According to screenwriter Jon Hurwitz, the movie was filmed almost entirely in Toronto for budget reasons, but film crews spent a day or two in New Jersey getting exterior shots. About five minutes into the movie, as Harold drives home from work, you can catch a few glimpses of the Mile-Square City - where he lives with his roommate Kumar.
There's a quick shot of the white-and-green "Welcome to Hoboken" sign on the north end of town, near the Burlington Coat Factory on Willow Avenue. There are passing looks at a few of the city's typical townhouse-lined residential blocks, and the unmistakable landscaped medians of 11th Street.
But - and this will come as no surprise to anyone who's ever tried to find a parking spot in Hoboken - the scene where Harold actually gets a space was filmed in Toronto. Hoboken residents will also get a good laugh out of a flier posted in Harold and Kumar's mailroom, which advertises indoor, heated parking for $60 a month.
Why Hoboken? So why do the main characters call Hoboken home?
"It's a place where a number of my friends live," Hurwitz says.
Harold & Kumar was written by Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, high school buddies from Randolph, N.J. Though Hurwitz and Schlossberg are now successful screenwriters in Los Angeles, they couldn't resist a return to their Jersey roots. Hurwitz has been coming to Hoboken since his high school days - mostly to catch the PATH.
In the film, roommates Harold and Kumar are getting stoned on their couch in Hoboken when they decide to cure their munchies by finding a White Castle hamburger joint. They first head to New Brunswick (seemingly unlikely considering how far it is from Hoboken), and then, when that doesn't bear fruit, they stop in Princeton and Cherry Hill. Along the way, they bump into a crazed woodsman, a violent raccoon, and of course, Neil Patrick Harris of "Doogie Howser, MD."
Hurwitz, 25, has done some time in Hoboken's bars in recent years. Another high school friend, Mike Kaufman, lived in the Mile-Square City for four years (he recently moved to Union City), and played host to Hurwitz several times. In fact, a couple of months ago, Hurwitz brought an early version of the film and viewed it with Kaufman in his Monroe Street apartment.
When asked about his experiences in Hoboken bars, the screenwriter says, "I've been to a couple, but I don't even remember the names because of the kind of nights that went on."
So, based on firsthand experience, Hoboken seemed like the perfect place for a couple of young guys to live.
"We felt that it was a place where a lot of people right out of college live," Hurwitz says. "It's in the spirit of the movie - Harold and Kumar are the kind of characters who would be living there."
Harold & Kumar, brought to you by the director of Dude, Where's My Car?, isn't just another stoner movie. Daily Variety calls it a "crafty spoof on issues from racial politics to American highway monoculture that belies its cover (and marketing) as only a dumb gross-out laffer." Through the adventures of Harold and Kumar, the screenwriters riff on all kinds of racial and ethnic stereotypes.
"In high school and college, we always had Asian and Indian friends, and even though there were racial and cultural differences, they were the same as us in terms of attitude, dialogue, and issues," Schlossberg says. "Yet whenever we saw these characters on screen, they were usually portrayed as nerdy or downright dumb, with thick accents, and usually seen delivering food."
The screenwriters were skeptical about whether Hollywood would buy into the idea.
"We always felt that studios might be scared of making a film starring an Asian and an Indian character," Hurwitz says. "We joked to each other that if the movie ever got made, it would end up as David and Jason Go to McDonald's. Obviously, we are pretty happy with the way things have turned out."
Star hopes to move to Hoboken
Kal Penn, the actor who plays Kumar, was born in Montclair and attended high school in Freehold. Hurwitz says Penn - who now lives in L.A. - actually hopes to move to Hoboken one day.
And that may not be the end of the road for the Hoboken connection.
In addition to a sequel (Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam), Hurwitz and Schlossberg are in the process of doing a final rewrite for a project called Wingman - a romantic comedy about a guy who's the "ultimate wingman" on the bar scene, Hurwitz says. Although the film is currently set in New York, the guys are debating whether to move it to Hoboken.
And by the way, if you're hungry, there's a White Castle right on Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City.
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