About The Film
Booksmart is a fresh, unfiltered, original comedy and coming-of-age tale
about your high school ride-or-die.
"From the beginning, my take on the story was that high school has extremely
high stakes," says director Olivia
Wilde. "When you're in it, high school feels like life or death. I wanted to
approach this film the same way a
director would approach a high-octane action movie," continues Wilde. "I wanted
it to feel like a buddy cop
movie, where it's about partners who have each other's backs no matter what.
They can be very different
people who can support each other, complete each other, but within a high-stakes
environment. We took
inspiration from Beverly Hills Cop, Training Day and Lethal Weapon. Basically,
Booksmart is a relationship
movie, set in a high school environment that reflects just how high the stakes
truly are during that period of
At its heart, Booksmart is a story about the breadth and depth of female
friendship. "I was very happy that this
movie was being made, even before I thought I even had a chance in hell of being
part of it," recalls Wilde.
"I was just grateful that someone was making a story about female friendship
that wasn't about them just trying
to get a guy or trying to assimilate."
"The movie isn't about two nerdy girls who just want to dress up like popular
girls and somehow bag the
popular guy," continues Wilde. "It's a story about the friendship between two
young girls which for most
women at that age is their first intimate relationship before they move on into
adulthood. It's an intense bond,
and it's something that most of us can reflect upon and think, 'How did that
friendship inform my identity and
my future relationships?'
"And yet, it's also break-up movie because these girls have to say goodbye to
each other," adds Wilde. "They
have to set each other free. They have become almost one living, breathing
being, and now it's time for them
to separate and set forth on their own journey. That's not easy to do. In this
movie, we're telling the story
about these girls at a pivotal moment in their lives, which happens to be a fun
and exciting adventure."
"I was a lot like Molly and Amy in high school (admittedly much more like
Molly)," says producer David
Distenfeld. "I related to their anxieties, their intensity and their friendship.
It's rare that teens are portrayed in
such an honest, smart, funny and mature way."
Like Distenfeld, the story resonated with producer Jessica Elbaum's own
teenage years of self-discovery. "For
me, this one was super special because I had a similar high school experience,"
says Elbaum. "These are the
characters and world that I know all too well, and so, I have a soft spot for
Just like Molly and Amy confronting whether they can escape their high school
labels, the producers were
excited to make a movie that confronted those same high school movie labels. "I
thought that this film is such
an honest and truthful take on high school today and what these kids are going
through," says Elbaum. "Trying
to fit in when you are labeled as different. I wanted to explore that with this
Wilde embraced her directorial debut with a contagious enthusiasm and
creativity that easily convinced the
producers that she was the perfect choice to helm this project. "Olivia and I
have been friends for years," says
Elbaum. "I was looking for a director for Booksmart, and I knew she had
previously directed music videos.
And then, I had one of those moments, where I thought she was the perfect person
to direct this film. Olivia
read the script and immediately said, 'I'm in.' She pitched her concept of the
film to the Annapurna team and
they loved it."
In Wilde, the producers had a director with an uncanny intuitive sense about
the characters and a unique
storytelling perspective. "Olivia really understood these girls and their
friendship, and she recognized
immediately what it would take for a story like this to feel cinematic," states
Distenfeld. "Beyond being
exceptionally smart and funny, she has such a keen ear for what feels real -
always looking for emotional and
comedic moments without selling out the characters. She knows what it's like to
be a young actor and how
to encourage a great performance from someone at that age."
The evolution of the story was an organic process that required a dexterous
writer who not only understood
the filmmaker's vision but could also capture and convey the high school
experience in a fun and meaningful
way. "One of the most important parts of the film's equation is writer Katie
Silberman," says Wilde. "Katie
came on board to rewrite the script and linked arms with me to tell the story in
a way that was responsive to
everything that was evolving as we put it together. With each newly introduced
element from the locations to
the sets to the actors, she rewrote the script to reflect these changes and made
the story far better than I ever
Working alongside Wilde to create this chaotic and complex world of teens,
Silberman found a true kindred
spirit. "It's been the most fun I've ever had, developing this script with
Olivia," says Silberman. "She brought
so many ideas and is such a wonderful collaborator," continues Silberman. "She's
open to everyone's input. I
feel lucky to have been able to contribute to her vision. She created this
incredible environment where
everyone got to feel like best friends while making a movie about best friends."
