Rachel Sennott on push for ‘Bottoms’ fight scenes: ‘Girls deserve to hit each other’

Within the opening minutes of “Bottoms,” the raucous teen comedy from “Shiva Baby” team Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott, it’s clear this isn’t your average high school movie. The film follows a pair of queer high school friends (played by “The Bear” newcomer Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) who start a fight club at their school to pick up girls. It’s a simple premise, impeccably executed, for a delightfully over-the-top queer teen comedy. With a late August release date in hand (just in time for back to school!), ‘Bottoms’ could be the ultimate late summer hit.

Sennott and Seligman co-wrote the screenplay, with Seligman directing and Sennott starring. Though they were an endearing creative team riding on the runaway indie hit ‘Shiva Baby’, the duo said during a recent panel that they faced a lot of pushback for the violence, action and hilarious characters in ‘Bottoms’.

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“They were like, ‘earth, earth,'” Sennott said of the first few notes they received. “Sometimes in movies about women or queer people, (the characters) have to be so good, and we wanted them to be little bitches. And they’re still friends, so we really wanted to find that balance, but we felt like we had some good notes and were able to pull the line.

Sennott and Seligman were on hand to speak to an enthusiastic audience following a raucous screening at the Provincetown International Film Festival this weekend, where Jordan Firstman opened his questions with, “What motivates you more, blood or pussy?”

The blood ended up being a key part of the film’s shock comedy, with an epic final fight scene that leaves behind a series of corpses during a wild twist on the classic “big game” high school trope. The scene unfolded like a gangster in the packed theater, eliciting stunned cries and mouth-covering laughter.

“It’s nice to see how people react to fights. ‘Scott Pilgrim’ was a point of reference for the action,” said Sennott. “When we first announced the film, we said to ourselves: This is a fight club film. And they put it in quotes, like, and the girls start a “fight club” where they “fight.” And we were like, no, it’s a real fight. So that’s cool, girls deserve to beat each other up. I just love to feel everyone involved in the action.

Seligman added that, once on set, there were still some doubters who didn’t fully understand the intensity of the violence in the film. “Even when we were shooting it, some crew members and some key people on the team were like, ‘Wait, do we really need a stunt coordinator though?’ We had written in the script, Hazel punches him, he throws her down,’” he said.

But luckily, they found producers who not only understood humor, but encouraged them to go further. Orion Pictures executive Alana Mayo was instrumental in supporting the duo to stay true to their unsavory and disruptive vision.

“No one else wanted it except Orion, which has been around for a while but has recently been revitalized with this amazing group of young women who totally figured it out,” Seligman said. “Alana Mayo, if anything, pushed us to go further with camp and absurdity. But I think there’s been a lot of hesitation from the whole industry in terms of who the script is intended for.

“I remember getting some notes that said, so girls aren’t supposed to be mean, and we were like that was the point,” Sennott said. “A lot of people were scared for the Gen Z audience, they were like, ‘We don’t find it offensive, but the younger generation is so sensitive.’ We think we deserve to laugh and have fun like this, and everyone deserves to have a shitty and mean but funny character and whatnot.

MGM will release “Bottoms” in theaters on Friday, August 25.