with work and all our free time went into transforming our shell of an apartment into the home of our dreams. The walls needed to be painted, there were floorboards to be laid and our open plan kitchen still had to be installed.

Kitchen installation Amsterdam.

Kitchen building, Amsterdam.

It was a hell of a project, the pair of us constantly scuttling between office and home. We met with estate agents, let in decorators, signed papers and checked up on handymen. Elsewhere, our designated bathroom was empty, not even a damn sink. Plus we were planning to furnish the entire place completely from scratch. It was stressful but very exciting and for perhaps the first time ever I felt I was living the life of a legitimate adult.

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

I recall one particularly hectic day when I had to leave a busy writing and recording schedule at the office for interviews with director Destin Daniel Cretton and the actress Brie Larson. The movie in question was an independent drama called Short Term 12. Nobody had heard of Cretton and it would be another two years before Larson shot to fame with her Academy Award for Room. So naturally the careerist interviewers at work didn’t give a fuck about it and the junket ended up in my lap.

Short Term 12 Brie Larson.

It turned out to be another wonderful experience. Although largely ignored by the movie watching public, Short Term 12 is a powerful and often disturbing account of life at a mental health facility for troubled teenagers. Cretton meanwhile, shy, bookish and almost painfully polite, told me how he’d written the script based on his own experiences working with suicidal youths.

Larson revealed how she’d auditioned for her part over Skype after reading the screenplay. Her costar John Gallagher had described Cretton’s work as “probably the best script I’ve ever been sent!” Both Cretton and Larson seemed proud but humble about the finished product. Moreover, the critics agreed, with Short Term 12 winning a bunch of industry awards.

Destin Daniel Cretton Movie director.

Destin Daniel Cretton.

As soon as I got the flash disk copy of my interviews, I caught a tram back home. Jumping off outside my apartment, I was just in time to meet the giant Ikea van and its endless parade of brown boxes. The delivery included an army of towering storage units for our ever-growing media empire. I got started on it that afternoon, but it took almost three days to assemble everything and file our music and film collection as per my specifications. That’s alphabetical order in case you’re wondering. Yes, I know…

Huge music and film collection Leighton Travels album reviews.

A section of my music, film and TV empire, 2011.

Piece by piece our home took shape as the months flew by. Finally the kitchen became operational, the sofas arrived and we began peppering the joint with all those little personal touches. I honestly never thought I’d be that guy. But after my years on the road and the unwavering belief that S was the one, I had to concede that domestic life suited me. We still had our travel plans of course and that hunger to discover new places and delve into different cultures never went away. Therefore, in many ways, it felt like I had the best of both worlds.

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Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

I was really excited when I got the interviews for the new American Pie movie, American Reunion. The entire cast had flown over to Europe from The U.S., with one half attending the French premiere in Paris, the other coming to Amsterdam. All things considered I was really happy with my half of the draw, which featured scheduled sit-downs with Seann William Scott (Stifler), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin), Tara Reid (Vicky) and co-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.

The American Pie Reunion press junket took place at Amsterdam’s Sofitel Legend The Grand Hotel on a sunny March morning. On arrival I was directed straight into the press lounge where there was coffee, salmon sandwiches and… yes… a bona fide American style apple pie!

American Pie Reunion Amsterdam.

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

I can’t exactly call myself a fan of the American Pie franchise, but like most people I consider the original a bit of a classic. American Pie Reunion turned out to be a decent instalment, especially when compared to the other sequels and those regretful Band Camp disgraces. 

—————

American Pie Reunion.When I entered the room Tara and Thomas were in deep conversation about an Amsterdam restaurant she’d been to some years before. “Amazing food… candlelit tables… great service… it’s perfect… you’re gonna love it!”

I’d been so curious to meet Tara. As someone who wrote celebrity news for a living, I knew all about the stories surrounding her private life. Hell, I’d even written a few myself. However, on the day of our interview she was in great spirits, laughing and joking with Thomas and I as we discussed the Dawson’s Creek nature of their characters’ relationship.

Dressed in a red and pink figure-hugging sleeveless dress, Tara looked great, albeit so heavily made up her face appeared to be melting a little under the lights. Reminiscing over the runaway success of the original movie, she told me how back in the day she’d received thousands of letters from teenage girls identifying with her character. Many of these fans identified with the social pressures of losing one’s virginity and simply wanted to thank her for an empathetic performance.

American Pie Reunion.

American Pie Reunion.

Thomas meanwhile came across as one of the friendliest, most unpretentious actors I’d ever interviewed. Discussing Kevin’s role in the three films, I suggested that he was almost certainly “the sensible one”, the grounded thinker who never really got into those ridiculous scrapes. Bearing in mind these were the scenes that made American Pie so memorable, did he perhaps feel a little left out? “No man…!” he replied, leaning in. And I swear for just a moment his eyes began to tear up. “I always thought of Kevin as that ‘heart’ you know… thank you for recognising that grounding force!”

