Before the women of Girls Trip taught us about grapefruiting and the Bridesmaids pooped in a sink, Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Selma Blair were doing it with furries and singing about male genitalia in The Sweetest Thing.
In the 2002 comedy, Diaz starred as the promiscuous Christina Walters, who meets potential soul mate Peter Donahue (Thomas Jane) and enlists her best friend, Courtney (Applegate), to road-trip to what they think is his brother Roger’s (Jason Bateman) wedding. They also try to help their newly single friend Jane (Blair) get back on the elephant, er, horse. Below, the trio get together and tell EW about filming the OG women’s raunchfest.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The Sweetest Thing was really the forerunner to movies like Bridemaids and Girls Trip. Did it hit you guys at the time that you were pushing boundaries?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: You should’ve read the original script, it was way more R than what we ended up shooting.
CAMERON DIAZ: It was.
APPLEGATE: We were going to push way more boundaries and they got scared. Don’t you remember, you guys, that they got really freaked out about it and they were like, “Oh, women shouldn’t be talking like this,” and they toned it down? We couldn’t say c—k and things like that. And then the penis song went away.
SELMA BLAIR: I think I got my part by default because nobody wanted to go in and have a penis [stuck in their mouth]. All their agents were like, “No, you will not be cast with a penis caught in your mouth.” I was like, “It’s Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, are you f—ing kidding me? Yes, I will have a penis in my mouth!” I really do think I was cast by default.
DIAZ: We were in awe literally every day of how brave you were, how far you would take it. The whole costume with the boyfriend in the changing room.
BLAIR: The elephant! That was one of [director Roger Kumble’s] crazy ideas on the day. I don’t think that was in the script.
APPLEGATE: So much fun.
Let’s start by talking about the penis song. Was that in the original script you read? And if so, what was your original reaction to it?
DIAZ: It was in the original and it was probably what made me want to do the movie.
DIAZ: Just the opportunity.
APPLEGATE: I think it was the same for all of us. I thought, “Oh my God, we’re going to do ‘Greased Lightnin’,’ but singing about a penis.” I was so excited, I had so many visions in my head of the production number we were going to do.
DIAZ: How many other scripts did you guys ever read where that was a possibility?
DIAZ: Zero, right? None. You do start to fantasize, right, about what it could be?
APPLEGATE: We would talk about, “Oh, the production it’s going to be.” We were so excited about it, and then they take it out of the movie, because they’re like, “Yeah, no.”
BLAIR: There was so much dance rehearsal, and I can’t dance at all. Christina and Cameron are so gifted. Even at the end, even when we were shooting it, I had no idea what was happening.
DIAZ: I just love all the extras. Remember that older woman who was like 90 years old and could do the splits? Everybody that was in the restaurant was on board. Everyone was just having such a good time. I would run in between shots and blow dry my armpits, because I don’t wear antiperspirant, and so I would have to dry my armpits out because we were sweating so much.
BLAIR: Oh God, I remember that.
How much rehearsal was there for this? And how long did it ultimately take to film?
APPLEGATE: A substantial amount. When you have that many people, and a lot of them aren’t professional dancers — the only dancers we had were Doug and Joe Tremaine, and those were my dance teachers who I got a part in it. But everybody else, it was supposed to take place in a Chinese restaurant, so it was supposed to feel pedestrian, but yet spectacular at the same time. So it did take a while, if I remember correctly.
DIAZ: By the way, I love that description: Pedestrian and spectacular. I feel like that’s what the whole movie is — very pedestrian, but really spectacular.
APPLEGATE: It’s how I describe my life, babe.
DIAZ: You’re winning.
APPLEGATE: I’m winning at being pedestrian and spectacular.
DIAZ: You’re just spectacular.
Were you guys surprised when the song only ended up as part of the unrated version of the movie?
DIAZ: The fact that the movie got made at all was one of those things where we’re just like, “Wow, okay, great! Let’s do it!”
APPLEGATE: That was, what, 18 years ago? Didn’t we make it before 2002?
APPLEGATE: We made it before that because didn’t I get married at some point to someone in 2001, I think? You guys were at my wedding.
