Oh, We'll Bring These 20 Bring It On Behind-the-Scenes Secrets, Don't Worry

From the actor that was originally cast as Torrance to the stars that were secretly arrested during filming, we're spilling all the secrets about Bring It On.

By Tierney Bricker Aug 25, 2023 5:00 PMTags
Watch: "Bring It On" 20 Years Later: E! News Rewind

Grab your spankies and don't you dare drop the spirit stick, we've got something to celebrate.

Can you believe Bring It On, the teen cheerleading comedy starring Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union as the captains of rival squads, came 23 years ago?  

Directed by Peyton Reed and written by Jessica Bendinger, the movie premiered on Aug. 25, 2000, and became a surprise hit at the box office, with audiences quickly learning Bring It On was the poo, so they needed to take a big whiff. And take a huge one they did as Bring It On would continue to dominate the box office for several weeks, spawn five direct-to-video sequels and continued to endure as a cult classic decades after its release. 

And it seems the making of the movie was just as fun and drama-filled as what made it on-screen, with the cast bonding during a pre-production cheer camp and two of its stars—cough, Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford, cough—getting arrested during filming. Like Aaron said, "It'll be like high school, only better!"

The Cast of Bring It On Then and Now

So don't worry, we got the door, Tor, as we head down memory lane and spill these secrets you might not know about Bring It On...

1. The movie was originally called Cheer Fever

2. Written by music video director Jessica Bendinger, the script was a hard sell and almost didn't get made. "I went to 28 or more places and meetings," she told MTV News in 2015. "I had about 27 pitches because sometimes I'd go to a studio and they'd love it and they'd take it to their boss and they go, 'We love it!' and take it their boss and then it would get a pass at the third time."

3. Despite being one of the most in-demand actresses of her generation, Kirsten Dunst wasn't the first person to have the part of Torrance. No, that would be Marley Shelton, who would end up ditching the movie to star in Sugar and Spice, the 2001 film about cheerleaders-turned-bank robbers. Oh my.

4. Dunst, who was 17 at the time, was always a top choice for the producers. Though she had turned them down several times before finally taking the part after shooting a "depressing, bad indie film," she told MTV News. "I read it and was like, 'Oh, this is a fun movie.'"

5. The inspiration for Gabrielle Union's Isis, the captain of the East Compton Clovers, was Michael Jordan. NBD. And Reed revealed to Buzzfeed that Union was "instrumental" in finding the character's voice. "We worked a lot on her character when we were doing revisions for the script," he said. 

6. There was a very pointed reason Union, who had previously appeared in teen hits 10 Things I Hate About You and She's All That, signed on to the movie. "The cheerleading movie I wanted about bank robbing [Sugar and Spice]—they didn't want to go Black on any of the characters," she revealed to MTV. "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."

7. James Franco and Jason Schwartzman were just two of the actors who read for Cliff, Torrance's edgy rocker love interest. But the top pick was Jesse Bradford, who was a little hesitant to sign on. "This is after we've auditioned 300 people for Cliff and nobody had been like Jesse," executive producer Max Wong told MTV. "He was like, 'Can I get a convertible?' And I was like, 'Of course!' Which was a total lie."

8. For Missy, Cliff's sister and Torrance's unexpected co-captain with a penchant for gymnastics and temporary tattoos, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Eliza Duskhu was Reed's only choice. And she didn't disappoint when she showed up at the audition. "I believe I was a little hungover and I was dressed in all black," Dushku revealed to MTV. "[Reed] said, 'Can you do a split?' And I said, 'I don't know, let me try,' and I popped into a split right there and thought, hey, maybe. You know, that's cool."

9. The members of the R&B girl group Blaque, Shamari DeVoe, Brandi Williams and the late Natina Reed, were offered the parts of three East Compton Clovers, no audition necessary. "We were at the height of our career," DeVoe told the Observer. "And we were represented by Johnny Wright and Lisa Lopes, she was our mentor and had creative control. We were hot and they reached out to us."