For Silberman, being a part of Booksmart was a high school dream come true.
"I was the girl who didn't party
in high school, so it's a lot of wish fulfillment as to what I might have done
the last night of school if I hadn't
been at home," says Silberman. "I wish I could have seen this film when I was in
When it came time to cast the Crockett High School senior ensemble, the
filmmakers wanted to break the
stereotypes. "Allison Jones our casting director has long been revered as one of
the greatest casting directors
in the business," says Wilde. "From Freaks and Geeks to Superbad to Lady Bird,
she has an eye for young
talent who exude a certain essence that is authentic, honest and unique."
"A lot of times these films are just a series of stereotypes consisting of
the nerdy girl, hot guy and the like,"
continues Wilde. "I wanted people who came at it with a different perspective.
And Allison was able to put
together a list of talent who had that special quality, none of whom were
famous. I loved being able to give
these actors a chance to show me what made them different as opposed to trying
to put them into boxes. Our
cast is comprised of young people who saw their character in a different light.
That's what I wanted, and I'm
From the beginning, everyone knew they couldn't make this movie without
casting a duo of believable best
friends. The story lives and dies on the chemistry of Molly and Amy, and Wilde
found the perfect duo in
Beanie Fedstein and Kaitlyn Dever.
Kaitlyn Dever's character Amy is the social justice warrior with a heart of
gold pining for the girl she tutors.
"Amy is very sweet and innocent who has a by-the-book approach to life,"
explains Dever. "She supports a
lot of causes and after graduation plans to go to Africa to help women. When it
comes to fighting for others,
Amy is a pit bull, but when it comes to her own interests, she isn't very
"Amy decides to go on that journey with Molly because she wants to flirt with
her crush, Ryan," continues
Dever. "She never had the courage to go up and talk to her, and if she doesn't
try now, she will never know
what could have been. And so, through the course of the movie, Molly teaches her
how to stand up for herself
and be strong."
Dever appreciated that Amy being gay was not the focal point of her story
arc. "The gay character in a lot of
films, even today, have to have a coming out story. But in Booksmart, the coming
out part of the story is about
Molly revealing to Amy that she likes Nick, which is not usually the case.
That's what was so awesome about
this movie, and another aspect that drew me to the film because that never
To bring Amy to life, Dever drew from female musical influences as well as
her own personal experiences. "I
listened to a lot of Helen Reddy and Alanis Morissette to start with," recalls
Dever. "I told Olivia that I played
the Autoharp and we incorporated that into the character."
"Most importantly, I wanted Amy to feel as real as possible - a teenager with
real struggles, ups and downs,
parent issues, problems with authority figures," continues Dever. "Someone who
wants to stand-up for herself,
but can't, and then realizing that she can in the end with the support of her
best friend. That's why I've loved
playing her so much."
For Wilde, Dever was the perfect embodiment of Amy. "Kaitlyn was attached
before I became a part of this
project and I was delighted," says Wilde. "I've always been a fan of hers. Short
Term 12 was astonishing and
I loved her in Men, Women & Children. She's got something so special about her.
She's so smart but doesn't
have to work very hard to prove it. Like Amy, she also has a vulnerability that
is just right below the surface
at all times coupled with her incredible comedic timing and quick, dry wit."
Dever saw many of Amy's attributes in herself. "I am very similar to my
character," says Dever. "When I was
in high school, I was the cool one, but I also liked homework. I loved turning
in work, taking tests and getting
good grades." She also notices a little bit of Molly in herself as well. "I like
to party. So, in that respect, I'm
more like Molly."
What struck Dever the most about Booksmart was the friendship between Amy and
Molly. "What stood out
to me the most when I first read the movie was the bond between these two
characters," says Dever. "They're
so close and it feels so real. They've been friends forever and would do
anything for each other. They've only
had each other growing up. I think they're almost like sisters."
