ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Post-graduation trips have become something of a tradition, and Europe has been the destination of choice for many teenagers looking for that last “hurrah” before settling into college or a career.
“It’s an American rite of passage,” writer/director Jeff Schaffer attests.
“It’s very universal,” writer/producer David Mandel adds, “Kids graduate from high school or college and go to Europe, but it’s the backpacking, stay in youth hostels kind of European tour. There have been a lot of teen comedies, but they are always in the States, so the idea of this trip—that we didn’t necessarily get to do, but people with normal lives actually do—was our starting point.”
Writer/producer Alec Berg offers, “We had several different ideas that we felt were funny situations for kids traveling through Europe before we came up with the premise to bridge them all together.”
The premise the three longtime writing partners decided on centers on two trans-Atlantic cyber pen pals whose language barrier leads to a misunderstanding. American teenager Scotty, after years of exchanging emails with his German pen pal Mieke, is still under the mistaken notion that Mieke is a guy. The revelation that Mieke is a girl—coming on the heels of Scotty’s being dumped by his girlfriend—sends him across the Atlantic to find and finally meet Mieke.
The trio’s screenplay found its way to The Montecito Picture Company, the producers of another teen comedy trek, “Road Trip.” Montecito principals and executive producers Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock both loved the idea of taking a group of teens on another trip, this time overseas.
The filmmakers then turned to casting their young tourists. Relative newcomer Scott Mechlowicz was cast as Scotty, whose ineptitude with German sets the story in motion. Schaffer jokes that the fact that the actor and character share the same first name “…is the real reason Scott was hired.
In actuality, Mechlowicz was hired because, after wading through hundreds of readings and audition tapes, the actor was the first to make the filmmakers sit up and take notice. “He was fantastic. We were so excited to finally find him,” Schaffer recalls.
Schaffer explains that the role presented a casting challenge, saying, “Scotty is the first among equals, the center of the wheel that his friends revolve around. He needed to be funny and charming, but not a stick in the mud.”
Berg offers, “You have to believe that he’s a guy who’s missing something in his life to the point that he decides to go all the way to Europe to find it.”
Adding to his character’s description, Mechlowicz says, “"He also has to be a bit crazy. He does, after all, leave the country to find a girl he’s never met—never even spoken to once in his life. But he still goes. He’s a good kid, with a good heart. And like all good kids with good hearts, he always seems to get knocked down by the bad now and then. He's just very lucky to have such a good group of friends to prop him back up."
Scotty’s best friend is Cooper, played by Jacob Pitts, who remarks, “Cooper is your basic crazy, nutty best friend whose ideas are a bit out of sync with everyone else’s reality. He’s driven by his own base impulses—he’s obsessed with sex—which gets everyone else into trouble.”
“Jacob has real comedy stuff,” Berg states. “He doesn’t give you the obvious read. Most actors will come in and read the scene exactly the way you thought it should be read…”
“But with Jacob, it’s unique…and really funny,” Schaffer steps in. “From the minute we saw that first tape of him and saw the glint in his eye, we thought, ‘This is a charming devil.’”
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Cooper is Jamie, who, with his twin sister, Jenny, had been planning a very organized tour of Europe, seeing all the sights recommended in his Frommer’s guidebook.
“Jamie is not a geek, he just has more adult wants for his trip to Europe,” Schaffer comments. “He wants to tour every castle in Europe, and he loves his guidebook.”
Travis Wester, who won the role of Jamie, says, “Jamie was described to me as an astronaut on vacation. He loves learning; his goal is the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge. Any time you go to Europe with a group of friends, you’re gonna need to have someone with you who loves that stuff, and Jamie’s that guy. He’s the one who can read maps. He’s the one they turn to when they don’t know where they are.”
Mandel notes, “Travis brought such a nice vulnerability to his role that the relationship between Jamie and his twin sister, Jenny, became really believable.”
Michelle Trachtenberg, who stars as Jenny, remarks, “Jamie is more of a bookworm. Jenny is a lot tougher and the more daring and rebellious one. She is more willing to take a chance or go on an adventure, whereas Jamie always has to be convinced. Jenny has always been one of the guys, until she surprises them and they realize that she is most definitely a girl,” she laughs.
Trachtenberg is the best known of the ensemble from her role in television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “Michelle is incredible,” Schaffer states. “She always gives you exactly what you need and more. She is really, really funny, and she is such a trooper. Some of the scenes she did were in the worst possible conditions.”
Mandel attests, “It got to the point that we were only half joking that we never shot one of her exterior close-ups where it wasn’t raining outside. There would be a little rain…Michelle’s close-up…pouring rain. Okay, we’re done with Michelle’s close-up…moving over to Travis…the sun’s out.”
Berg confirms, “And any time she had to be somewhat scantily clad…”
“…30 degrees!,” the trio says in unison.
Jessica Boehrs, a young German actress and a rising pop star in Europe, was cast in the role of Scotty’s cyber pen pal, Mieke, who is also the object of the group’s European quest. The cast also includes a number of recognizable cameos who pop up along the way, including soccer star-turned-actor Vinnie Jones and Lucy Lawless, of “Xena” fame.
The filmmakers were thrilled to work with the stars, whom they call “dream casting.” Schaffer expounds, “Vinnie Jones was the one person we all had in our heads when we wrote the part of Mad Maynard, the head soccer hooligan. When we found out he was actually going to do it, we were over the moon. When he showed up, he was so much better than we could have ever imagined. And we all agreed that Lucy Lawless was simply the coolest human being we’d ever met.”
“Eurotrip” was filmed entirely on location in Prague in the Czech Republic. Mandel says, “Prague is a beautiful city. Just the fact that we were able to double Prague for so many cities was amazing.”
Berg notes, “The irony is that one city that Prague did not serve as in our shoot was Prague. But it was London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Vatican City, Bratislava and even Hudson, Ohio.”
Despite shooting in and around one city, the production schedule felt more like a trek across Europe to the cast and crew. “We were traveling every day,” Schaffer remarks. “It was the wildest thing; we were never in the same place twice. The fact that we were able to accomplish so much in one city is a tribute to our entire production team, especially our extraordinary director of photography, David Eggby, and our production designer, Allan Starski, who is unbelievable.”
Several of Starski’s sets were so convincing that they fooled a number of locals, as well as visiting tourists. His Paris Metro station was decked out with authentic signs and posters and looked so real that passersby tried to use it and were surprised to learn “they couldn’t get there from here.”
Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Blank was responsible for completing the transformation of Prague into the many different locales needed for the film. Through the use of CGI, Blank was able to add such familiar sites as the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum and Big Ben into the backgrounds of their respective cities.
The filmmakers emphasize that this “Eurotrip” is not your parents’ European vacation. “The main thing we tried to do is make sure that our group does things that 18 or 19 year olds would want to do,” Schaffer offers. “They are not doing things they would do with their parents—that their parents would drag them to. They are on their own, so it’s them having fun in ways that kids would have fun.”