THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME
About The Production
"This is Bridesmaids meets Bond," says co-writer/director Susanna Fogel.
Fogel and her friend and fellow comedy writer David Iserson often found
themselves sitting at the same cafe in Los
Angeles, working on their own separate projects, occasionally trading ideas.
This is how The Spy Who Dumped Me got
"Two types of movies we like to see are movies that show
people being funny, relatable and self-deprecating as they go
through their very mundane problems, and then movies
where you get the total transporting-yourself-to-another-world
fulfillment," says Fogel. "We figured we could try to come up
with something that excitingly jumbled the two and created
something worth watching."
"The idea was about two people who do not belong in an
action movie," adds Iserson. "But they have to survive when
they find themselves in this really, really aggressive
testosterone-y Bourne Identity kind of world." The two writers used that world
often, a boys-only playground, to spin a
story about two very different women, Audrey [played by Mila Kunis] and Morgan
[played by Kate McKinnon], who are
the best of friends, and stronger than they know.
"Audrey is a person who thinks a lot, she's very clever and smart, but she's
also her own worst enemy because she thinks
enough to doubt herself, and if she doesn't think something's going to go well,
she'll play it safe," explains Fogel. "Morgan
is pure heart, emotion, impulsiveness, she's always putting herself out there,
she's a born performer, she's been to every
acting camp, singing camp, acrobatics camp, she's THAT person."
It's the characters' differences that make them a great team. "They have
complementary skill sets," says Fogel. "Morgan's
always saying: 'We can do it, we got this' - she's really confident. Audrey's
the one who's thinking five steps ahead. They
end up having both the skills necessary to get them through by the skin of their
teeth. It's Audrey's craftiness and
Morgan's complete fearlessness that leads to a lot of the comedy and makes them
a good match as friends. They bring
out the best in each other."
Fogel first sent the script to "Saturday Night Live" star Kate McKinnon. "I
read all the scripts that were available in the
known universe, and this one just jumped out at me as really fun, well-crafted,
and really funny," says McKinnon. "I loved
the friendships so much. I loved that they weren't fighting with each other. It
reminded me of my relationship with my
very best friend of 22 years. I thought... I haven't seen that recently. I want to
With McKinnon on board to play Morgan, the script was sent to Mila Kunis for
Audrey. "I have always wanted to do a
badass girl action comedy," says Mila Kunis. "It was one of the funniest, most
obnoxious, wonderful comedies that I had
ever read and it was super badass. This could be two guys... it just so happens to
be two kick-ass girls. Kate McKinnon
was attached to it and I've been a fan of hers; she's super funny, incredibly
talented, and way funnier than I am."
Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment shepherded the project, with Grazer
producing alongside Imagine's Erica Huggins.
"The story is about discovering yourself, testing yourself and exceeding what
other people's expectations might be," says
Grazer. "It is something we wanted to make and we know audiences will respond to
because it is familiar, yet original.
The way female friendship is presented in the film is natural, smart, inspiring
With Kunis and McKinnon onboard, the rest of the cast fell together quickly.
"I thought the script was hilarious," says
Justin Theroux, who signed on to play Audrey's ex-boyfriend Drew. "When I knew
the talent that was involved in this
female-driven action comedy that dispatches with the guys, I wanted to be part
of it." Theroux was also eager to try his
hand at some Bourne-style action. "You know, neck cracking and ball-kicking and
snapping and shooting. That's always
The part of British agent Sebastian Henshaw went to "Outlander" star and
self-proclaimed Bond fan Sam Heughan. "This
is my first time playing a secret agent," the Scottish actor explains. "I've
played him so many times in my head. I think
every young actor has probably pretended or wanted to be Bond. This was a great
opportunity to play part of that world."
"The Daily Show" star Hasan Minhaj signed on to play Sebastian's foil:
American spy Topher Duffer. "Duffer is a smarmy
jerk," says Minhaj. "I thought it would be fun to play this character who is a
little insecure and wants to be really proud of
the fact that he went to Harvard. He's a little jealous of Sebastian as well."
"When I first read it I couldn't keep from laughing," says Ukrainian actress
Ivanna Sakhno, who was cast to play the role
of cold-blooded assassin Nadedja. "I really enjoyed following Audrey's and
Gillian Anderson, who was cast to play British spy boss Wendy, agrees. "You
care about these two characters, and you
care about the relationship. You care about their other relationships and their
future, and who they interact with."
