Movie direction is not a democracy; it’s a cheer-ocracy, and Peyton Reed was the cheer-tator calling the shots for “Bring It On.”
That includes one choice that has lived on in cheer-ontroversy.
As many informed fans have pointed out over the years, several of the moves performed in the final routines by the Kirsten Dunst–led Rancho Carne Toros and Gabrielle Union–led East Compton Clovers, would be considered — gasp — illegal in actual high school competitions.
“Brrr! It’s cold in here!” said my clearly shook colleague Matt Jacobs after hearing the news.
Yep. There must be some drama in the atmosphere.
Citations of these illegal moves get passed around on the internet from time to time, with critics pointing out that many of the stunts and flyovers would be allowed only at the collegiate level.
So should the Toros and Clovers have been disqualified? Should the third-place team, the New Pope Cavaliers, have won nationals? Were the emcees who handed out the trophies — editor of Cheer Fashion magazine Ms. Brandi Tattersol and UCA president Mr. Johnny Garrison — duped?
We went to the director himself for a final ruling.
“There are illegal moves,” Reed admitted in an interview with HuffPost this year. “There are some collegiate moves in there that are not high school moves ... that would probably be disqualified. At the time, when we were making the movie, if one of these things came up, we erred on the side of what works dramatically or what worked best for us visually. And yes, there have been some people who’ve been up in arms for almost decades now.”
According to Reed, any backlash to his decision was strongest in the years right after the movie debuted. But all in all, he believes cheer fans aren’t that bad.
“I find there are very few online cheer trolls who actually will go after it. Very different breed of fandom than the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] fans or the ‘Star Wars’ fans,” he said.
We’ve already talked extensively with Reed about his contributions to the MCU, the “Ant-Man” movies. But the director eagerly agreed to talk about his various films in addition to “Bring It On” ― cult favorites and otherwise ― that exist well outside the MCU. Here are snippets from that conversation:
‘Bring It On’
There are a lot of risqué situations ― questionable language and sexual situations ― in the teen movie. Looking back, would you change anything?
I don’t think I would, because I think it’s very much a product of its time. Even in its time, there’s some hateful language in the movie and hateful phrases that certain characters use towards other characters, and it was really intentional, because we really wanted to deal with those characters and how straight or gay kids are dealt with in high school and what those attitudes are. It’s one of the essential things about high school ― is that there’s just hateful stuff that happens in high school.
I think to soften that language would take away from that stuff. Obviously, there are words in there that you don’t use, and really you didn’t use at the time, and it was done very intentionally. So I don’t think I would change [anything] ... I think there’s some risqué stuff in there, maybe sexually, but we talked a lot about it at the time, that that was an aspect in the research that [screenwriter Jessica Bendinger] did on the screenplay. [It] was a real aspect of the real cheer camps that went on, so we wanted to be true to that stuff.
[In reference to the above scene] Is that really how you’re supposed to brush your teeth?
Well, they had two different methods. There’s the Kirsten Dunst method, and the Jesse Bradford method. Jesse’s is pretty aggressive. [We had] a lot of long discussion about it. He rinsed between the things, and it’s very funny. As we were shooting it, I think both actors became aware of, oh, the thing we’re doing together in this scene is something we mostly do on our own. And they got very self-conscious about the other person’s version. And then we kind of had fun with it, where she’s a little dainty and covers her mouth when she spits. It became a real part of their different personalities.
I can’t say that either method is necessarily the correct method. Everybody has to find their own method.
In “Yes Man,” what’s the craziest thing you said yes to when Jim Carrey asked?
Wanting to bungee jump off this bridge in Pasadena [in California]. ... The nickname of that bridge is Suicide Bridge, and he insisted on doing the stunt himself. ... That really is him jumping off the bridge. So much so that Warner Bros. at the time, for insurance reasons, made sure that it was literally something we shot on the last day of production, just in case, which is incredibly morbid.
But Jim would not be talked out of it, because obviously, it would’ve been easy to shoot it with a stuntperson and digitally make it Jim. He went to the philosophy of it, [that it] was on his list of things that he would say yes to in his life. And he made a big deal of it, so that was sort of insane. It was extra pressure for me because with a stuntperson, you could probably do a second or third take if you screwed it up. But with Jim, I knew I only had one chance, because he may not do it a second time. So, thankfully, all the cameras worked.
Have you seen his artwork?
Oh, yeah. I ran into Jim when we were doing some additional photography on “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” He was doing a series at Sony, and I hung out with him, and we talked about it, and he’s so ... all the stuff that’s going on politically, he’s got a lot to say about it. And he’s just manic, as Jim is in doing all this insane artwork about it. Yeah, on Twitter I’m always catching up with his artwork.
During the time you did “The Break-Up,” the tabloid coverage of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s real-life breakup must’ve been crazy.
It was interesting, man, because you sort of realize how public Jennifer Aniston’s breakup with Brad Pitt was at the time. It was kind of the entertainment news story. And we were shooting it all in Chicago, and thankfully, the Chicago police were very good about keeping paparazzi away, but it was my first experience being that up close and personal with paparazzi and how aggressive they can get.
I was in a car a couple of times with her and on the street when paparazzi would come up. It’s so aggressive. It really is kind of terrifying. I know it seems trivial in light of some of the other things in the world, but being there in it and never having experienced it before, there’s a real violence to it. That was crazy, and she handles it.
It’s shocking to me that Jen is as normal and well adjusted and balanced a human being as she is for being as globally popular. When we went to Europe with “The Break-Up” and it was me and it was Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, we were in places like Germany or France, and they didn’t really know who Vince was, but they all knew Jen because they’d all watched “Friends,” and so many people would come up to her and say, “I learned English from you because I would watch ‘Friends,’ and that’s how I learned English.” That level of fame was insane.
Wow, did it affect filming at all?
It really didn’t affect the shooting because we were out in Chicago a lot. We had security, obviously. There were paparazzi trying to get photos, but it really didn’t keep us from shooting. What it did do, I think, because she was just coming off of this breakup, it really informed her performance in that movie a lot for the good. I think she’s terrific in that movie.
BONUS: The ‘Fantastic Four’ Movie That Never Happened
At one point, you were attached to a “Fantastic Four” movie. What would a Peyton Reed “Fantastic Four” look like?
I suppose it would’ve been similar tone to kind of what we were doing with “Ant-Man,” although different. I mean, Fantastic Four were always the crown jewel of the Marvel Comics Universe. They were the so-called first family of Marvel. I remember seeing the first “Avengers” movie and talking to [its director] Joss Whedon about it and saying, “Man, I love the movie,” and tonally that movie is really close to what I would’ve probably done with “Fantastic Four.” It did a lot of things of, you know, the first real MCU broad daylight battle in the middle of Manhattan.
But I like that the “Ant-Man” movies deal with family in the way that “Fantastic Four” is inherently about family. There are a lot of similarities in tone, I think, between those two.
Just do me a favor, Mr. Reed. If you ever do direct “Fantastic Four,” bring it.
You can read more of our coverage with Reed here.