"I haven't seen a movie in a while like this, where I think, 'Oh, that's like
me and my best friend,'" continues
Dever. "This movie reminds me a lot of the relationships and friends that I have
in real life, and I think that's
what's so special about this movie. Booksmart is a love story, when it comes
down to it. It really is."
Beanie Feldstein's character Molly is a bonafide go-getter whose eyes are
locked on the future and finds
frivolity a waste of time. "Molly is an intensely academic human being,"
explains Feldstein. "She's the
Valedictorian of her senior class. She's going to Yale. As much as she values
Amy, she values schoolwork
even more. She's very clear and very certain about what she wants in life. She
wants to become a Supreme
Court Justice and she sees the exact steps that she needs to get there. She's
not going to let anyone or anything
break that path. Having fun is not part of the equation."
Feldstein enjoyed Molly's self-imposed constraints. "She constantly fights
against different urges and that's
been fun to play," says Feldstein. "If she's feeling joy in a certain moment, or
a flirtation, or excitement, she
feels the need to suppress it. I've enjoyed tapping into my stubborn intensity,
which normally doesn't exist, to
create that push and pull struggle within Molly."
In playing Molly, Feldstein was deeply moved with the way the film tackles
preconceived notions of how we
see one another. "The message of the film is that we all judge each other too
quickly and we judge ourselves
too quickly without knowing it," explains Feldstein. "We put ourselves in boxes
and put others in boxes.
During the course of the movie, Molly and Amy realize that they think of
themselves as bright, inclusive girls,
but in actuality they've been ostracizing a lot of people from their lives that
they could have had as friends
throughout their high school experience. Their classmates are guilty of judging
them as well and come to the
same conclusion. The film is a rallying cry for inclusivity and a cautious tale
about not judging a book by its
cover. We are all multidimensional and capable of being many things at once."
To embody Molly, Feldstein drew upon her own academic obsession as well as
the love she feels towards her
friends. "I can be very hyper-focused on things," states Feldstein. "Throughout
my life, I went in and out of
loving academia, but when I was in college, I was fiercely academic. I love that
side of myself. So, it's been
fun to portray that in Molly."
"She's also such a loving friend," continues Feldstein. "She loves Amy so
hard, but, she expresses it differently
from the way other people express their love for someone. When it comes to
loving your friends intensely,
that's something that I have in my bones."
Like Dever, Feldstein shared a similar affinity with both characters. "There
are many aspects of me that are
Molly," states Feldstein. "Molly's a perfectionist, and I'm a perfectionist.
But, when it comes to going out, I'm
the Amy. I'm the one to leave the party first."
Although contrary to her character's loathing of the theater scene, thespians
hold a special place in Feldstein's
heart. "I am a straight up theater nerd," says Feldstein. "In high school, if
there was a play, I was in it. Molly
hates the theater kids in the movie. So, it was fun hating on my people, but
secretly thinking, 'I'm one of you,
but not right now.'"
To find the perfect person to portray Molly, Wilde looked no further than
Feldstein. "Molly is one of my
favorite characters I've ever read in a script," says Wilde. "Beanie was my
dream Molly from the beginning.
She has an innate humanity and a real inner light that makes every character she
plays shine. You sense a well
of vulnerability beneath what she's created for Molly as a tough exterior. Molly
is full of love even if she can't
quite figure how to express it because she doesn't think she's worth being
"What Beanie brought to this character is incredible," continues Wilde. "She
has a sense of humility that I
haven't seen much in this business. I'm blown away by her. She's a real triple
threat - a superstar. Her range
is limitless. I'm so lucky that we got her in this film. It's a dream come
Similarly, for Feldstein, she longed to be a part of Booksmart. "I'd read
this script years ago and it was always
in the back of my mind," recalls Feldstein. "Then, I got this call from my agent
telling me that Olivia Wilde
wants to have lunch with you. And I thought, 'How does she know who I am? That's
"We met and had the greatest time," continues Feldstein. "I was so excited
and honored that she thought of
me for Molly." Landing the role of Molly was more than Feldstein could hope for,
as she never imagined she
would be sharing a scene with her all-time favorite actress - Lisa Kudrow. "I'm
the number one Lisa Kudrow
fan on this earth," says Feldstein. "I have a sticker of her on my computer. She
was the literally one of the
biggest things to ever happen to me. I find her to be the loveliest human being
ever to exist. She is remarkable
"I'm such a fan that it was hard for me to function as a human being,"
continues Feldstein. "In one scene, I
was lying on the bed, and the first thing that came to my mind, as I was fake
strumming the autoharp, was one
of Phoebe's songs on Friends, 'Monica, Monica, Have a Happy Hanukah.' In my
head, I was singing this, and
a kept telling myself, 'Beanie, if you sing that out loud I swear to god. Keep
it together, Feldstein. Mother of
God, do not mess this up.'"
