December 11, 2023

Bottoms writer-director Emma Seligman and star Rachel Sennott came up with the idea for the raunchy teen comedy on a white board, putting down “everything we wanted to see in a movie on the board” from “punching” to “vagina” to “knitting,” said Sennott.

The duo, who worked together on Seligman’s debut feature Shiva Baby, were still in school and, “We just went all out, not thinking of any limits,” she said Saturday during a panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film Los Angeles.

The film was taken up by producer Alison Small and landed at Orion after numerous rejections. Amazon MGM Studios released the R-rated comedy that became a sleeper hit with one of the biggest limited openings of the year, going on to pass $12 million at the box office. Small called it one of the funniest, weirdest and smartest scripts she’d ever read. Everyone passed until Orion Pictures president Alana Mayo said yes, “and you only need one.”

RELATED: ‘Bottoms’ Review: Rachel Sennott And Ayo Edebiri In Emma Seligman’s Comedy That’s Soaked In Blood, Sweat And Queerness – SXSW

The vision, the joy, of the film, said all three women on the panel, was that being gay wasn’t subtext. “I’m tired of sort of having to find the clues myself. I’d rather just see gay characters being gay or queer, and not having that be the plot. I think they’re, like, as gay as possible, that’s their identity. You get that out of the way, and then you can just have a regular movie,” said Seligman.

“We wanted to just make these characters who they are and not have to make them perfect people and then just make a crazy storyline,” added Sennott.

RELATED: The Contenders Film: Los Angeles – Deadline’s Full Coverage

It’s this: Two unpopular, queer high-school students PJ and Josie – Sennott and Ayo Edebiri – start a fight club they hope will lure their cheerleader crushes and may give them a shot at having sex before graduation. The two are “ugly, untalented gays,” summoned with those words to the principal’s office early in the film.

The club takes off and the girls really do beat the bloody sh-t of each other, which is strangely funny, as is former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch playing a high school teacher who agrees to mentor the club for the sake of feminism, which he’s into but doesn’t know anything about.

RELATED: ‘Bottoms’ Filmmakers On Telling A Story With “More Messy, Real Queer Teens” – SXSW Studio

The rest of the young cast, said Seligman, “all understood the tone and understood that they had to play it straight and be deeply committed to their bits. And that would allow the ridiculousness of the world to flourish.”

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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