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13 Things You Didn't Know About "Bring It On"

From James Franco's audition to secret arrests, director Peyton Reed tells BuzzFeed News what really went into creating the beloved cheerleading comedy.

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1. Bring It On was supposed to be a documentary.

Universal

Screenwriter Jessica Bendinger first conceived of Bring It On as an MTV documentary before turning it into a feature film, originally titled Cheer Fever. "It was about this very specific subculture of competitive cheerleading and her original draft would have been a three-hour cheerleading epic," director Peyton Reed told BuzzFeed News during a phone interview. "It was dense."

Reed, who cut his teeth in music videos and television, was instantly hooked by the unique world portrayed in the script. "I had no idea I would find interest in competitive cheerleading, but I did in a big way," he said. "Jessica's writing has such attitude. I liked what it had to say about the dynamics of high school. It turned cheerleading on its ear and made them the underdogs; traditionally cheerleaders are the untouchables in the caste system of high school and this script made you really root for them. I like what it had to say about entitlement."

2. Marley Shelton was originally cast as Torrance Shipman.

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When Reed came aboard as director, one actor was already attached to the project: Marley Shelton, who had previously starred in Pleasantville and Never Been Kissed.

"The first thing I did when I got the movie, after flying back to L.A., [was go] to a dinner with one of the producers and an actress they had offered the role of Torrance to: Marley Shelton," he said. "Marley Shelton is a terrific actress and we had dinner and talked about the tone of the movie. The script obviously needed work, but we were going to do rewrites, so we talked about what we wanted to do with the character and all the stuff. I walked away from that dinner thinking, I really love Marley Shelton. She's really terrific. She looks like a cheerleader to me. She'll be great."

But there was a hitch: Shelton was deciding between two films, Bring It On and Sugar and Spice, a 2001 crime comedy about a group of cheerleaders who rob banks in order to support a pregnant member of the squad. Shelton ended up choosing the latter and Reed began the search for his new leading lady.

"We started talking about who we could get to play Torrance and I immediately said Kirsten Dunst," the director recalled. "I loved Kirsten Dunst and she looked the part and is such a tremendous actor."

But the producers had already spoken to Dunst and she had passed. Reed, however, believed the script's revisions offered a new take on the role and they reached out once more. "Kirsten was making a movie, I think in the Czech Republic, and we sent her the new draft of the script once we had it," he said. "I got on the phone with her and she liked the changes — I talked more about what we were going to change — and she agreed to do the movie. Once we got her, everything else really fell into place."

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer played a huge part in Eliza Duskhu being cast.

20th Century Fox

For everyone involved, there was only one actor who could possibly play Missy, the squad's newest — and sassiest — member. "We knew we wanted Eliza because she'd been so great on Buffy," Reed said of Dusku's role as Faith, a morally flexible slayer on Joss Whedon's beloved drama. "Eliza just was Missy."

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4. James Franco and Jason Schwartzman both auditioned to play Torrance's love interest (and Missy's brother) Cliff.

"We saw so many people," Reed said of the lengthy casting process for the film's many supporting roles. "I have specific memories of trying to cast Cliff — I remember James Franco came in. He was so great and oddball, and definitely gave us a cool take on Cliff. I remember he said, 'I just shot this pilot for a show that's pretty cool. It's called Freaks and Geeks.' Of course that got picked up, so he was off the market."

Another notable name who came in to audition for Cliff was Jason Schwartzman, who was hot off his breakout role in 1998's Rushmore. "He was somebody I was very interested in for a while," Reed said. "I thought he was really, really great, but I think the studio was less high on him. I don't think they saw the commercial appeal."

In the end, Jesse Bradford landed the role of Cliff. "I had known him from that great movie, King of the Hill," Reed said of Steven Soderbergh's 1993 drama. "When Jesse came in, he had the perfect blend of being a good looking kid, a really smart actor, and you bought him as a kid who was into punk music. He also had really nice chemistry with Kirsten."

5. Gabrielle Union's character was modeled on Michael Jordan.

According to Reed, the studio tried to cast a pop star in the role of Isis, captain of the Toro's rivals, the Clovers, but he believed the part required a performer of substance. "I knew we needed a real actor," he said. "Gabrielle is just such a self-possessed actor — so smart, so engaging, great-looking, and charismatic — she clearly was the perfect Isis."

Union also was instrumental in helping to shape the character as she collaborated with Reed on script rewrites. "We worked a lot on her character when we were doing revisions for the script," he said. "It was about finding a balance with that character. Really talking about the fact that [the Clovers] were the rivals but they weren't the antagonists of the movie. We really wanted to create a strange, competitive friendship between Torrance and Isis. That was something we worked on a lot."

And for the duo, basketball superstar Michael Jordan ended up being someone they looked to a lot when discussing the various factors that motivated Isis. "I had gone to school in North Carolina and was a huge fan of Michael Jordan as a basketball player and the idea that he is just this hyper-competitive person. I remember talking about that moment at the end of the competition where Kirsten comes up and says, 'You guys were great,' and Isis says, 'We were, weren't we?' She didn't feel any compulsion to say, 'Oh, you guys were great too.' She had this competitive streak, but there was clearly an understanding. There was a mutual respect there and Gabrielle was instrumental in finding those moments."

6. The iconic toothbrush scene wasn't in the original script.

Universal

The rewriting process also resulted in the addition of a simple scene that ended up becoming one of the film's most beloved. "That whole thing of Torrance spending the night at Missy's house was added later on," Reed said of the sequence that provided the moment in which Torrance and Cliff brush their teeth, side by side, in complete tension-filled silence.