With Molly and Amy being flip sides of the same coin, Feldstein and Dever
decided to mirror their character's
relationship by being roommates during production. "It was at Olivia's
suggestion that we room together,"
says Feldstein. "And Kaitlyn and I looked at each other and said, 'Let's do it.'
Living together has made us the
best of friends. It's been wonderful. We love each other."
For Dever, the real-life friendship between the two of them contributed to
the on-screen chemistry between
Amy and Molly. "I think it made such a difference," states Dever. "Living
together throughout this film has
been the greatest. At the end of the day, we go home, lie in bed, watch TV
together, and eat pancakes. I feel
so close to Beanie, and I think the movie is better for it."
The way Dever and Feldstein felt about one another extended to the entire
production. "I have never had this
feeling before about a cast and crew," says Dever. "Olivia created a family
oriented set. Everyone loves this
project so much. This is an amazing group of people."
Feldstein adds, "It's the most talented group of people, who have been
incredibly fun and warm. Everyone
loves each other. It makes me sad that it's ending."
Molly and Amy are A+ people and will settle for nothing less than attending
an A+ party - which means
finding their way to Crockett High's Class Vice President Nick's house. Nick,
played by Mason Gooding, is
the big man on campus, the golden boy life of the party. "Nick's super sweet,
got great hair, a good sense of
style and is bright to boot. It's almost like with great power comes great
responsibility. He's aware of his cool
factor and uses that to uplift his peers and bring them into the fold. Nick is
always trying to please people and
just be a genuine guy."
Nick's natural charm and laid-back popularity infuriates Molly, who sees him
as someone who never takes
anything seriously. "By coming to Nick's party, Molly steps into his world,"
says Gooding. "He's both honored
and surprised because she never seemed like the type of person who would go to a
party let alone his. Nick
realizes his face value assumption of Molly was wrong."
When Molly lets her imagination run wild, she and Nick break into a
classically old-Hollywood dance
number, requiring Gooding and Feldstein to don their dancing shoes. "I'm not a
dancer," states Gooding. "It
took me a while to get the moves down, but Beanie, who is a professionally
trained dancer, was very patient
and understanding which helped me land the choreography."
"We had a total of ten hours of rehearsals," continues Gooding. "There were
lifts, turns and sexy body rolls.
The entire experience was fantastic. Hopefully, it looks as great as it felt
doing it." Feldstein adds, "The dance
was a very special scene to film. Mason worked so hard. And our choreographer,
Denna Thomsen and her
assistant Jamie were amazing. The four of us were a little team determined to
pull this off. We did it in one
take, and it was incredible."
For Gooding, Booksmart taught him more about the ways of the world than his
time in school. "I've never felt
more a part of something which is the reason why I went to college for a few
years," says Gooding. "It wasn't
until I got here that I understood what it meant to be a community, and to be
backed by so many brilliant,
artistic people. It feels like I have a support system. Being on set has been
awe inspiring and invigorating.
Now that I have had this remarkable experience, where do I go from here?"
Eduardo Franco plays Theo, the seemingly-dopey, surprisingly bright, oldest
kid in class. "Theo is not a
complete idiot, but he's flunked a couple of grades," says Franco. "So, he's a
few years older than his peers."
"Theo, Tanner and Nick are thick as thieves," continues Franco. "They met as
kids and stuck with each all the
way through high school." Like their characters, the three actors found a
genuine camaraderie with each other.
