It seems like just yesterday that we were introduced to the Rancho Carne High School Toros, the Compton Clovers, and the world of competitive cheerleading. Although the movie recently celebrated its 21st anniversary, the iconic cheerleading flick still holds up as one of the best movies of the 2000s. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, and Eliza Dushku, the film gave a whole new life to cheerleading as a sport.
With iconic lines like “Brrr, it’s cold in here; there must be some Toros in the atmosphere,” we can’t get this movie out of our heads. After dominating the box office and spawning five sequels, you might be surprised to hear these shocking behind-the-scenes facts about Bring It On. It’ll be like high school, only better!
The Movie’s Original Title Wasn’t “Bring It On”
Jessica Bendinger, who wrote the film, initially wanted to make a documentary about the national cheerleading competitions that began airing on ESPN in the mid-1980s. It would have followed different squads as they competed in cheerleading competitions across the country, but the idea felt “dense.” No one was interested in this idea.
None of her colleagues at MTV News seemed interested in the idea, so she wrote a movie script titled Cheer Fever. While the movie was in the early stages of production, the producers changed the name to Bring It On because it sounded better.
Kristin Dunst Turned Down the Lead Role More Than Once
Although Mary Shelton was the producers’ first choice to play Torrance, she took a role in Sugar & Spice, a different cheerleading movie that started production simultaneously. Therefore, they had to find another lead actress and offered the part to Kirsten Dunst. She turned down the role a few times, but they kept coming back to her.
Dunst was filming a lousy indie movie in Prague when she read the Bring It On script and realized it looked like a fun film. She was still unsure, but after talking to Peyton Reed, the director, he convinced her that this would be a great opportunity, and she couldn’t refuse.
They Cast Many Real-Life Cheerleaders
Dunst and Gabrielle Union might have had prior cheerleading experience when they were younger, but each squad had real cheerleaders. Both teams were made up of eight actors and 12 cheerleaders. Many of the East Compton Clovers were from San Diego’s James Madison High School. Their cheer squad was ranked third in the country at the time.
Reed said, “We were fortunate to have some of the top cheerleaders in the country on these squads, and they helped motivate Kirsten, Eliza [Dushku], and Gabrielle, and the rest of the actors during cheer camp.” They also made the cheerleading scenes look more believable and clean.
The Actors Went to Cheer Camp
Reed had no desire to use body doubles for the cheers in the movies, so he made each actor audition with a cheer and sent everyone to cheerleading camp for four weeks. He said, “We needed to know they at least had some sense of rhythm and coordination.”
The actors had to meet the physical demands of the role. They needed to learn the routines. Reed said it was fun to watch Dushku because she got into it the most. Everyone benefitted from the camp because they were able to pick up choreography faster. Not all of them had cheer experience, and they improved significantly.
The Toros and Clovers Had Different Choreographers
As Isis, Gabrielle Union’s character said, “I know you didn’t think a little white girl made up all of those cheerleading routines.” The movie’s choreographer, Anne Fletcher, recruited the hip-hop dancer and choreographer Hi-Hat for all of the Clovers’ routines.
Fletcher then reinterpreted the Clovers’ routines in a “stiff white-girl” fashion for the Toros. She wanted to emphasize the difference between the two squads and their styles. The moves felt very different, and it was important that their characters came through in each routine.
Gabrielle Union Originally Auditioned for Sugar & Spice
Bring It On and Sugar & Spice had a bit of an unofficial rivalry because the two cheerleading flicks came out simultaneously. Union only became interested in Bring It On after she was turned down for a role by the other film.
Union said, “There were a ton of teen movies at the time that I passed on that were not committed to getting it right.” She decided to do the table read for Bring It On because the other cheerleading movie she wanted to be in didn’t want Black characters. She was excited by the diversity of the cast in Bring It On.
Union Helped Develop Her Character
Union played Isis, the captain of the Compton Clovers. Her character was initially supposed to be much different. Isis was written as a combination of “Foxy Brown and about eight other Blaxploitation characters rolled into a cheer-lawyer-defender.” However, Union wanted it to be more realistic.
After opening up to producers about the character, Isis was rewritten to be more of a determined athlete, inspired by Michael Jordan. Union said, “She had this competitive streak, but there was clearly an understanding. There was a mutual respect between Torrance and Isis.”
An R&B Girl Group played the Other Clovers
According to MTV, casting the rest of the Clovers was challenging because they didn’t have as many lines as Isis. Producers said they still needed a tight-knit group of performers, so Reed decided to ask Shamari DeVoe, Brandi Williams, and Natina Reed of the group Blaque if they wanted the parts.
