'Sisters' Sink Hole Scene Wasn't In The Original Script, But Tina Fey Did Her Own Stunts Anyway
Four years ago, SNL writer Paula Pell sold the idea for 2015's Sisters to Universal. Inspired by her teenage diaries, she penned a story about two disconnected sisters (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) who are summoned home to clean out their childhood bedrooms before their parents sell their family house. The script was full of big ideas: Adults throwing a high school style rager; adults grappling with teenage stereotypes like the mean girl and the nerd; and tons of '80s nostalgia. But one moment in her script — written as a quick aside — was drastically altered over the last four years to become a major plot point and the climax of the film. It even allowed the film's star and producer Fey to do some serious stunts.
The majority of the movie takes place during a house party thrown by Fey and Poehler's characters. All hell breaks loose, and soon the house and its contents are completely destroyed.
"In one draft of the movie I had the girls looking at the [destroyed] house and they realize nothing worse could ever happen. They leave to go to their parents' senior condo and suddenly, there's a sink hole," she says. "Sink holes are a big joke in Florida. I grew up from age 15 on in Florida so I'm very defensive when people make it out to be a bunch of dirtbags who have sex with their pit bulls. It's not true," she assures of the bad rep of Florida residents. "Even though I have pit bulls, and while I don't have sex with them, I do make out with them in the mornings," she says, getting slightly off topic.
Pell explains that during the sink hole scene she intended to show just a tiny bit of the hole forming around the pool. That would be it. But such subtly wasn't enough for her producers. "It became such an enormous thing — enormous physically, enormous financially, enormous in terms of servicing it. The [producers] were like, 'If we're going to spend this much money on a sink hole, there better be a lot of shit happening in the sink hole that has to do with the story,'" the 52-year-old screenwriter says. And it paid off — the sink hole sequence was completely unexpected and a nice dramatic moment for the characters.
"It became a monkey on my back. It became a running joke, too. My producers still email me joking about the sink hole. They're like, 'Um, do you have any more pages on the sink hole?' It was constantly a pain in the butt because of its breadth."
Not only was it a pain to write, and rewrite, and rewrite again, it was also a hassle to shoot. The scene involves Fey's teenage daughter falling into the sink hole, and Fey — who did her own stunts for the scene — jumping in after her. "We shot the sinkhole on a lot of overnights," Pell recalls. According to Pell, Fey jumped 30 feet down into the man-made sinkhole. "Tina was on a wire doing stunts, jumping into this toxic — well fake toxic — water all night. And I was just sitting there thinking, 'They built a Disney ride!'"
A giant pit full of murky water you can jump into? Looks like Universal Studios may have new inspiration for the theme park's next interactive attraction.
Sisters hits theaters Dec. 18.
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