"Our chemistry is real. It's raw. It's natural. There's nothing forced happening
here," says Franco. "We're
Franco incorporated his mannerisms and style into Theo. "There's a lot of me
in Theo," states Franco. "From
the things he says to his actions to his clothes, everyone was open to my
The other "T" in Nick's eclectic homeboy trio is Tanner, portrayed by Nico
Hiraga, the charismatic
consummate flirt who is unlucky with the ladies. "Tanner tries very hard to get
in with the girls, but it just
doesn't work to his favor," says Hiraga. "He's not the luckiest of dudes with
"When I was in high school, I was a small little dude with braces," recalls
Hiraga. "I would flirt with the older
girls and always get rejected. Being reminded of it, I think, 'WOW! Those were
good times.' It taught me to
not be afraid to try. Fall down seven times stand up eight. Keep going, don't
Skyler Gisondo plays Jared, the Richie Rich of the class who tries way too
hard to fit in. "Jared is a very sweet
guy from a wealthy family who goes to extremes to be cool," says Gisondo. "From
lavishing his classmates
and teachers with expensive gifts to wearing trendy, ostentatious clothing, all
his efforts for his peers'
acceptance consistently backfire and lead to further rebuke."
"From the get-go, he is super sprung on Molly," continues Gisondo. "He views
Molly as someone who is self-aware and knows what she wants in life. This
authenticity and confidence is why he loves her. Unfortunately,
like with everything else, his over-the-top flirtations fall flat, and she wants
nothing to do with him."
For all of Jared's garishness, his heart has always been in the right place.
"He's so pure-hearted and he's so
generous," observes Feldstein. "He sees Molly in a way that other people don't
see her, and she doesn't realize
how much she needs him until he's there for her."
Booksmart was the high school experience Gisondo never had. "I was
homeschooled until the tenth grade so I
didn't have that quintessential high school experience like this one. It's been
a lot of fun to live vicariously
Jared's hilariously uninhibited partner-in-crime is Gigi, portrayed by Billie
Lourd. "Gigi is at the top of the
social pyramid," says Lourd. "She marches to her own beat and doesn't give a
damn about what people think
of her. She loves wreaking havoc and being the center of attention. Gigi is the
comic relief when things get
To assume Gigi's eccentric persona, Lourd recalled a moment from her Bat
Mitzvah gone bad. "During my
Bat Mitzvah, I was at the top of a staircase lined with lit candles," recalls
Lourd."As I made my grand entrance,
my skirt caught on fire. Everyone looked at me in a state of panic. Without even
thinking, I tore off my skirt,
stomped out the flames, and screamed, 'F*ck yeah!' And that's my inspiration for
Diana Silvers is Hope, the aloof, cynical pretty girl who's too cool for
school. "She feels like no matter what
she does or how hard she tries to be accepted, she's still not going to be
liked. There's nothing she can do
about it. So, Hope decides to own that misconception, and embrace her steely
Through Hope, Silvers stepped out of her comfort zone. "I've never made out
with a girl or taken my clothes
off on screen," states Silvers. "So, I overcame my own fears. It didn't feel
like we were trying to arouse the
male gaze, but rather, two girls awkwardly figuring out what to do. It was
funny, beautiful, and intimate just
as it should be when you're with someone the first time - perfect and special."
Being a misunderstood high school pretty girl herself, Silvers knew what it
is like to walk in Hope's shoes. "I
was the hot weirdo in high school," recalls Silvers. "I didn't get asked to
prom. Finally, in my senior year, I
reached a certain point, where I really tried to change that perception of me,
but, no matter what I did these
individuals would not accept me. So, I thought, 'Fine. I'm not cool. This is how
this year's going to end.' Then,
time passes and everyone finds their peace. I'm twenty years old now, I've found
my peace. In Booksmart,
after the party, everyone finds their peace which is how it should be."
Molly Gordon is what Molly and Amy assume to be the typical mean girl.
"Triple A is promiscuous and proud,"
states Gordon. "She's very sexual and not afraid to talk about it. And she has
always felt that her female peers
judged her unfairly because of it. They erroneously assume that makes her less
intelligent until they learn that
she is Ivy League bound."
