15 Facts About Bring It On For Its 20th Anniversary

Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union in Bring It On (2000).
Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union in Bring It On (2000).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Bring It On, Peyton Reed’s big-screen directorial debut, was a much better movie than anybody could have expected. So much so that, when reviewing an inferior cheerleader movie in 2009, Roger Ebert called the Kirsten Dunst starrer “the Citizen Kane of cheerleader movies.” In celebration of its 20th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about Bring It On.

1. Bring It On was originally going to be a documentary.

Jessica Bendinger wanted to make a documentary on the national cheerleading competitions that began running on ESPN in the mid-1980s, but none of her colleagues at MTV News seemed interested. So she ended up writing a script titled Cheer Fever.

2. Kirsten Dunst's Torrance Shipman was based on Gwen Stefani.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Bendinger had a picture of the No Doubt frontwoman hanging over her desk while writing the script.

3. Kirsten Dunst turned down the lead in Bring It On—more than once.

Marley Shelton was the filmmakers' first choice before she decided to star in the other cheerleader movie that was starting production at the time, Sugar & Spice. Dunst was convinced to take the role while she was working "in Prague on a really depressing, bad indie film ... I read it and was like, 'Oh, this is a fun movie,' but then I was like, 'I don’t know.' Then I talked to Peyton Reed, the director, and he just sounded like the most awesome fun guy ever and I thought, 'OK, this is going to be a fun movie.'"

4. Jason Schwartzman and James Franco both auditioned for the role of Cliff in Bring It On.

James Franco auditioned just in case the show he just shot a pilot for, Freaks and Geeks, didn’t get picked up. Jesse Bradford took the part of Cliff without auditioning. "I took the meeting [with Peyton] to discuss it and then I liked this guy so much," Bradford told MTV. "I said to myself, this guy’s not trying to make a cheerleading movie, he’s trying to make a great movie."

5. Actors auditioning for Bring It On had to have a cheer prepared.

It was to see if they had a sense of rhythm and coordination. Reed wanted to use stunt doubles as little as possible, so he had the actors attend a four-week cheerleader camp before filming.

6. Bring It On cast a lot of real-life cheerleaders.

Though Dunst had been a cheerleader in 8th grade and Gabrielle Union cheered in high school, each squad was made up of eight actors and 12 cheerleaders. Most of the East Compton Clovers were from San Diego's James Madison High School, whose cheerleading squad was ranked third in the country at that time. "We were fortunate to have some of the top cheerleaders in the country on these squads," Reed said, "and they helped to motivate Kirsten, Eliza [Dushku], Gabrielle, and the rest of the actors during cheer camp."

7. Ian Roberts changed the role of choreographer Sparky Polastri.

Ian Roberts, an Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder, and Reed knew each other from Reed’s work directing the UCB television series. It was Roberts’ idea to make Polastri an "angry, pill-popping, Bob Fosse wannabe."

8. Eliza Dushku spent part of one night during filming of Bring It On in a Mexican jail.

Dushku was hungover the next day, but got back to San Diego in time to shoot the bikini car wash scene. Dushku claimed Jesse Bradford was with her in Tijuana.

9. Cheerleaders Whitney and Courtney are best friends in real life.

Every night after filming, Nicole Bilderback and Clare Kramer watched The Jerry Springer Show together. Bilderback was the maid of honor at Kramer’s wedding.

10. Blaque had trouble adjusting to appearing in a movie.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Natina Reed, Shamari Fears, and Brandi Williams made up the girl group Blaque, and made their movie debut in Bring It On as three of the Clovers. They were used to music video productions, but not movies, so at first, the three looked directly at the camera when they were supposed to be looking at Dunst. After a brief, private conversation with the director, Blaque figured it out.

11. It cost $40,000 to get the rights to Warrant's "Cherry Pie."

Reed thought Warrant’s song was the “perfect fit” for a scene in which a wannabe stripper auditions for the squad, so production worked with their fixed music budget to get the song.

12. Peyton Reed played guitar for Kirsten Dunst.

Rufus King’s “You’re Just What I Need” wasn’t ready for the scene in which Dunst dances around her bedroom, so Dunst instead danced to Reed's guitar playing.

13. Peyton Reed was "obligated" to direct a PG-13 movie for the studio.

Reed claimed he never got a straight answer from the MPAA about what would turn his film from R to PG-13 or vice versa. A producer explained that they were going to get an R rating if they kept a scene involving Jan lifting Courtney and then smelling his finger intact. After the editor cut out the part when Jan smelled his finger, they were fine. Reed still wanted to push as much sexuality as he could, and watched several “cheerleader exploitation” movies from the 1970s like the Paul Glickler movie The Cheerleaders while editing Bring It On.

14. Bring It On was screened for cheerleader groups.

"They were thrilled about it as there was a movie made about competitive cheerleading," Reed said. "I got calls from some people who said the movie was really great, but there were some technical errors in terms of the competition."

15. Two different endings for Bring It On were filmed.

In an alternate ending, Dunst's Torrance and Union's Isis join the same cheerleading squad at U.C. Berkeley; the scene was reluctantly put in by Reed in the DVD extras. Of course, the “Oh Mickey” blooper reel was the ending in the theatrical cut.

This story has been updated for 2020.

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More


This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.