The 21 year old actor says most of today's teen fare is unappetizing

By Lori Reese
Updated July 17, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
Lyonne: Paul Smith/Featureflash
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A sequel to ”American Pie” is in the works, but Natasha Lyonne, the quirkiest among that movie’s nubile costars, isn’t sure if she wants another taste of teen movie success. ”I mean, I was in ‘American Pie’ — isn’t that enough?” says the 21 year old actress, who played the randy ensemble’s only non virgin. ”Get your second helping. Not full yet? ‘American Pie 2.”’

But don’t think that Lyonne’s looking down her nose at her best known movie. In fact, she tells she’ll happily sign on if the sequel has an ”interesting script” and — let’s not jump the gun — if she’s offered a part. Her sarcasm (and she’s got plenty of that to spare) stems from her feelings about most teen-targeted fare. The first ”Pie,” Lyonne says, stood out for its original writing and envelope-pushing humor, but she thinks most new films for teens are impossible to tell apart. The flood of offers Lyonne received after ”American Pie”’s success are a case in point. ”I had to read the SAME scripts a hundred times in different versions,” she says. ”A bunch of teenagers do this, a bunch of teenagers do that. How many of them are there? I couldn’t do it just because it was there, and the money was there.”

While many of her ”Pie” cohorts went on to take roles in more mainstream post-pubescent comedies — including Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari in ”Loser” (opening July 21) — Lyonne has tried instead to build a career with offbeat flicks like the ’98 critical favorite ”Slums of Beverly Hills” and her current foray as a lesbian pep rally-ist in ”But I’m a Cheerleader.” Still, she laments, opportunities for such projects are hard to come by. ”It’s frustrating, what’s going on in movies,” she says. ”I’m amazed with all of these critics who will give [a bad film], like, a ‘B.’ I’m like DUDE, that wasn’t a MOVIE!”

Yet Lyonne is facing a dilemma: she says her youth is partly what puts her in demand for ‘B’ grade brain candy and what compels her to keep slugging away in the business. A professional since the age of 7, when she joined ”Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” Lyonne has considered going to college. But she worries that a four year sabbatical — either in her hometown of New York or closer to her second home in L.A. — would mean passing up her only chance to succeed. ”Women have a certain shelf life,” she says. ”It seems like today it’s all about young people in movies. I’m not a gazillionaire, so it would be naive to just check out. Or, pretend like [I’m] going to be in demand for the rest of my life.”

Actually, Lyonne is making some headway right now by avoiding the Brat Pack pitfall of being too closely identified with only one kind of movie. Next up are two jobs that will give her a chance to work with industry veterans: the thriller ”Plan B,” opposite Diane Keaton, and the WWII drama ”The Grey Zone,” opposite Mira Sorvino and Harvey Keitel. If nothing else, the latter movie’s Bulgarian locations should be a welcome break from hanging out in youth-obsessed Hollywood. ”I’m not very comfortable in L.A.,” she frowns. ”It makes me think about all this stuff too much, when I should just appreciate it.” After all, it isn’t often you get offered a second helping of ”Pie.”

The Grey Zone

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  • 108 minutes
  • Tim Blake Nelson