Triple A is a departure from the roles that Gordon usually gets. "I typically
play very sweet characters," says
Gordon. "So, it was fun to play someone different. It's cool to have a character
that is comfortable in her skin
and smart. It affirms that those things do not have to be mutually exclusive."
The film marks the first time that Gordon got to share the screen with her
best friend in real life, Beanie
Feldstein. "Beanie and I have been friends since we were thirteen years old,"
says Gordon. "This is my first
time working on a film with her and I am deeply excited about it. We've been
friends for so long, it makes me
cry tears of joy to see my friend get to be a lead in a movie. I'm just so proud
of her. That's been the biggest
gift of this movie is getting to watch her work."
In her film debut, Victoria Ruesga plays Ryan, a free-spirited, skater-girl
and the object of Amy's affection.
"Ryan is very chill," says Ruesga. "She lives to push her wheels, and takes life
in stride. She doesn't know that
Amy has a crush on her."
Portraying Ryan was an art imitates life experience for Ruesga. "I'm playing
myself," says Ruesga. "I've been
skating since I was a kid. Now, I am an amateur skateboarder with sponsorships
and endorsements. Since
Ryan is a skater-girl, I incorporated my world into hers," continues Ruesga. "I
use my own slang and clothes. I
have a strong connection with her."
Happenstance led Ruesga to the part. "I've never acted before," says Ruesga.
"It was spontaneous how I got
this role. Allison Jones, the casting director, asked a mutual friend of ours if
he knew anyone who would fit
this role. He told her about me. Then, I auditioned and got the part."
Although Ruesga easily came by the role of Ryan, being available to actually
make the film proved more of a
challenge. "I'm studying to be a psychotherapist," states Ruesga. "In order for
me to be on set, I had to take a
leave of absence from school for a month. Thankfully, all of my professors were
very supportive and made
special accommodations for me to complete my work and take the final exams."
Noah Galvin plays George, the aspiring thespian destined for Broadway.
"George is the student director of
Crockett High's theater program," says Galvin. "He's the quintessential theater
kid that you hated in high
school - obnoxious, overbearing and over-the-top. He has a clear career
trajectory in mind and will do
whatever it takes to achieve his goal, which is probably directing a Tony award
winning play by age twenty-three."
George is a more colorful version of Noah. "George is basically a caricature of
me," observes Galvin. "I'm
playing the most extreme version of myself possible, and it seems to work. On
another level, I can relate to
him in a way because I know what it is like to be out and in the arts."
The filmmakers tailor made this role for Galvin. "George was not in the
original script. I initially auditioned
for Alan, but I didn't get the part. I was crushed, but then, I was told they
wrote a new character called George
for me, which is incredibly cool. I feel lucky to be here."
A director needs a star, and Austin Crute, who plays Alan and is George's
leading man and combative best
pal, wants to leave a lasting impression. "Alan is delightfully flamboyant and
wants to shine," says Crute.
"There's a friendly competition between he and George. They clash and butt
heads, but at the end of the day,
they're friends and care about each other. They want each other to succeed." As
soon as they met, Crute and
Galvin head an instant rapport. "The first time we met was on set," recalls
Crute. "Right off the bat, we had
immediate chemistry. And now we're friends just like our characters."
Jessica Williams plays Miss Fine, the teacher everybody loves and who has Amy
and Molly's back in a pinch.
Although popular with the students, Miss Fine has her own pangs of regret. "Miss
Fine is the school's English
teacher," says Williams. "She's very cool and wants to affect change in her
students. When she was a teenager,
she regrets not living her high school life to the fullest. And she is trying to
encourage Amy and Molly to not
make the same mistake."
Williams' portrayal of Miss Fine manifested from the teachers who supported
her passion for the arts. "When I
was in high school, I had a great drama program with excellent teachers who
believed in me and inspired
me to invest in myself," recalls Williams. "What makes a teacher incredible is
if they care, that makes a big
difference. I wanted to bring that to Miss Fine. She needed to be the teacher
that everyone wishes they had -
she's smart, understands jokes and references, and loves teaching."