DIAZ: Yes, you did. Wow, that was a long time ago. But by the way, I had just got done doing Gangs of New York and then I came to do that movie. I came from doing Gangs of New York and doing Vanilla Sky at the same time, finished those and came back. Roger was just like, “I can’t believe I have to direct you when you just worked with Martin Scorsese,” and I was like, “Really? Are you sure? Because we’re not getting the same performance, period, no matter what. It’s okay, don’t worry. This movie is not going to require — you have your own special skill set for this movie, I promise you.”
Let’s talk about the glory hole scene. Courtney is basically shot across the room with water from a broken urinal, while Christina gets a penis poked in her eye. What do you guys recall from filming that scene in particular?
APPLEGATE: I don’t know why I decided that my character could actually anatomically and physically urinate in a urinal, so that was something that couldn’t happen. You’d be getting it all down your leg! Yeah, so you can apparently lift your leg and pee in a urinal. That was obviously shot at the end of the day, because that water was really high pressured, man. Had the water been aimed a little bit lower, we all would’ve had a better day.
APPLEGATE: But I was literally shot across that room. We both were. It was crazy. We were holding onto each other and falling. It was physical comedy and the rest of it was literal survival with the two of us, because they were shooting us with water as hard as possible.
DIAZ: It was absurd. It was one of those things where this movie, the absurdity of what we were going, everyday you want to try to push it, you want to try to take it to the full glory of what is possible within the writing and all of the things that you can pull off on the day. But at the same time, you’re trying to hold onto some tiny grain of dignity.
DIAZ: And trying to make it something that isn’t so absurd that they aren’t buying it. You still want people to invest in these characters, and the love story, and the friendships and all those things. Because each one of those moments were so hyper, and we took it so far, somehow that fell back to a tone that was so even. Everything that happened, happened at the same level. We didn’t just get poked in the eye, she didn’t just pee in the urinal, it exploded, it pushed us out the door, we fell on the ground. We didn’t just sing a song in a restaurant, we got everybody involved in it. Same thing when Selma had a dick stuck in her throat. The whole building is there. Each one of those things were just so over the top that somehow it felt like it could really happen. This is the world we’re existing in, where everything goes this far, you know? I appreciate that about the film. For everything that it is, I appreciate how far Roger was willing to go. Just the whole tone of it, the whole —
BLAIR: The whole commitment level of the ridiculous, living absurdity was really admirable, right?
DIAZ: Yes, exactly. And everybody was on board, everybody was there. I had a great time.
Selma, let’s circle back to the scene in which Jane has sex in a dressing room with her boyfriend while he wears a purple elephant costume. What was it like shooting that scene?
BLAIR: I don’t think that scene was in the script, that was one of Roger’s glorious brain farts. He was like, “This scene needs something. Those girls are having such a great time. What’s a great time for you?” Animal sex! It was really absurd. I remember being really comfortable. It was so cozy.
DIAZ: You can see how people have a thing for furries?
BLAIR: Yeah! I’m not a furry girl, but I can see the allure. It was really cozy. It was a really comfy suit. He was doing all the heavy lifting, obviously. I just had to bounce around and say this line, which makes me happy. Whenever I’m feeling a little down, I do say, “I can’t believe I’m f—ing a purple elephant.” Like, whenever things are going really wrong, I say it, and it gets things back on track with a smile. But no, that was just thrown in on the day, and that was the only suit they could get, that’s what was available.
That scene is followed by one in which Courtney makes it appear Christina is going down on her, causing a motorcyclist to crash. What do you remember of filming that?
APPLEGATE: Easy to do!
DIAZ: [Laughs] Yup!
APPLEGATE: We had been familiar enough with each other that it was okay having her head in my crotch. I think I pushed your head down quite a bit, too, Cameron.
DIAZ: Yes, you did. And, I will tell you, if you want to know, it was a very pleasant memory for me.
APPLEGATE: Because I showered that day. It was one of those things that I had never done something quite that far. I realized in that moment that I am as crass as anyone, and I did the thing with my tongue, miming eating someone out, and I was like, “Oh my God, who am I? I’m discovering so much about myself right now. I am severely disgusting and loving every second of it!” I don’t think, up until that point, I had said the word p—y in my whole life, and I think after that I haven’t stopped saying it. It was a true awakening for me.