From the first day of filming in Budapest, director Susanna Fogel made a
conscious decision to allow her talented cast
some wiggle room for improvisation.
"You have (Susanna) who knows exactly what the tone of the material is
supposed to be and is also extremely
collaborative," says Theroux. "Kate and Mila are very funny improvisers, so it's
a great sort of tennis match between all
"I was waiting for my cue, and the girls were riffing with Hasan's character,
Duffer, and Susanna let it go on and on,"
says Gillian Anderson. "I was laughing so hard! It's quite extraordinary to
watch the process and to have good actors,
good comedians lift something beyond where it already sits."
Heughan often went to great lengths to keep his buttoned-up British agent in
character. "I think heroic is the word!" he
says with a laugh. "Kate and Mila on set - that can always lead to the unknown.
They are extremely funny."
McKinnon flourished in this environment. "Sometimes some of the moments in a
movie that feel the most authentic and
the most improvised feel that way because they are the most authentic and the
most improvised," she says.
Such confident comedy, combined with pulse-pounding action and heartfelt
friendship makes The Spy Who Dumped
Me a film that will appeal to many audiences.
"Our movie will combine what draws people to see an action movie and what
draws people to see a female friendship
movie," says Fogel. "And the wish fulfillment of just leaving your comfort zone
and going into a crazy vacation with your
Her two stars agree. "The story of The Spy Who Dumped Me is simple," says
McKinnon, "It's two 'totes BFFs' who get
wrapped up in an international espionage adventure, and who doesn't want that? I
know I do! You're going to be swept
away on the adventure of a lifetime. You're going to be smiling, laughing your
ass off, and then you might shed a tear at
one point. But it will be a good tear."
"I hope you laugh a lot," says Kunis. "I hope you walk out feeling
invigorated and ready to kick-ass in life."
WOMEN KICKING ASS - ON BOTH SIDES OF THE CAMERA
The Spy Who Dumped Me was built as a genre-bender: two women at the center of
an action-packed spy caper. When
it came time to hire a director, it was easy to assume the job would go to
someone with lots of spy-thriller experience.
Writer Susanna Fogel pitched herself for the gig instead, and her intimacy with
the material convinced the producers that
the was the right person for the job.
"It is such a female story and such a personal story that has to
do with being in your 30s and being a woman and having these
issues that are very particular to my generation and me being
at that age," Fogel explains. "It naturally started to feel like if
we were going to find another director, it was going to be
someone who was more removed from that narrative than me.
It started to feel inevitable that I would do it."
Fogel had directed only one other movie (2014's Life Partners),
but approached this one like a filmmaking veteran. "The
challenge is really just having the confidence to throw yourself
into it and to be as prepared as you can be," says Fogel. "Part
of the job is gathering the team that can sort of create this
organism of making a great thing together, and it's really the
community-building, which is something that women are
pretty good at doing, but we don't always know that that's what we can do."
Says Gillian Anderson of Fogel: "She's incredibly specific, she knows what
she wants... and she knows how to talk to
What Fogel lacked in action experience, she made up for with her devotion to
verisimilitude -- making every moment in
the frame feel honest and authentic.
"It is because Susanna comes from an indie world that her characters are so
grounded," says Kunis. "They just happen to
be in these obnoxious situations. What she brings is honesty to a very crazy,
"Susanna is a very gifted comedy writer but also really wants to keep
everything real," seconds McKinnon. "I learned a lot
from her, listening to the way that she was guiding me and what she wanted me to
do. It was really different for me."
As the story unspools, the two "average girls" start to build confidence, an
important narrative arc that also felt natural to
the actors. "This is how I would really act if I had become embroiled in an
international espionage adventure," says
McKinnon. "I would not be the best spy right out of the gate, but I'd get a hang
of it after a week or so. I'm a big
geography buff and I love foreign language, and so I would really get a charge
out of that part of itâ¦trying to disguise
myself as a local of wherever I was."
"There are five guys on motorcycles chasing you, shooting at you, and you're
somehow able to get away. You just have
to go with it." adds Kunis. "You fake it 'til you make it!"