Taking on this role gave Williams the opportunity to be in a film that she
wish saw as a teenager. "I wish that I
could've seen this film when I was in high school or middle school," says
Williams. "In general, as a woman
and as a person of color, I have always wanted to see myself represented
on-screen. To see two very smart,
young ladies managing the day-to-day of high school, being very upfront about
their sexuality, going on this
great emotional journey, and having this fun, crazy party night is exciting to
me. I would've run to the theater
to see that."
Disengaged from his job and doing the bare minimum is the school's apathetic
Principal Brown portrayed by
Jason Sudeikis. "He's someone who stayed too long at his job and is no longer as
effective as Amy and Molly
would like him to be," says Sudeikis. "At the same time, he understands that
life becomes less fun as you get
older, and he's concerned that the girls are letting their futures get in the
way of their present."
Playing a principal was not a stretch of the imagination for Sudeikis. "I
think a few different sliding door
moments in my life, I probably could have been a principal at least one of this
ilk," says Sudeikis. "It would
probably take about seven or eight sliding door moments for that to have
occurred, but it's probably for the
best that those doors slid well before I got to them. I didn't feel like this
was too big of a stretch where I would
look like I'm being overly indulgent by partaking in such thing. Now, if I tried
to play one of the high school
kids maybe that would have been a bad call by all involved, but nope, I'm the
Sudeikis sees the parallels between Wilde's life experience and the film's
two main characters. "Olivia
attended a pretty kick butt high school, Phillips Academy Andover, where two
former presidents went," states
Sudeikis. "She is familiar with kids who have the same idealism, ambition, and
go-get-them mentality as Amy
"And while, she would admit to being not one of them, she understands where
they are coming from,"
continues Sudeikis. "Olivia has been working in her chosen field since she was
eighteen, but she probably
had a lot more fun along the way than Molly and Amy. So, I think she carries
with her both parts of who,
Molly and Amy, are intrinsically, but also, the more fully realized versions of
themselves which I think Olivia
is at this point in her life."
By setting this awkward, confusing and pivotal time, of a teenager's life,
against a backdrop of authenticity,
made the story's friendships, relationships as well as the characters themselves
truer. "High school comedies
are rare, and great high school comedies are even scarcer," states Distenfeld.
"This is a visually and tonally
ambitious movie in an endangered genre and our biggest challenge was assembling
the right team, not only
in front of the camera, but behind as well to help us land that tone and clear
the high creative bar we all set
With a tight twenty-five-day schedule, production designer, Katie Byron and
Wilde created an aesthetic that
elevated the high school ambience without sacrificing its familiarity. "We
wanted to make something that was
timeless," explains Byron. "It doesn't have to be something that exists."
"Even though Booksmart draws inspiration from the vintage high school movies,
we wanted it to be its own
reference," continues Byron. "So, we created a high school world that is
exaggerated, but grounded in
naturalism - we did not want it to be too beautiful and exciting, but just
enough to punch it up a notch."
Wilde applauds Byron for realizing her vision. "People assume comedies can't
have an artistic perspective,
but of course they can," says Wilde. "Katie and I had this immediate brain trust
between us, whereby, she
organically allowed my ideas to emerge and take shape."
"She had limited resources," continues Wilde. "But, somehow, she managed to
make this film much richer
and more dynamic."
For Byron, it was just a matter of taking a little artistic license. "We
wanted to make a movie that's just a
beautiful world to inhabit, and every now and then, you can throw out the rules
to make a good piece of art."
Crockett High School's graduation set took such liberties. "The graduation set
was something no normal high
school could afford," says Byron. "We had to build something that was beautiful,
but, could be put up in one
day, with a ceiling over it, sides, and a certain amount of chairs. A
combination of a truss and steel deck were
perfectly engineered to be the simplest and quickest way to achieve something
At the same time, the atmosphere needed to be intrinsic to the characters.
"Katie collaborated with the actors
to allow their environments to feel authentic to their choices," states Wilde.
