Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is seen by many as one of the definitive stoner comedies. Upon its release back in 2004, it received positive reviews praising the chemistry between leads John Cho and Kal Penn, as well as its subversion of racial stereotypes to create its humor. The film made just $23.9 million at the worldwide box office (on a $9 million budget), but its cult following led to two sequels: 2008's Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and 2011's A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
Danny Leiner directed that first film, but he did not return for either of its followups. After more than a decade away from the franchise, the filmmaker has an idea to bring the series back, but with a twist. On the latest episode of Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe Pitch Show (watch it above), Leiner explained his idea for a dark, dramatic Harold & Kumar reboot.
Citing his desire to spread his wings as a director, Leiner reveals that his idea involves the two protagonists "working their way out of the urban vice," an environment that sees Harold and Kumar dealing with drugs, their parents, and the various challenges growing up presents as they try to break free from the ghetto. Leiner states that since this is a clean reboot, the ethnicities of the characters could change. He pitches a story of two white males living in a bad part of New Jersey, for example.
Leiner makes a point to say that the characteristics and goals of Harold and Kumar would be the same from his original comedy; Kumar is growing up and struggling with the transition into adulthood, while Harold has to learn what it takes to become a man. The only difference is that the reboot approaches this premise from a far more serious angle. Instead of smoking weed, Leiner proposes the two friends are hooked on cocaine or meth as they struggle with school and employment. They make an effort to kick their drug habit by embarking on a road trip together (possibly stopping to get a burger along the way) and try to figure out the next step of their lives.
In terms of casting, Leiner suggests that Shankar himself would be a great choice for Kumar. He envisions Bobby Lee (who made a cameo in the first film as Kenneth Park) portraying the new Harold, saying that Lee possesses the depth it would take to convincingly pull off a disturbing performance. In place of Neil Patrick Harris' memorable role as himself, Leiner would use Ryan Gosling (citing Gosling's prowess as a dramatic actor) as someone who meets up with Harold and Kumar on their road trip. Gosling is starting to loosen up and have some fun with his movie choices (see: The Nice Guys), but there's no denying he has the dramatic chops for a truly unsettling turn.
It's a fascinating concept, and there's no limit to how far Leiner is willing to go. He cites Requiem for a Dream as a primary source of influence, which hammers home the "no laughs" mantra he reiterates throughout the video. As shocking and off-putting as it might be, this pitch would arguably be the best way to handle a Harold & Kumar reboot. Essentially remaking the first movie with the same tone would be pointless, but going in a whole different direction with such a drastic shift would give the franchise a new level of intrigue. If Hollywood were to ever take Leiner up on his idea, it could even be an Oscar contender.
Source: Adi Shankar