Reed recalled, “All three of them came in with charisma like you wouldn’t believe. They can dance, they look great, and they were so enthusiastic that we immediately cast them.” The girls also got along well with Union, which helped the squad’s unity.
The Tooth Brushing Scene Was a Last-Minute Addition
Even though it was one of the most iconic scenes in the film, the moment where Torrance and Cliff (Jesse Bradford) brush their teeth together wasn’t written in the script. The sleepover at Missy’s house was added later, and they added the scene because they needed Torrance to come into contact with him.
The scene was so memorable that Ariana Grande recreated it in her video for “Thank U, Next.” The scene created sexual tension with their looks, and it’s a tribute to Dunst and Bradford for making the scene so unforgettable because they were so good.
Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford Got Arrested During Filming
If there is one thing the entire cast remembers about Bring It On, it is how much fun they had while filming. In the case of Dushku and Bradford, who played Missy and Cliff, they had a little too much fun during a night of partying in Mexico.
Bradford said a few of the cast members were partying and spent a night in jail. Dushku said they bailed themselves out instead of calling the producers. They had to go in front of a judge and explain what happened, but they were let off the hook.
The Studio Didn’t Want the Clovers to Win
When the producers were talking about who would win the championship, there was a whole debate. Some people thought the Toros should win because Dunst is the lead, while others thought that didn’t fit the story. Everyone involved in the movie had a different opinion.
In an interview, Reed said that they thought having Torrance with an award would be easier for viewers. However, the producers thought that was too pander-y and decided just to have the Toros come in second. Admittedly, it would have been lame if she won an award.
The Iconic Opening Cheer Was Almost Scraped
The winner of the championship competition wasn’t the only thing Reed and Bendinger fought studio executives over. Executives wanted to remove the opening scene where the characters introduce themselves from the film to make room for other things.
Bendinger said the executives didn’t understand that the scene helped establish the film’s tongue-in-cheek tone. The executives didn’t realize how important the scene would be. They were thankful the scene was left in because now everyone knows how to tell people they are sexy, cute, and popular to boot.
Torrance’s Bedroom Scene Wasn’t Choreographed
When Torrance and Cliff started to fall for each other, he gave her a mixtape of songs, including one he wrote. While the song plays, Torrance gets up on her bed and dances along to the music in her pajamas. It was an unforgettable part of teen romances during the 2000s.
While almost everything was choreographed, producers wanted to keep this scene authentic, so Dunst improvised and danced freely. It made the scene a little awkward, but it felt like we were watching a regular teenager dance around their bedroom.
An Alternate Ending Could Have Led to a Direct Sequel
While there are a few Bring It On sequels, none of them directly relate to the original storyline. However, an alternate ending could have led to a direct sequel. At the end of the film, the Clovers win the championship, creating newfound respect and friendship between Torrance and Isis.
According to MTV, the alternate ending would have seen Torrance and Isis in college together on the same cheer squad. It seems better than the ending that made it to the film, and it would have been an excellent setup for a sequel.
Two Other Famous Actors Auditioned for Cliff
While Bradford made all of us swoon, two other famous names auditioned for the role of Cliff. James Franco and Jason Schwartzman were just two of the people who read for Torrance’s edgy rocker love interest. They auditioned 300 people for this part, but their top pick was Bradford.
Out of all people they saw, the producers said nobody felt as right as Bradford. He even asked the executive producer for a convertible, and they agreed. It would have felt like a much different love story if someone else had played this role.
Reed Only Wanted Eliza Dushku to Play Missy
For the role of Missy, Cliff’s sister and Torrance’s co-captain who has a love for gymnastics and temporary tattoos, Dushku was Reed’s only choice. He was a fan of hers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she didn’t disappoint when she showed up for the audition.
Dushku admitted that she was a little hungover and dressed in all black for the audition. Reed asked if she could do a split, and Dushku said, “I don’t know; let me try.” She dropped into a split, but she didn’t even know she could do one.
Most of Sparky Polastri’s Lines Were Improvised
Most fans remember choreographer Sparky Polastri, played by Ian Roberts, for the hilarious scene where he teaches the Toros a truly ridiculous routine. While this scene cracks people up, most don’t know that Roberts improvised most of his lines because the part was supposed to be thin and stereotypical.
Reed knew he wanted Roberts in the film, but they wanted to create a version of the character that was different. They knew he had to be a guy up to no good, and Roberts did the rest of the work. However, the spirit fingers were always part of the script.