DIAZ: By the way, I was just thinking of the scene with the dry cleaners, Selma, with the guy scraping off the skirt and tasting it. When you think about it, it was just non-stop. When you take the dress to the cleaners and it has semen on it. The poor guy is like, “What is this?” and he’s like, “Let me see, I can tell you,” and he scrapes it and he tastes it. You were like, “No, no, no, no!”
BLAIR: I remember your mom came in with children!
APPLEGATE: Yeah, that was my mom, [Nancy Priddy].
BLAIR: That was so ridiculous. I turned beet red. I cringed a lot. I can’t watch that.
DIAZ: It was one scene after the next, honestly. It’s like a barrage.
BLAIR: The Sweetest Thing is relentless.
Before the happy ending between the film’s main couple, The Sweetest Thing culminates in a scene in which Courtney and Christina return home to find various police, firemen, and neighbors gathered at their house because Jane has gotten her boyfriend’s sizable and pierced penis stuck in her mouth. Selma, what was the more technical aspects of that scene? How was that filmed?
BLAIR: I had a banana in my mouth. I have really, really bad TMJ and that was so painful to stay like that all day. But I had the whole community behind me, a Palestinian, an Israeli, the firefighters. I remember Cameron so soothingly stroking my hair. It was a very—
DIAZ: You were really in it.
BLAIR: It was really a dramatic scene for me. I didn’t view it as a comedy. It was a really low point, but also I knew somewhere, this was going to help people get through something one day. It was so pathetic, and I still have pain from it. In fact, I’m going to go get botox in my jaw today, because it still hurts. [Laughs]
DIAZ: I remember how bad it was for you. You were really, really in discomfort.
APPLEGATE: I often think that since we did this movie, how many people had that happen to them and started singing that song to see if it actually works, you know what I mean? Do you think that maybe some chick gets it caught on there and she’s like, “Oh my God, I remember.” [sings Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” with a faux full mouth] Right? I wonder!
Of all these huge scenes we just went over, what was the first big scene that you filmed for the movie?
DIAZ: I know the first scene that I filmed was walking up the street for the opening. Shake your ass, watch yourself.
APPLEGATE: Yeah, that was my first day, too, with you.
DIAZ: That was the first one.
BLAIR: I don’t remember mine, but I remember watching them on playback, so I was there that day. I shot that day, too, but I don’t remember what. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, they’re really walking up this hill, like a lot.”
APPLEGATE: We were dancing.
DIAZ: There was a lot happening on that hill. In heels, always. It was fun to shoot in San Francisco.
APPLEGATE: Yeah, that was nice.
What was each of your favorite moments from the movie or from actually filming it?
BLAIR: I remember the club scenes. Cameron had gotten, from her agent, a big gift box with a bunch of caramel turtles, and Cameron, you didn’t eat that, but you did that day.
APPLEGATE: And we were going nuts, because I’m an addict.
BLAIR: We just kept eating these turtles and laughing. You were wearing these red pants and yelling, “I don’t care! I don’t care!” You were so cool.
DIAZ: That was a lot of fun.
APPLEGATE: Cameron and Selma, I think some of my favorite moments were when we discovered that Karen Finley song and we would just play it and upset the whole crew. Do you remember that song? “You don’t own me!”
DIAZ: Oh my God, yes, and we’d also sing that, “Lick my back, lick my crack, lick my p—y…” remember we were singing that?
APPLEGATE: Cameron and I memorized this whole song by this woman Karen Finley, which was called “Belgian Waffles.” When we were doing the car scenes, we would play it and I just remember the crew in the follow car looking at us like, “This is awful. This is an awful moment in my life.”
DIAZ: That’s right!
APPLEGATE: The most foul song of all time.
DIAZ: We were very into foul songs during that time, like “Peaches.” We really just let it loose, I felt like. You’re right, it was an awakening.
APPLEGATE: To our demise.
Are there any moments from the movie — either the original script or from what you filmed — that you wish made the final cut, but didn’t?
