Interviews, Opening This Week: Shannon Elizabeth in ‘American Reunion,’ Danny Nucci in ‘Titanic 3D’

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CHICAGO – Two big openings this week include the re-release tomorrow of James Cameron’s “Titanic” – this time in 3D – and the highly anticipated “American Reunion,” which again brings together the stars of “American Pie.” Shannon Elizabeth is part of the Reunion, and Danny Nucci cruises on the mighty Titanic again.

The re-release of “Titanic” coincides with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on April 12, 1912. The 1997 film juggernaut took in an astounding $1.8 billion dollars worldwide (surpassed only by James Cameron’s “Avatar” in 2010) and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. “American Pie” was released in 1999, and has become a brand name in itself, having spawned two theatrical and four direct-to-DVD spin offs. “American Reunion” marks the fourth film after the initial trilogy of “American Pie,” “American Pie 2” and “American Wedding.”

Two of the stars in those films appeared recently at “The Hollywood Show” in Chicago. Shannon Elizabeth played Nadia in the original “American Pie,” and Danny Nucci portrayed Fabrizio De Rossi, the Italian traveling companion of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the ill-fated Titanic. “The Hollywood Show” is a biannual event that brings in TV and movie celebrities to interact with fans. The autumn show is usually late September or early October.

StarShannon Elizabeth, “American Reunion”

Shannon Elizabeth was a working actress and model when she won the role of Nadia in “American Pie” in the late 1990s. The character propelled her into the sex symbol realm, and she followed that film with prominent featured parts in “Scary Movie” (2000), “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001) and “Deal” (2008). The last film mentioned is appropriate because Elizabeth is also one of the leading celebrity poker players on the circuit, and she describes that as her “second career.”

Shannon Elizabeth at ‘The Hollywood Show,’ Chicago, March 24th, 2012
Shannon Elizabeth at ‘The Hollywood Show,’ Chicago, March 24th, 2012
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for What was your favorite ‘American Reunion’ moment, was it when everybody got together in pre-production or was it on set?

Shannon Elizabeth: It was hanging out at the trailers with all the other cast members, just catching up and having that ‘reunion.’ You grew up in Texas and played tennis at a high level. What advantages do you think you had growing up outside the show business system and how did being a good athlete prepare you for acting?

Elizabeth: I don’t know what it would have been like to grow up inside the system. Honestly, I think I would have rather grown up in the business. I would like to have been doing everything I’m doing now since a young age. When you get a later start, you have to play catch up. As for being an athlete in relationship to acting, I think it teaches you perseverance, hard work and never quitting. What kind of set does Kevin Smith like to run, and are there any other directors who you’ve really enjoyed with and why?

Shannon Elizabeth in ‘American Pie’
Shannon Elizabeth in ‘American Pie’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Elizabeth: Kevin has a very laid-back set, he let’s everyone do their thing. We did some rehearsals ahead of time – Jason [Mewes], myself and Kevin worked in his office, so by the time we got to the set the dialogue was done. We just had fun on set. So many of the directors I’ve worked with are great for different reasons, of course I loved Wes Craven. How has being a poker player helped you regarding life in general? Are there life lessons to be learned while performing on the green felt table?

Elizabeth: I would say it really helps to teach you patience, which is something that I always struggle with, [laughs] and having a poker face in life is really important. You became an advocate and spokesperson for your Arabic side (Elizabeth is half Lebanese) during the immediate times after 9/11. Do you see an improvement in attitudes ten years later, or do we as a country have miles to go?

Elizabeth: It’s not helping that there are major issues in Syria right now, that’s not helping the cause or world relations at all. With that said, it’s still very important for people in the U.S. to realize that we have citizens from all over the world living here. Just because you have one person doing one bad thing in one location, doesn’t mean it reflects on everyone. When I hear prejudice, and I see adults teaching it to their kids, it’s very frustrating. The kids hear what the parents say and then they grow up that way. That’s the cycle I think we want to stop.

StarDanny Nucci, “Titanic 3D”

“I’m sorry, you’re not gonna see your mother for a long time, ‘cause we’re going to America.” With that line from Jack Dawson, Danny Nucci as Fabrizio De Rossi was ushered onto the luxury liner and film “Titanic,” and met his fate in the frigid water, underneath one of the ship’s smoke stacks. Since experiencing one of the most famous productions in movie history, Nucci has worked regularly in series television, including a recurring role a couple years ago in “Castle.”

Danny Nucci at ‘The Hollywood Show,’ Chicago, March 24th, 2012
Danny Nucci at ‘The Hollywood Show,’ Chicago, March 24th, 2012
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for Okay, you were on one of the most famous movie sets in cinema history. Is it true that most of the cast and crew thought they were working on the world’s most expensive bust?

Danny Nucci: It is true we were hearing that away from the set, outsiders were saying that was going to happen. On the inside, we knew we were making a cool, big film but we were concerned that the opposite might be the case. The one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of Titanic is coming up in a couple weeks. What do you personally think that event symbolizes in world history?

Nucci: I want it to celebrate the lives of the people we lost. You also had a part in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center movie. What was it like reliving those events in the context of that set’s atmosphere?

Kings: Leonardo DiCaprio and Danny Nucci in ‘Titanic’
Kings: Leonardo DiCaprio and Danny Nucci in ‘Titanic’
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox

Nucci: There was one particular scene where we were all coming back from downtown, and we were all covered in the soot and the ash of the buildings, and the feeling was a little eerie. It was not that far from the actual event. It was tough mostly on the people on the set who had been around there on the actual day. What type of role have casting agents not considered you for, that you would like to have a shot at?

Nucci: A role that I have always wanted to play is a superhero. I would have loved to have been one of ‘The Avengers.’ Finally, at what point in your career did you turn around and think, how did I get here?

Nucci: It still happens today. [laughs]

“Titanic” in 3D opens everywhere on April 4th. See local listings for 3D showings. Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Billy Zane, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Victor Garber and Danny Nucci. Written and directed by James Cameron. Rated “PG-13.” “American Reunion” opens everywhere on April 6th. Featuring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Sean William Scott, Mena Suvari, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy and Shannon Elizabeth. Written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Rated “R.”“The Hollywood Show” will be back in Chicago this autumn. Click here for an example of celebrities who have appeared. Click here for Shannon Elizabeth’s jewelry site, Shasen Jewelry. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2012 Patrick McDonald,

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