"The toothbrush thing just came about because we had to figure out where they could come into contact," Reed said. "The idea to do the toothbrush scene as this wordless thing was [inspired by] Capra's It Happened One Night. There's that moment where they're in the motor lodge and it's inappropriate and they put the blanket between them. It's all played in these looks and it really creates this sexual tension. It's a huge tribute to Kirsten and Jesse that the scene is so memorable because they're so good."

"I remember Kirsten saying to Jesse at one point, 'Is that really how you brush your teeth?'" Reed added, with a laugh. "They were just so cute together."

7. The Toros and Clovers each had different choreographers.

While Torrance discovers the Toros have been stealing moves from the Clovers, the squads actually had different choreographers for their big performances to ensure their routines felt different from each other.

"The cheerleading stuff was heavily choreographed with Anne Fletcher," Reed said. "She hired another choreographer named Hi-Hat who was assigned to choreograph the Clovers stuff so they had entirely different styles."

And the shared duties presented a unique and fun challenge for Fletcher, who went on to direct films like Step Up, 27 Dresses, and The Proposal. "When Hi-Hat choreographed 'Brr, It's Cold In Here' for the Clovers, Anne had a great time choreographing the really stiff, white-girl version for the Toros."

8. There's one routine that was entirely spontaneous.

Universal

While the full-out routines were meticulously choreographed, Dunst was left to her own devices for the scene in which Torrance hears Cliff's music for the first time. "Kirsten dancing on the bed was really something that was all Kirsten," Reed said. "We knew the idea and the emotion we wanted, but I think we only did a few takes. That was really all Kirsten."

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9. Almost all of Sparky Polastri's best lines were improvised.

Universal

Save for Spirit Fingers, almost everything Sparky does and says in the film was improvised on the day by actor Ian Roberts and Reed, who previously worked together in the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe.

"I knew I wanted him in there but we wanted to create a version of this character that was something different," Reed said. "That role in the original script was funny but thin and stereotypical. We knew he had to be a charlatan at the center of all of this — a guy who was up to no good — but we wanted to create something we hadn't seen with this pill-popping guy who was just a total fraud. We liked the idea of him being equal parts lecherous and off the rails, this awful reprehensible character these girls have to overcome. In terms of the issues cheerleaders have, he really appeals to their baser instincts."

10. Dushku and Bradford were arrested — and jailed — during a trip to Mexico mid-filming.

Universal

Even today, Reed marveled at how professional his young cast was — although a particularly scandalous incident was kept from him until the film wrapped.

"It was only at the end of the shoot that I learned, after talking to producers, that Eliza and Jesse and a couple of the cheerleaders decided to cross the border into Mexico and party and they ended up in a Mexican jail and had to be bailed out," Reed said. "True story. It was before one of the outdoor scenes — I think it was the car wash scene — they had barely made it to set and all that information was kept from me because, why fill my head with such nonsense? The actors made it to set and were shooting. It was only after the fact I learned there was such an amazing story. I would like to make a movie about that night: cheerleaders gone wild in Mexico!"

11. The audition cost a whole lot of money.

Universal

The film, which was made for $10 million ("which, by studio standards, is nothing"), allocated a significant portion of its budget to securing Warrant's 1990 hit, "Cherry Pie," for the cheerleader audition scene.

"My memory was that it cost $40,000," Reed said of the licensing fee they paid to include the track. "It's one of those songs that was such a big hit and probably that band's biggest hit ever, but it was so perfect for that scene; it needed to be raunchy and inappropriate. That was the single biggest music cue and expense we had in the movie."

12. The film's language wasn't too problematic for the MPAA.

Universal

Given the film's high school setting, it's not surprising that the movie is filled with expletives, but it was a bit of a surprise to Reed that they so easily got a PG-13 rating. "We had a little bit of a problem, but I don't think there was ever a point we actually got an R rating," he said. "There were definitely things they suggested we trim down in terms of language and things like that, but I liked the frankness of the language — both the loving use of the language and the hate of the language because I wanted it to feel like a real high school."

"I also wanted to create an environment that was a little idealized for the year 2000," Reed continued, defending the use of words like "fag" and "dyke." "We created this world where sexuality may be an issue with these meathead football players, but within the world of the cheerleaders, it's a total nonissue. It's talked about sort of in a fun way, but it's totally accepted. I wanted it to be a movie that had the issue of acceptance at hand. It was not just how we dealt with sexuality but the race issue. I didn't want to make a movie that was preachy in any way, but I liked that it dealt — sometimes obliquely — with those issues."

13. Dunst cried when the movie opened at the top spot at the box office.

Universal

Bring It On opened in theaters on Aug. 25, 2000, and, given the film's under-the-radar production, there was very little hype. " I remember we opened opposite The Art of War with Wesley Snipes, and Wesley Snipes was really big at that time so it was always like, Is there a chance we can come into second to Art of War or is it going to be a total disaster?" Reed said.

In reality, Bring It On defied the odds and opened at No. 1, making $22 million its first weekend and staying atop the box office in week two, adding another $15 million to its tally. The unexpected turn of events caught everyone off guard — particularly its star.

"On opening night, we drove from theater to theater in this big van and people were in the theaters and they were laughing," Reed said. "And then we went up to Universal City Walk for dinner when the numbers started coming in. At a certain point, we knew it was going to open at No. 1 and I remember Kirsten, little 17-year-old Kirsten, in tears, saying, 'I'm going to have a No. 1 movie?!?!' She was so thrilled. It was so sweet. It was pretty much an unbelievable experience."

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