THE SPIES THAT BIND
Central to The Spy Who Dumped Me is the deep and true friendship between the
two main characters, Audrey and
"I love movies about friendship," says director Susanna Fogel. "They are so
criminally under-produced when it comes to
women. We have all these movies about male friends, and we don't have as many
movies about female friends. We have
women in romantic comedies, but we don't really see women with their friends and
how ridiculous and relatable those
relationships can be, and yet for many women that is the most important
relationship in their life. Everyone has a best
friend, and everyone loves and hates their best friend at different times in
"We made a very specific choice in this movie," says co-writer
David Iserson, "that this wouldn't be like other friendship movies
where at some point they fight and at some point they're
separated. We wanted these characters to love each other
throughout and always appreciate each other and enjoy each
This dynamic resonated with the movie's two stars. "It would be
like Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt had a baby with 'I Love Lucy',"
explains Mila Kunis. "Kate and I are like Ethel and Lucy. One of us
is like 'you're going to get in trouble!' and the other one is saying
'I'll keep you out of trouble', it is that best friend duo. Kate reminds
me so much of Lucille Ball. I'll be Ethel, and Kate is Lucille."
"It's so important for that friendship to feel genuine and lived in like it's
been around for decades," adds Kate McKinnon.
"I'm still friends with all of my best girlfriends from late elementary school
and the ease of that and comfort of that... is
an invaluable part of life."
Like many best friends, Audrey and Morgan have shared goals, but very
different personalities. "Audrey is very gun-shy,
and doesn't lie well, is nervous in life, is self-conscious at all times, and
plays life very safe," says Kunis. "Morgan is her
counterpart who is a struggling actress, who views life as one giant audition,
and is constantly doing voices and
characters, takes risks and chances, and goes balls out. The two of them kind of
collide and go on this adventure
The relationship between the two characters led to a bond between the actors
even when the camera wasn't rolling.
Grazer noticed it from the beginning. "It was maybe the best table read I've
ever heard," he says. "It was quite surprising
because every time Kate scored a laugh, which was every time she spoke, Mila was
rooting for her. Their chemistry was
undeniable and fantastic, they were two women that are completely supportive of
Gillian Anderson saw the chemistry too. "I was really struck by how much Kate
and Mila seem like they've actually known
each other for a long time," she says. "And the way that they interact on and
off camera, they're so clearly comfortable
with each other."
"Mila's a California girl, Kate's from New York. Kate is sort of outlandish,
Mila's a little bit more like sort of an every girl in
her sensibilities, and basically it's like Audrey and Morgan," explains Fogel.
"They have that chemistry of two really
different people who have a lot of common ground, but have very different sort
of frequencies within which they
""I learned so much from Mila Kunis," says McKinnon. "Just watching her as
she tried to deepen and ground this
relationship, and I just tried my best to follow suit. She is really gifted and
has so much heart and would just laugh at me.
She was so gracious with her laughter, and it just felt like we were the best of
old friends. She was so supportive and
genuinely kind, and she really made me laugh and...it's a match made in heaven!"
One of the hallmarks of many action-comedies is the half-hearted stunt
sequence, only used to propel the audience to the
next funny set up. For The Spy Who Dumped Me, director Fogel was determined to
escape that cliche. "It's important
for me that the action be just as fearless as the action in a male driven movie,
and that we don't hold back, we don't try
to like soften it," she says.
With this in mind, she hired legendary stunt coordinator and second-unit
director Gary Powell, whose extensive resume includes both the Bond and
"When you're watching a comedy you maybe think, 'oh it's going to be a little
bit softer, a little bit lighter,' but Gary is actually very hard-charging,"
Theroux. "That is his style. There are a couple of shots, the car chase with the
motorcycle that takes one of the hardest hits I've ever seen on film!"
Powell embraced the challenges of this movie, "You have so many different
characters in one film," he says. "Generally, if
it's an action film, you're expecting a certain thing; with Sam, who plays
Sebastian, we know he's an action guy, he's the
agent, but then Morgan and Audrey are two normal people. When I was designing
the action and the stunts, I had to
bear in mind that these people are everyday people who suddenly can't turn into
martial arts experts and rally drivers."