In contrast, my interview with Seann William Scott and Eddie Kaye Thomas turned out to be a riot! “What’s with the toilets in Amsterdam?” quipped Eddie, raised eyebrows, eyes diluted. “Like you have to drop your load… onto a shelf… WITHOUT water. You can’t help but take a look and it’s like… ok, that’s what I’m made of!”

“What’s with the toilets in Amsterdam?”

Talk of Amsterdam lavatories morphed nicely into American Pie’s ever-increasing levels of toilet humour. Was there a danger of over-reliance? Was American Pie Reunion trying to push the boat out to see just how much they could get away with? “I don’t think we were ever DISGUSTING”, said Seann, “I mean… well… except maybe the doggy doo scene in 2”. “Ah yes, the doggy doo scene” muttered Eddie, hand on his head.

American Pie Reunion Cast Hotel Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam.

The American Pie Reunion Press Junket at The Grand Hotel, Amsterdam.

I was back in the lounge waiting for my interview with the directors when nature called. Unzipping at the urinal, suddenly Seann William Scott waltzed in and took the free one next to me. “Hey!” he said. “Oh hey!” I answered, a little surprised that there wasn’t a private, gold-plated toilet somewhere just for the stars. “Dude, did you really like the first American Pie?” he enquired, as we stood doing our business. “Sure!” I confirmed, perplexed as to why that would need double-checking. “But you know… my favourite movie you’ve done has gotta be Road Trip!” “Duuude!” he exclaimed, still urinating, that was a great movie!” Standing there pissing with Stifler, it was another one of those surreal this is my job moments that I’ll always remember.

“Dude, did you really like the first American Pie?”

—————

My chat with the directors was a pretty standard affair. Whatever I asked, it was clear they’d already decided on a batch of scripted, readymade answers. Nevertheless, it struck me that Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz had approached the movie with a genuine love for the franchise. Thus  they had been determined not to screw up and to restore its battered reputation. Describing themselves as “American Pie fanboys” long before they’d even made their debuts as directors, Schlossberg admitted that getting the gig had felt like winning the lottery. Subsequently, in those first few days of filming, they still had to pinch themselves that it was really happening. “We’d be rehearsing,” said Jon with a wide grin, “and I’d literally be thinking oh my god I just told Stifler where to stand!!!” 

Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz American Pie Reunion.

My interview with American Pie Reunion directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.

“Nobody talks about the coffee!” he lamented.

That night I hit the red carpet for American Pie Reunion’s Amsterdam premiere. A bunch of national celebrities were attending, which meant I had to do some interviews in Dutch. This was pretty nerve-wracking, but I did my best with the pretty boy soap opera star and a god-awful girl group called DjumboAnd of course it was round two with the American Pie stars. “Hey, I haven’t seen you in like four hours!” laughed Seann. When I asked him about his feelings for Amsterdam, he claimed that the charm of the place wasn’t about pretty girls or the weed. Actually, the big draw was its scandalously underrated coffee. “Nobody talks about the coffee!” he lamented, “Good coffee city dude!” 

Seann William Scott red carpet Amsterdam.

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

I was on the tram back home that night, my voice a little hoarse from the day’s exertions. I’d been thinking back to the time when I first saw the original American Pie film as a twenty one year old. I couldn’t help but surmise what an innocent time of my life that had been and how, in the intervening thirteen years, I’d been through so much that I barely felt like the same person.

Pissing With Stifler, a short story from The Netherlands.

I guess in many ways it may have been similar for the Pie crew. Deep down they must have all known that the success of that first film would be the defining moment of their careers. Other movies would come and go without much consequence. For some, personal troubles would end up getting far more coverage than their actual work. My own golden period, professionally at least, was right now and I knew it. I understood that it probably wouldn’t get any better than this, so I resolved to simply do my best and just enjoy the ride. And while the mother of all personal crises lay in wait just around the corner, at least it wouldn’t be played out against a backdrop of tabloid newspapers, flashing cameras and malicious online comment threads. For that at least, I’ll always be grateful.

‘Pissing With Stifler’ is the fourth part of my short story collection Notes From The Netherlands.

For my travel reports on the Dutch capital, take a look at my articles on Amsterdam.

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2 Comments

  • David & Laura Speer

    Very cool article, hanging with the stars and enjoying life in the Netherlands! Pretty Great

    November 13, 2019 - 7:47 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey guys, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I have some great memories from those Amsterdam years.

      November 13, 2019 - 7:52 pm Reply

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