'American Reunion' Star Chris Klein Talks About Playing Characters 'I Probably Wasn't Right For'

Chris Klein - Portrait - 2011
Sam Jones/Universal Pictures

The actor discusses his iconic turn as Charlie Nash in "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li" with THR, and talks about trying not to be "hyper-critical" of past performances.

In the 13 years between the original American Pie and the latest installment in the series, American Reunion, actor Chris Klein has played a wide variety of roles. But few have inspired such a devoted following as Charlie Nash, a cop whose campy one-liners provide one of the few bright spots in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. When asked about the unexpected affection that even critics of the film have developed for his over-the-top turn, Klein admitted that he meant for the performance to pay tribute to the action stars that inspired him while he was growing up.

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“For me that was a real opportunity to kind of give an homage to my heroes,” Klein told The Hollywood Reporter. “To John McClane, that kind of thing. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but the cool thing about action movies is you can ham that up -- they’re so big and you can ham it up, and it’s just a fun thing.”

The Legend of Chun Li was a commercial failure upon its initial release, earning a little more than $12 million worldwide during its theatrical run. Klein said he was disappointed in the film’s performance, but he enjoyed developing Nash as a character via improvisation. “I really wish that more people had seen that movie in the theater,” he said. “Video game movies are always kind of tough -- a lot of times they don't do well -- and we were all really trying our best. But [his tagline] ‘Nash out’, that was improv, and so was ‘I love this job’.”

“The ‘Nash out’, I think it works a lot better than ‘I love this job’,” he observed. “The way that they cut together, ‘I love this job’, I thought that there were some takes that were a little bit more on point.”

In American Reunion, Klein’s character Oz has become a sportscaster who once appeared on a Dancing With the Stars-like television show. During one scene, Oz is forced to watch playback of the heartfelt but corny speech he gives when he’s voted off the show. “‘If people danced more there will be no more war’, right?” he said with a laugh. “Isn't that amazing?” Whether it’s giving a broad performance playing character like Charlie Nash or accidentally saying something during a talk show appearance, Klein admitted that he tries not to think too hard about his past. “I do my best not to be hyper-critical because it does look a little bit ridiculous sometimes,” he said. “And also there is trying to play characters that I probably wasn't right for -- there is that thing.”

“I am an actor and I try to stretch it, but it doesn't always go great,” he confessed. “But I went through the taking myself seriously, and now that I’m 33, it’s what you see is what you get.”