Brr, it's cold in here, it must be a Bring it On anniversary in the atmosphere. On August 25, 2000, the world was introduced to the Rancho Carne Toros, the Compton Clovers and the world of competitive cheerleading through one of the most iconic teen comedies of all time. But no matter how many times you've seen the film, there's always something new to learn, so it seems only right to celebrate the movie's 20th anniversary with these behind the scenes facts about the making of Bring It On.
For those who have not memorized all of the cheers and routines featured in the movie, Bring It On centers on Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst), the perky blonde cheerleading captain determined to lead her team, the Rancho Carne Toros, to the championship. However, after learning that the previous captain stole all their routines from a rival team — the Compton Clovers, led by Gabrielle Union's Isis — and that they'll have to face off against said team in the competition, Torrance must decide between rebuilding everything from scratch or to continue using stolen routines.
From its origins as a documentary series, to the film's ability to hide conversations about privilege and appropriation inside a standard teen comedy, here are 12 behind the scenes facts about Bring It On that will make you see it in a new light as it reaches its 20th anniversary.
1. Bring It On Was Originally Conceived As A Documentary
Long before there was Cheer, there was almost Cheer Fever. In a 2015 interview with Buzzfeed, the film's director Peyton Reed revealed that the project was originally conceived by screenwriter Jessica Bendinger as an MTV documentary about cheerleading culture, before she turned it into a feature film. "It was about this very specific subculture of competitive cheerleading and her original draft would have been a three-hour cheerleading epic. It was dense," Reed explained of the original script.
2. The Lead Role Of Torrance Originally Went To Marley Shelton
When Reed signed on to direct the movie, he met with Marley Shelton, who had already signed on to play the role of head cheerleader Torrance. However, Shelton had also been offered a part in Sugar & Spice, a 2001 dark comedy about a group of cheerleaders who rob a bank, and ultimately decided to take that role while Reed and Bendinger were rewriting the Bring it On script. Reed then thought of Dunst, who had previously been offered the role of Torrance and turned it down; thankfully, though she loved the new script and agreed to star in the movie.
3. Gabrielle Union Originally Auditioned For Sugar & Spice
It appears that Bring It On and Sugar & Spice had something of an unofficial rivalry, as the two cheerleading comedies were being made at the same time. In 2015, Union told MTV that she only became interested in Bring It On after she was turned down by the other film. "There were a ton of teen movies at the time that I passed on that were not committed to getting it right," she recalled. "The reason why I even took the table read of "Cheer Fever" was because the cheerleading movie I wanted ... they didn’t want to go Black on any of the characters. So it’s interesting, the group that didn’t want to commit to diversity didn’t seem to do well and the movie that was about righting the wrongs did well, and that included diversity."
4. And She Helped Develop The Character Of Isis
In the MTV interview, Union revealed that Isis was originally written as "a combination of Foxy Brown and about eight other Blaxploitation characters sort of rolled into a cheer-lawyer-defender type person." After telling the producers she would rather the character be more "realistic," Isis was rewritten to be a more determined athlete, inspired by Michael Jordan. "She had this competitive streak, but there was clearly an understanding. There was a mutual respect [between Torrance and Isis] and Gabrielle was instrumental in finding those moments," Reed told Buzzfeed.
5. Actors Had To Perform A Cheer In Their Audition
Just like Missy (Eliza Dushku) had to showcase her ability to cheer and yell during her tryout for the Toros, the actors who auditioned for Bring It On also had to perform a cheer for the director in order to prove they had enough pep in their step. "We made everybody come to the audition having prepared some kind of a cheer — probably the most humiliating thing you could do to an actor," Reed told DVDTalk. "We needed to know they at least had some sense of rhythm and coordination because not only did they need to act, but they needed to meet the physical demands of the roles."
6. And They All Attended A Cheer Camp Before Filming
Another aspect of art imitating life: in the same DVDTalk interview, Reed revealed that the actors had to attend a cheerleading camp to learn their routines, similar to the one that Torrance is seen attending at the beginning of the film. "We put all the actors through a 4 week cheerleader camp," he said, adding that Dushku had the most fun at the camp. "It was great just watching Eliza because of all the actors, I think she got into it the most. I would not have expected that from her personality." While not all of the actors had previous cheerleading experience, Dunst and Union had both cheered before, which helped them in their roles.