Because it was their film debut, the singers turned to Union for guidance. "It was their first time acting, period," Union explained to MTV. "So teaching them about marks and where the light is and where the cameras are…It was one of those movies where everyone wanted to get it right and everyone was committed to humbling themselves to do the work. If it took a village, it took a village."

10. The trailer for Bring It On shows scenes with the Clovers not featured in the film itself. "We shot these snippets that you see...after the movie wrapped because once test audiences saw the movie, they wanted more of the Clovers," Union said on TikTok in January 2022. "So we shot these, only for the trailer, not for the movie, to make people think we were in the movie more than we were."

11. One of the movie's most iconic scenes—the teeth-brushing flirtation between Torrance and Cliff—wasn't in the original script, but was inspired by a real-life moment. "I remember just studying him and what he was doing, and it was not very cute," writer Bendinger explained to MTV of her own awkward bathroom encounter with an unnamed suitor. "I remember sitting in my apartment and I was like, what about this?"

But Dunst improv'd one key part. "Kirsten came up with a great thing about shielding the side of her mouth from him when she's spitting which I thought was just great," Reed spilled. "That was all Kirsten."

12. Most of choreographer Sparky Polastri's lines were improvised on the spot by actor Ian Roberts and Reed, who told Buzzfeed, "That role in the original script was funny but thin and stereotypical." The spirit fingers, however, were scripted.

13. Several of the cast members were arrested in Tjiuana during filming, including Dushku and Bradford. "[They] were on the beach drinking and got arrested and got thrown into Mexican jail," Wong revealed to MTV News

"I want to go on the record and say no producers came and bailed us out," Dushku clarified. "There may have been an incident in TJ one weekend but we got ourselves out of it. I got us out of it and there was no producer bailing out happening."

14. Most of the cast went through a four-week cheerleading boot camp prior to filming. 

"Not only did we have to learn the dance routine and the cheers, but we also did all our own stunts," Nicole Bilderback, who played Toros member Whitney, told Bustle. "So we had to learn the pyramids; we had to build up strength for that. We had to learn all the tosses. We learned all that stuff. So it was eight hours a day, and we'd get a lunch break. It was tough. It was a lot of work."

15. Securing the rights to Warrant's "Cherry Pie" for a small portion of the auditions montage would cut out a significant amount of the film's tight $10 million budget. 

"My memory was that it cost $40,000," Reed recalled in his Buzzfeed interview. "That was the single biggest music cue and expense we had in the movie."

16. To make it on one of the squads, there was no faking it when it came to your resume.

"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 DVD News. "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."

17. Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the music and lyrics for Bring It On: The Musical, which ran on Broadway for a limited engagement in 2012. It received two Tony nominations in 2013 for "Best Musical" and "Best Choreography."

18. Most of the routines performed by the Toros and the Clovers featured stunts that aren't actually allowed in high school competitions.

"There are illegal moves," Reed confirmed in an interview with HuffPost. "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." That's alright, that's OK with us!

19. The film's ending was a point of contention among the filmmakers, as there was a divide when it came to which cheer squad should win Nationals. Spoiler alert: The Clovers would take home the trophy.

"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,'" Reed recalled to MTV. "Well, nah, that's not the story...they did an amazing job. But they came in second to the other team, and it was a life lesson for her."

20. After the movie surprisingly debuted at No. 1, bringing in $22 million domestically when initial tracking reports indicated it would make just $6 million, some of the stars responded in epic fashion.

"A good number of the girls and I went out on the town to celebrate and may or may not, you know, have jumped in the pool at Sky Bar and were like, we have a number one movie!" Dushku revealed to MTV.

21. The DVD includes an alternate ending that finds Torrance and Isis both attending U.C. Berkeley and on the cheerleading squad together. 

This story was originally published on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 3 a.m. PT.