Gary's choreography of a pivotal car chase is a case in point. "When, Morgan
or Audrey takes over the driving, I have to
bear in mind that in their world neither is an expert driver. As the chase
starts we establish very quickly that there are
three bad guys on motorbikes chasing from behind and they get rid of the three
guys but it's actually through accidents
that they get rid of the guys. They are getting it wrong as they try to get
away, but then in getting it wrong they're
Powell also tailored the action scenes to reflect Audrey and Morgan's growing
skillset. "His challenge here is to make it
look like it's two non-professionals trying to do their best," says Fogel. "Then
we have this other level, which is as the
girls get better at what they're doing, their expertise will increase, and
start to mimic more the trained spy action that we have."
Whether it was a cafe shootout, a gymnasium torture scene, or a high-octane
trapeze act, the cast embraced Gary's passion for creating
"Gary made me [get on the trapeze]. There I was, eighteen feet off
the ground," says Kate McKinnon. "That's a long way! It's freaky up
there, but really fun."
"His father, I believe, did all the Indiana Jones films which were a staple
of my upbringing," she adds. "He was telling me
stories about that and I was just really crapping myself because it is amazing
to hear about what it was like on those sets.
Gary is a true character and a great man who I have learned a lot from. And his
passion for jumping out of planes,
swinging through the air and punching people is unparalleled."
"Gary's very intense," laughs Hasan Minhaj. "He is a character. He is a hard
stunt coordinator that wants to really make
every fight scene look badass and awesome, but then he also has a necklace with
the thumb prints of his daughters on
him. So he really is his own version of the movie Taken."
"I read a few scripts and this was the one that stood out to me," says Powell.
"The rest of them were pretty much sort of
'been there, seen it and done it' sort of thing. I think it's something when it
comes out it's going to surprise a few people.
And I like doing that."
"Who doesn't want to go on a road trip through Europe with Mila Kunis and
Kate McKinnon?" asks Sam Heughan.
In the vein of many globe-hopping spy thrillers, The Spy Who Dumped Me sends its
characters on an international
odyssey to nine cities: Vilnius (Lithuania), Los Angeles, Vienna, Prague, Paris,
Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo, and Moscow.
The production was largely shot on location in Budapest, Hungary, and also
filmed in Vienna, Amsterdam, and Berlin.
Filming in real European locations lent the film the authenticity that director
Susanna Fogel wanted. "We want to feel like
there are different stops along the way that touch on a different thing about
Europe that people will find interesting,
exotic, funny, different," she says.
The variety of locations and required sets kept Production Designer Marc
Homes busy. "We are in this futuristic Tokyo bar,
and then we were in a Soviet-style kind of gymnastics training camp, we did
hostels in Amsterdam -- a lot of interesting
sets for me," says Homes. "Every week there were three or four completely
different things to do, which is nice, it's a
challenge and keeps you moving fast."
Authenticity was also the guiding principle Homes used to
visually ground the sets in reality. "My pitch with Susanna was
that I said, 'I don't really want to play this so it looks overtly like
a comedy,'" says Homes. "I don't want to do leopard skin
wallpaper on the inside of an airplane or something like that. I
want to play it very straight and very naturalistic, and that was
her take on it completely."
Budapest was chosen as the main filming location because of its
large film crew base, proximity to other cities, and varied
architecture. "It's on the Danube and it's a part of gateway
Europe," says Homes. "Within a small area there's an enormous amount of
variation and interest for shooting. You can
get Paris, Berlin and Vienna. There are a different variety of architectures in
the city and there are modern looks as well.
The whole city has been restored over the last ten to fifteen years, so parts of
it are unbelievably beautiful and ornate
now, as good as you would get in any major city in Europe."
For the film's stars, Budapest has become a second home. "If I begin to talk
about [Budapest], I will cry my mascara off,"
says Kate McKinnon. "I live in New York. I love New York more than anything. I
didn't think that love could be tested or
rivaled by anything and it has nearly been superseded!"
"I love Budapest," agree Mila Kunis. "It's strikingly beautiful and so
culturally rich, and the people are wonderful and
For the director, Budapest and the other locations are a critical part of
this multi-faceted film. "It's part road trip, part
best-friend movie, part travel log, part spy movie, as the characters discover
their inner bad-ass with their best friend,"
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