Booksmart Cast and Crew Interview

Booksmart is the film about female friendship for a new generation.  What sets this film apart from Bridesmaids is that rather than focus on women in their 30s, the film chooses to focus on a pair of women on the eve of graduating high school.

I spoke with a number of cast and crew on the red carpet before the world premiere of SXSW.  During the post-premiere Q&A and even during an event at the Twitter House earlier that day, director Olivia Wilde spoke about those films that she looked to for influence.  Not surprisingly, two of the films mentioned were Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless.  Both of these films are set in high school and were directed by Amy Heckerling.  The influences weren’t just limited to high school comedies but also buddy cop films in the comedy and drama genres, such as Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, and Training Day.

It’s not surprising that Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids came up in a few conversations about female friendship.  It’s been the biggest film to date that deals with the subject.  Interestingly enough, Susanna Fogel went on to direct female-led action comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me after being removed from Booksmart.  However, Bridesmaids remains the gold standard of such films in recent years.

Bridesmaids is going to be a seminal moment in any woman who wants to make comedy of this age because it was such a phenomenal authentic film,” screenwriter Katie Silberman said.

Silberman’s comedy influences range from the aforementioned Amy Heckerling “in a big way” and who she adores to Nora Ephron and Penny Marshall to women appearing on Saturday Night Live over the years including Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph to name a few.

Bridesmaids, definitely,” Silberman said of which female friendships she looked to for inspiration.  “I looked a lot of self-generated stuff like Broad City, which is created by two friends and very authentic and real about two friends.  Even PEN15, which obviously is new, feels like it is in that same vein.  I love movies like Outrageous Fortune from Leslie Dixon.  It’s from the 1980s. It’s a Bette Middler movie.  That’s a great movie. If you look at movies like even Thelma and Louise—it’s not really a comedy—and The First Wives Club, movies that have examined intricate and complicated relationships.”

“I was so happy because I think not since Bridesmaids have I seen a film that really hit the authenticity of female friendship in a way that women who are so different from one another other and so funny in different ways and they connect,” Olivia Wilde said of seeing female friendship in the film.  “You don’t have to be the same person with the same sense of humor to connect so many different types of people who can create this bond that is very important. Female friendships have gotten me through life and I’m very, very grateful for them. This movie is a celebration of those bonds.”

Actress Beanie Feldstein had been attached to the film before Olivia Wilde signed on.  Feldstein isn’t unfamiliar with films relating to female friendship having been in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.

“When she came on, she just had this insanely fresh vision of what this script could be,” Feldstein said.  “It was so high-stakes, so funny, and warm. There have been a few movies in the past and I was lucky enough to be in one of them that gave female friendship kind of a moment.  The more of those the better and every female friendship is specific and beautiful in its own way. I think that showing young female friendship—my example is always Bridesmaids and that’s obviously women in their 30s.  To put young friendship—it’s almost your first soul mate—as the center of this film is really powerful and it’s also really fun and really sweet.”

Short Term 12’s Kaitlyn Dever found the Booksmart script strongly appealing.  While she’s played high school characters in the past, Katie Silberman’s rewrites to the script helped the characters stand apart from others that Dever has portrayed in the past.

“Katie Silberman wrote an amazing script and that’s where it all starts,” Dever says.  “I think that sometimes I think especially in the scripts that I’ve read, reading a young person on page, it can feel inauthentic.  I think that Katie is such an incredible writer. She made Amy, the girl who I play in the movie, feel so real and honest. She seemed like me.  She seemed like my best friend, a girl that I know in real life.”

Booksmart hits theaters today.

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