7. The Toros & Clovers Had Different Choreographers For Their Routines
As Isis herself said, "I know you didn't think a little white girl" made up all of those cheerleading routines. The film's choreographer, Anne Fletcher, recruited the famed hip-hop dancer and choreographer Hi-Hat for all of the Clovers' cheer routines; she then reinterpreted them in a "stiff, white-girl" fashion for the Toros to emphasize the differing styles. "[Anne] really had a very different flavor and character for the choreography of the two different teams, and that was really important to the movie," Reed told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. "Visually, those teams and their moves felt very different ... it was really important that their characters come across in the dance and the cheers and the routines."
8. The Other Clovers Were Played By R&B Girl Group Blaque
According to an oral history by MTV, casting the remaining Clovers was difficult, because they didn't have as many lines as Isis, but they still needed to be a tight-knit, talented group of performers. Reed ultimately decided to ask Shamari DeVoe, Brandi Williams and Natina Reed — the members of the girl group Blaque — if they wanted the part. "They came in and all three of them had charisma like you wouldn’t believe. They can dance, they look great, and they were so enthusiastic that we immediately cast them, they were great. And they got along really great with Gabrielle," Reed recalled.
9. The Tooth Brushing Scene Was A Last-Minute Addition
Despite being one of the most iconic scenes in the entire movie (it was even recreated by Ariana Grande in her "Thank U, Next" video!), the moment where Torrance and Cliff (Jesse Bradford) brush their teeth together almost wasn't in the script. "That whole thing of Torrance spending the night at Missy's house was added later on," Reed told Buzzfeed. "[It] just came about because we had to figure out where they could come into contact ... It's all played in these looks and it really creates this sexual tension. It's a huge tribute to Kirsten and Jesse that the scene is so memorable because they're so good."
10. Eliza Dushku & Jesse Bradford Got Arrested In Mexico
The cast has often spoken about how much fun they had filming — and in the case of Dushku and Bradford, who played Missy and Cliff, they may have had a little too much fun, as they both got arrested during a night of partying in Mexico while filming the movie. "It was me, Eliza, Rini Bell, and this dude Lance, one of the male cheerleaders on the Toros," Bradford said on the Today show in 2015. "I’m gonna blur the details of how and why, but needless to say, we got arrested. We had to go in front of a judge — I use that term loosely here — and explain what happened, and he let us go." (Dushku also mentioned that they bailed themselves out rather than calling a producer because "we're professionals."
11. The Studio Wasn't Happy That The Clovers Won The Championship
"I remember there was a whole debate about who was going to win, and there were people in the mix that were like, 'Well, Kirsten’s the lead, the Toros have to win.' Well, nah, that’s not the story," Reed told MTV in 2015. In a recent interview with Refinery29, Bendinger echoed that, adding that at one point, they debated having Torrance win some kind of award to make it more palatable that the Toros place second in the championship. "It was pander-y and didn’t work," she said. "When Rocky loses to Apollo Creed, he doesn’t need to win Boxer of the Year!"
12. And The Iconic Opening Cheer Was Almost Cut
The final standings weren't the only thing that Reed and Bendinger had to fight studio executives on; Bendiger told R29 that the film's iconic opening scene, where the characters introduce themselves, was almost cut entirely. "They were trying to cut it for space, and also it was a white guy who didn’t get it," she revealed, adding that she believed it was important to establish the film's tongue-in-cheek tone. "Cheerleaders are a complicated thing for people. Not everybody looks like a cheerleader, not everybody dates a cheerleader — it’s a mixed bag." Thankfully, it was left in, and now everyone knows how to let people know that they're sexy, cute and popular to boot.
20 years after Bring It On was released, everything from teen comedies to the way cheerleaders are portrayed in pop culture has changed, and a lot of that has to do with the film that introduced us all to the ways of a cheerocracy.