Bad Moms stormed the box office this summer with a bawdy mix of R-rated humor and raucous fun, as a trio of overworked, underappreciated moms decide to torch societal expectations to be so-called “perfect” mothers and do whatever they want instead — starting with a wild and crazy (and messy) trip to the grocery store.
We spoke to the film’s writing-directing duo, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, and star Kathryn Hahn about shooting in the supermarket and why Icona Pop’s “I Love It” was the perfect song to set the scene to.
When they were writing Bad Moms, directors Scott Moore and Jon Lucas knew they wanted a visual scene for the moms to break bad, and a grocery store was the perfect setting. “It’s a fun thing to put something wild and crazy in a place that is usually known for being sedate and boring and frustrating,” Lucas told EW.
But that meant they had to find a willing supermarket that would allow them to close down for the shoot — not an easy task, since they tend to be open all day and night. Finally, they came across one where the manager was a Christina Applegate fan — she plays the main moms’ nemesis in the film — and that got them their in. “The funniest thing is Christina Applegate’s not in the scene!” Lucas laughed. “But she’s in the movie so that’s what got us our access, so we owe a huge debt to Christina.”
“When I first read the scene I thought to myself, ‘Holy crap this is going to be like Disneyland…to be able to tear it [up]…grocery store as playground,” Kathryn Hahn recalled in an email. “As a mom, there is nothing lonelier or more melancholy or tedious than shopping for my family by myself. Especially at night. I just knew we were going to have a ball in there.”
Lucas and Moore took inspiration from hip-hop videos for the sequence, which has Mila Kunis, Hahn, and Kristen Bell running through the aisles, ripping cereal boxes open, and generally wreaking havoc. “I think a lot of the inspiration was just the excess. Instead of throwing money on the bed in slow motion they’re throwing cereal in the air,” Lucas said. “We didn’t want it to be a parody of a hip-hop video but I think we were definitely influenced by that.”
Initially, the duo thought they’d lay a hip-hop track under the scene, too. “I think in the script it had 2 Chainz, or something like that — but then the action of the scene was too fast and hip-hop felt too slow for what was happening,” he added. “So we put the Icona Pop song which felt funner and more mom-ish, frankly, than a harder hip-hop song.”
Filming happened near the end of production, Hahn said, and was the only thing on the schedule that day — which made it feel like “this giddy kind of celebratory wrap party.”
“Jon and Scott basically said, ‘The place is yours. What do you want to do? What would be your fantasy?’ Heaven for a bevy of hams like us,” she said. “We just did pieces at a time. I got to make out with a very kind and game background artist, we drank from liters of Diet Coke, threw whole hams at each other, piled each other with sugared cereal. I mean, we were a bunch of toddlers with all that sugar. The highs and cranky crashes.”
The scene also required Hahn to chug a sticky-looking, chocolate-milk-and-booze concoction straight from the jug. “I had to down two gallons of lukewarm soy milk and it was fricking freezing in there and I had on some unforgiving denim,” she said. “[There were a] lot of jokes about how Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant had nothing on me. Between takes, I would slosh over to the stock room where they set up a space heater and they would peel that milky denim off me then attempt to dry me with hair dryers. I smelled like a can of mushroom soup.”
While there were a number of beats in the script Moore and Lucas wanted to cover, the actresses really got to improvise and cut loose. “Half the crazy stuff we got was just, Kathryn pulled something off the shelf or Mila would just do something crazy, and while I’d love to take a lot of credit for the scene, it’s those three women just having a great time and being fearless,” Moore said.
Added Lucas, “When [Hahn] kissed the employee, that was definitely in the script. But she slapped him afterward, she does all sorts of stuff, she musses with his hair — I think a lot of the best stuff, you give a great comedic actor like Kathryn a direction and she’s like, ‘Okay, what can I add to this?’”
Lucas and Moore said they didn’t know at the time that the scene would become one of the film’s highlights, but Hahn said she had a good feeling from it and about Bad Moms as a whole. “I think we all knew, as we kind of felt about the whole movie, that it was a blast to do and felt effortless, which is always a good sign,” she said. “I have such a soft spot for those ladies and shooting this scene felt like such a high. The end of the night was when we shot the entrance — all slo-mo and me driving that Rascal [scooter]. I couldn’t figure it out and we were acting all serious and I clipped both Mila and Kirsten’s ankles pretty badly and kept drifting off the mark and boxing not only them but the camera out. So professional.”
“And the cashier! Oh my god, best straight face you have ever seen,” she added. “He didn’t move a muscle in his face and those were long takes of us checking out a parade of the most random crap and I was making the lewdest gestures with all of them. He must have just looked at this clown working so hard. It ain’t working, lady!”
It did work though — Bad Moms went on to make $175.4 million at the worldwide box office (a spinoff, Bad Dads, has been announced, though Lucas and Moore say they also have an idea for Bad Moms 2). Part of what made it a hit was that it appealed to moms and non-moms alike. “What we discovered is a lot of people can relate to feeling pressure to try and be perfect and trying to get everything right and just wanting to say, ‘Screw it, I’m not doing this anymore,'” Moore said. “So that was nice.”
Added Hahn, “Jon and Scott made it so easy: for the three women to find our jam together, for us to find our speeds and fall in love. They wrote one of the funniest scripts I had ever written and were still so crazy open to surprise. …I’m so proud to be a part of this movie and that it connected in this way. Go mamas.”
Bad Moms is available on home release now, and you can enjoy the grocery store scene in full below.