DIAZ: I feel like everything got in there.
APPLEGATE: I remember a lot of stuff was taken out of the script. But the original script had way more stuff in it that was toeing that line. They just wanted to be careful that we didn’t completely offend anyone. I remember being heartbroken about some of that stuff. The only thing really cut was the song that we shot that didn’t get in there.
And what was it like filming the movie montage scene?
DIAZ: My favorite part of the movie montage scene was the very end, because it was the last day of shooting and I had these extensions in my hair. I would always pull my extensions out, like I was going crazy, and then I would look at the hair and start screaming. The last shot of the whole movie was me pulling my extensions out and screaming at the crew. That was my favorite part of the part at the end.
APPLEGATE: You mean when we dressed up as all those characters? For me, my life-long fantasy was to be in Flashdance, so doing the Flashdance thing was fun. I did backspins, too, and that didn’t make it in, and that made me really sad, because I was really, really excited about some Flashdance backspins.
DIAZ: You’re such a good Flashdance dancer, though.
APPLEGATE: Lifelong dream, man.
BLAIR: I agree, great dancer there. I can’t dance. Goodbye.
DIAZ: You know what’s really funny about this movie is I get people who come up to me often and they’ll be like, “Oh my God, The Sweetest Thing is my favorite movie.” It’s not like anybody comes up to me and says, “Oh yeah, I love that movie.” It’s like, when they reference it or say something to me about it, it’s always, “No, but it’s my favorite movie.” I’m always like, “Wow. All right, I know you now. I know you.” I love it.
Have the three of you reunited since filming?
DIAZ: Goddamn it, why not?
APPLEGATE: I don’t know. You guys tell me. I see Selma.
BLAIR: Our kids are friends. Cameron?
DIAZ: Maybe I should, you know, I mean, I’m down. I’m literally doing nothing.
APPLEGATE: I’m literally doing nothing, too! I’m semi-retired, I haven’t worked for years. I’m a mom, that’s what we do. So I’m around, man.
DIAZ: That’s so awesome. I’m totally down. I’m semi-retired, too, and I am actually retired, so I would love to see you ladies.
BLAIR: I would love it.
Did you end up cracking a lot during this movie?
DIAZ: I mean, this movie was so penis-heavy. If you think about it, [there was] penis-colada. [singing] Do you like penis-colada? Christina and I had that.
BLAIR: Glory holes.
DIAZ: Selma got a penis ring caught on her uvula, because that’s really what happened.
BLAIR: Also, that penis that made me really sore the morning after.
DIAZ: It’s such a penis movie.
APPLEGATE: As they call it in the business, dick-heavy. That’s what we call it in the entertainment business — it’s a dick-heavy movie.
DIAZ: By the way, you can’t make that movie again now. You could never make that movie.
APPLEGATE: It’s too tame.
If The Sweetest Thing was going to be rebooted, who would you want to play your characters?
APPLEGATE: Yeah, me!
BLAIR: I’m not going to give that up to anyone!
APPLEGATE: They should do The Sweetest Thing: The Geriatric Years.
DIAZ: Could you imagine? Who would these girls be right now?
APPLEGATE: We’d be wearing flats, I’ll tell you that. I’d be in flats.
DIAZ: I will tell you that is the truth.
APPLEGATE: Never in heels again.
BLAIR: And I will not—
DIAZ: You’re not going to f— a purple elephant?
BLAIR: There’s some things that come with age.
DIAZ: You don’t have to, you’ve already done it!
BLAIR: I’d have a daughter in it, and it’ll happen to her! Or a son and it’ll happen to him! I think we have a story line, guys. Anyone in? I’m not retired. This movie did not propel me to retirement status, so I’m in for the reboot. I will f— a purple elephant.
APPLEGATE: I’d come out of a retirement for it, too.
DIAZ: I’d do it.
APPLEGATE: Look, I’m retired until the money starts to run out, babe, so I’m here for a minute.
BLAIR: I’ll see you girls on set!
Check back for our interview with The Sweetest Thing writer Nancy Pimental, who sets the record straight about the inspiration for the film.