"With the design of the girl's
bedrooms, she worked with Kaitlyn and Beanie on what exactly would be in their
rooms down to the texture
of the blankets, the color of the wallpaper, what would be on their bedside
tables, and what's inside the
drawers (something we may never see, but informs the performance)."
For Crockett High School itself and Nick's aunt's house for the house party
to end all house parties, Byron
relied on actual locations instead of sets to keep it real. "We selected a
school located in the San Fernando
Valley of Los Angeles," says Byron. "They were the only school to let us do a
water balloon fight in the hallway,
and so they won."
"With Nick's aunt's house, we needed a film-friendly location where we could
have nine days of night shoots,"
continues Byron. "After spending some time cold calling and knocking on doors,
we found a magical house
in Encino, California owned by an art collector. We had to remove every single
piece of art and furniture, and
then bring it all in ourselves. Then, we came in and dressed the empty space for
our needs. It really supported
us and gave us a real look."
To reflect the story's clash between real and perceived truths, Wilde and
costume designer April Napier
envisioned and crafted a style for each character that subverted the tropes
associated with coming-of-age
stories. "April loved the idea of telling a different kind of story about female
friendship," says Wilde. "She
wanted to make this a real, authentic depiction of girls who are different but
not stereotypically nerdy."
"I was very clear that I wanted Amy and Molly to be unique," continues Wilde.
"They love who they are,
they're incredibly confident in themselves, they're not interested in changing
how they look - that's not the
journey they're on. April liked that I did not want these girls to evolve and
emulate the popular kids. So, she
came up with a brilliant idea of having the girls wear Rosie the Riveter
inspired jumpsuits with a neck scarf,
and a beret. These out-of-the-box ideas from April's imagination added so much
texture to the film and
immediately created a different vibe, which was essential to telling this
As each character has a different persona, it was important to have this
illuminated in their clothing. "Olivia
wanted the characters to have a distinct personality," says Napier. "They all
express themselves differently.
And so, each one has their own very specific look that is real and authentic,
not some strange generic version
of them." Lourd's character Gigi is uniquely distinguishable from her peers. "Gigi
is inspired by Cher," says
Lourd. "She's like a chameleon. With each new scene, Gigi undergoes a wardrobe
change just like the pop
Some of the actors already came with a style, unto their own, that jelled
with their characters. "Eduardo (Theo),
Nico (Tanner), and Victoria (Ryan) had a skate vibe that we liked for their
characters," says Napier. "So, we
had them wear their own clothes, shoes and jewelry."
"The shirts Theo wears are mine that I got at a Thrift store," says Eduardo
Franco. "I like to wear slip-on shoes
with basic tube socks, and that became a part of Theo's wardrobe, too, which was
"They let me keep all my jewelry - the rings, the chains - I love my bling,"
says Nico Hiraga. "I was super
hyped that they liked my style."
For Napier, finding the perfect article of clothing was not without its
challenges. "The scene where Amy and
Molly change into Miss Fine's clothes was definitely a tall order," states
Napier. "Jessica Williams is six feet
tall, and the girls are five foot one, maybe two. So, it took me awhile to wrap
my head around (A) What would
Miss Fine have in her car that would look cute on those girls and make sense
size wise? and (B) What would
be believable? The suspension of belief had to be palpable. So, we ended up
doing big, sparkly, vintage shirts
that they belted, and turned into a dress."
The best high school comedies make you laugh, and feel nostalgic, and also
help you gain a better
understanding of yourself. In Booksmart, the awkwardness of getting older is
more than losing your virginity
or the milestones of academic life. Instead, it is about breaking free from the
shackles - self-imposed or
otherwise - that keep you small. This film is a reminder to all of us that you
come-of-age when you open-up
and allow your light to shine, and when you let others do the same.
"I hope this film gets everyone to consider how they've perceived others, how
they've unfairly judged people
even themselves," says Wilde. "I hope it makes them see others with a little
more empathy and appreciate the
complexity of their own selves. Lastly, I hope it makes people reflect on their
high school experience, whether
they're in it currently, or it was forty years ago and think, 'that's a special
time in life and it's important to be
present because those times are fleeting. There's value to those moments and
Booksmart comes-of-age in U.S. theaters on May 24, 2019
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