How 'Sisters' Music Box Scene With Amy Poehler Made It Into The Film, According To Screenwriter Paula Pell
With most R-rated comedies, there's one scene that stays in your memory for longer than the drive home from the theater. In 1978's Animal House, it's a frat house singing along to "Shout" in togas. In 1998's There's Something About Mary, it's the "hair gel" scene. Nineteen ninety-nine's American Pie delivers a memorable scene involving a teen and a sexual experience with a pie. And after seeing 2015's Sisters , starring Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, there's one scene involving a music box that's sure to be ingrained in your memory — whether you like it or not.
Here's how the scene goes down: Before their parents sell their childhood home, two sisters, played by Poehler and Fey, decide to throw a party reminiscent of the ones they had in high school. During the middle of the party, Poehler's character leads the cute next door neighbor (Ike Barinholtz) into her childhood bedroom, attempting to seduce him. But as soon as she lights a candle to set the mood, she accidentally drips hot wax onto his genitals. He jumps up, slips on the floor, and lands — butt first — onto Poehler's old music box. Ouch.
When I arrive at the Los Angeles press day for the film, there's a handful of tables for press to sit at while they wait to conduct interviews. I find an empty one and sit down. But as soon as I take a seat, I notice the centerpiece: the same music box from the aforementioned scene sits in the center of the table. When I chat with the film's screenwriter Paula Pell, I tell her my shock to see the same child's toy that impaled Barinholtz's behind resting me on the table, and she can't stop laughing. "That's incredible," she says. "I'm very excited for people to see the music box up the butt."
But the "music box up the butt" scene wasn't always in the script. Originally, the scene's only torturous moment was Poehler spilling hot wax, but producers wanted more. "Sex accidents are something people love to see in comedies," Pell says. "Because her character had never had sex in her childhood bedroom, you want something funny to happen."
Originally, Pell had written the scene where Fey burns her suitor with a wax candle. "That was all it was, that he got burnt in the ween. But then it felt like we need something bigger... not physically, but something more for an extra big laugh," the SNL writer recalls.
To come up with the big idea, Pell gathered up other funny writers in a round table brainstorming session before filming. "We started talking about him falling on something, and someone suggested a music box, and my brain immediately started writing the scene," she says. It plays out like this: Once he's impaled, Fey has to twist the music box to pull it out, and because she's twisted it, it starts playing music. "It was the perfect prop to get a big laugh from the audience. When I first went to a test audience that scene was very satisfying to watch. And Amy is so funny the way she's trying to talk him down like a triage nurse."
But at least most triage nurses weren't trying to sleep with their patients.
See the hilarious and sometimes cringeworthy scene when Sisters hits theaters Dec. 18.
Images: Universal; Giphy