On Tuesday night, The cast of The Big Sick arrived at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema for the official premiere of the film. Amongst them were various cast members including Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, co-screenwriter Emily Gordon, and co-producer Barry Mendel.
An autobiographical story based on the real-life romance between writers (and star) Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon, the film explores the circumstances behind their relationship after one fateful night of stand-up comedy. The story takes the viewer on a surprisingly humorous but deeply striking journey as Kumail and Emily, played by Zoe Kazan in the film, turn their one-night stand into something much more meaningful, complicating matters for Kumail as he tries to imagine a future involving both Emily and his very traditional Muslim parents.
Kumail Nanjiani: Co-screenwriter, Star
JP: How did you come to develop the script initially?
Nanjiani: I’d been talking to Judd Apatow, Judd Apatow wanted to work with us, and he was like, “do you have any personal stories that could be interesting movies?” I told him this, and he reacted really well, he said “let’s start working on it!” So we started working on it, developing it pretty much immediately.
JP: I asked Emily this earlier but just to elaborate, she said you were taking some other jobs instead of being an Uber driver?
Nanjiani: Yeah, I had an office job, I worked at this school with computers. It was actually way more of an office job than anything.
JP: Were you still doing comedy at the time?
Nanjiani: Yes, so the comedy world was pretty much like that, I was doing comedy at night, and then during the day, I was, I had a day job. 9-5.
JP: What was the decision behind simplifying that to Uber?
Nanjiani: Yeah, because we didn’t want to deal with all the, y’know, we had versions of the script, where we had all the jobs stuff, and then we were like, then I gotta take work off, if I take work off I get my boss angry – it was opening up a whole thing and we knew the work stuff was not as interesting. So we basically we took the job that we were like, this checks the box, it answers the question of how he makes money, with like, very little work, and then let’s just, focus on the rest of the story.
JP: How was the experience filming the movie?
Nanjiani: Oh, it was so fun, it was a lot more fun than I thought. It was hard work, which I knew it would be, but it was actually fun, which I didn’t know it would be. I was like, “put your head down, do the work, get through it,” but then it was actually a blast, I had a great time.
JP: Would you do it again?
Nanjiani: Yeah! i would love to, of course.
Emily Gordon: Co-screenwriter
JP: How was the process of getting together the script for the first time?
Gordon: It took a lot, it took many years, we worked on it for a long time, and to be thorough, we checked it out writing a vomit draft, with like, everything that kind of happened, everything we might wanna include, and we slowly started kind of picking and choosing what needed to be in there, what was part of the story, taking drafts to Judd, having him shoot them down; it was just a very long process!
JP: You said this was a long time ago, when did the events of this film actually take place?
Gordon: Ten years ago.
JP: Was there any effort to, sort of, de-modernize the story in the film? I don’t think there were.
Gordon: I will say, there weren’t iPhone locks on phones when it happened, and that is something that happened during the movie, and Kumail – Uber didn’t exist. Yeah, we had him have a couple different jobs; he had an actual job and then a couple different random jobs and then we realized, no one really cares what his job is, they just want to know he has a way to make money. So that’s how he became an Uber driver.
JP: Oh I see, just simplifying the process.
JP: How was getting Zoe to become you?
Gordon: She did a great job! And it never was really about becoming me, it was just kind of her taking this character that’s on the page, creating it alongside of us and all the director and the producers. So I never felt like she was trying to be me, cause that would have been weird, and no one knows who I am. And so, I was more happy we all got to collaborate and create this character, Emily, together, who isn’t me, but a person who’s kind of similar.
JP: How was the overall process of the film? Would you want to do it again?
Gordon: Great! I don’t know if I’d make another movie about my life, but I would definitely do this again, yes. (laughs)
Zoe Kazan, Star
JP: How did you prepare for the role, and what drew you into the script?
Kazan: Well, when I read the script, I felt like I had never seen this story before. It made me really excited, made me want to be a part of putting it on screen. Also, I think might be a modern representation for people of color doing comedy, so I was just so happy to see a script that was not just about white people. Also, we get to see Muslim-American culture onscreen. So that was my big draw, and then meeting Kumail and meeting Emily, I really fell in love with them and really wanted to help them bring their story to the screen.
Barry Mendel: Co-producer
JP: How did you get involved with the project?
Mendel: Well, Judd Apatow, who produced the movie also, met Kumail at SXSW in 2012, and I invited him in to say, ‘hey, you have anything you want to work on?’ Judd asked me to join the meeting and we heard the story and the story was, y’know, amazing.
JP: What did you love about the story?
Mendel: I remember Kumail telling me about these periods where they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with [Emily] and she’s just asleep, and he spent his time with her parents, and he just has realized how much she means to him, and there’s a moment that he describes where he’s just sitting in the car listening to old voicemail and crying his eyes out, and I just thought, “wow, that’s real. That’s real.” And that’s kind of what movies aspire to do and rarely do, and I thought, if we can make a movie that feels that real, that’ll be a great achievement, so it was a huge challenge to try to do that.
JP: How was working with the rest of the cast?
Mendel: The cast is, I think, world-class. Holly Hunter is a world-class actor, Ray Romano, I think, is very very surprising in this movie, because he’s funny but he has a lot of depth and a lot of nuance and sophistication to his acting. And pathos. I felt it coming on a daily basis, I love working with him. Kumail’s super funny, and also really wanted to go to the places emotionally that he went to in real life, and I think that was courageous of him. I think Zoe Kazan is a star. I think that, when we think of, well there’s Meryl Streep up there in her 60s now, and then, there’s people like Cate Blanchett who’ll take her mantle at some point when she’s 80 and frail, in comes the next generation. And I always wonder, because as producers, who’s the next generation? And I think we’ve seen some great performances from Rooney Mara, and we’re kind of wondering, “who is that next generation?” I think, to me, Zoe is one of the few people that’s kinda, up there, to continue those footsteps.
JP: Last but not least, how was the comedic atmosphere overall?
Mendel: It was super fun. One person that we got to work with eight years ago that I love is Bo Burnham. I love his comedy, and he’s just an effortless actor, so funny and so good at what he does. Bo, Aidy, Kurt Braunohler, and Kumail; It was fun, we had a really great time.
Aidy Bryant: Cast
JP: How did you get involved with the film?
Bryant: So I worked with Judd Apatow before, we were on Girls, and I knew Kumail little bit with some stuff, so I think that’s how I got into the mix, So yeah, when they asked me, I was like, “I love the script,” and I think it’s such an unheard story, so yeah, I was all in.
JP: Nice! How was it like working with the cast?
Bryant: So fun!. Every single person is extremely hilarious, and then, our director, Michael Showalter, is one of my comedy heroes, like, it the ultimate, most fun ever.
JP: Comedic paradise.
Bryant: Yeah! Comedy paradise!
JP: How was the experience overall?
Bryant: It was so fun. It was big…and I was like, a little, starstruck? (laughs) Because I love them all. It was so fun just to get to be good friends with them.
JP: Do you think you’ll be doing more films in the future?
Bryant: I don’t know, that’s the ultimate question! (laughs)
A fun party followed at the Public Hotel Rooftop. The film is now playing.