The Audition Scene Cost a Lot of Money
Bring It On brought in around $10 million, which is low for studio standards. A large portion of the movie’s budget was allocated to securing the rights for Warrant’s 1990 hit song “Cherry Pie” for the cheerleader audition scene. It cost about $40,000 for the licensing fee.
Reed said it was one of the band’s biggest hits, but it was perfect for that scene. They wanted it to be raunchy and inappropriate, and the song gave it that vibe. It was the single biggest music cue and expense for the film.
The Film’s Language Was Too Problematic for the MPAA
Even though the movie was set in a high school, the film is filled with expletives. Reed was actually surprised that the film got a PG-13 rating so easily. They had a small problem, but the film never got an R rating. The MPAA made suggestions about trimming things in terms of language.
Reed also wanted to create an environment that idealized the year 2000 with words that aren’t considered PC today. They created a world where sexuality may be an issue with the macho football players, but it’s not an issue within the world of cheer.
Kirsten Dunst Was Emotional During the Premiere
Bring It On opened in theaters on August 25, 2000, and because it was such an under-the-radar production, there was very little hype. The movie opened opposite The Art of War with Wesley Snipes, and Reed wondered if Bring It On would be overshadowed.
However, the movie defied odds and opened at number one, making $22 million in its first weekend. This caught everyone off guard, including Dunst. She was just 17 at the time and broke down in tears because she couldn’t believe how well it was doing.
Some of the Stunts Aren’t Legal
In Bring It On, the teams try all these risky stunts, one of which causes one of the Toros to break her leg in three places. However, cheerleading rules are pretty strict in real life, and some of the stunts performed in the film would have gotten the squads disqualified.
According to cheerleading rules, “All stunts more than two bodies high and fly-overs are illegal in competition at the high school level.” Even though the stunts would be illegal in a real competition, the cheer routines were highly entertaining on screen.
Gabrielle Union Kept Her Clovers’ Uniform
If we had to choose our favorite uniform between the Toros and the Clovers, we would choose the Clovers. Union clearly agreed because she kept her uniform set. She even pulled it out of the archives to wear for Halloween 2019, throwing it back to her Isis days.
While Union reused her uniform, Dunst didn’t hold onto the Toros costume. Costume designer Mary Jane Fort tried to make the uniforms as authentic as possible, and she had fun designing them. Fort also made the Clovers’ uniforms more detailed because they came from a bigger city.
Eliza Dushku Had a Stunt Double for the Audition Scene
When Missy was asked to perform a “front handspring, step out, round off back handspring, step out, round off back handspring, full twisted layout” for the cheerleading audition, she blew the squad away. However, that wasn’t Dushku (if that wasn’t obvious). Reed did want her to try to learn it, though.
Reed asked the choreographer if Dushku would be able to learn the moves in time for shooting, but that was not possible. Instead, they opted for a Texas switch up. They had a stunt person execute the flips and swapped in the actress at the last minute. The trickiest part was finding someone who looked like her.
The Toros Dialogue Was Inspired by Drag Queens
When writing the script, Bendinger did her research by looking at cheer message boards, but she also wanted the film to have a sense of timelessness. Therefore, she borrowed some language from drag queens. The writer of The Heathers also coached her to make sure the movie wouldn’t be stuck in 2000.
Bedinger wanted the cheerleaders to be like drag queens. She said she called a drag queen in San Francisco and asked for all the funny lines. The line “Courtney, this is not a democracy; this is a cheerocracy” came from a drag queen.
Whitney and Courtney Are Best Friends in Real Life
While many of the cast members went their separate ways, the actresses who played Whitney and Courtney formed a real bond. Nicole Bilderback and Clare Kramer would watch The Jerry Springer Show every night after filming and became best friends.
The two remained so close that Bilderback was the maid of honor at Kramer’s wedding. This also helped their on-screen chemistry and made them seem like closer friends in front of the camera. We can imagine them being just as sassy together in real life.
Lindsay Sloane Auditioned for Torrance
Lindsay Sloane, who played Red, originally auditioned to play Torrance. However, she didn’t get the lead role because she lied about having prior cheerleading experience. Sloane said she auditioned a few times but never read for Big Red. She said everyone was reading for the part of Torrance.
When the casting directors asked if she could cheer, Sloane said she could because every actor lied about their skill set slightly. Two weeks later, she got a call that she got the part of Big Red, but she didn’t even remember what part that was.
Courtney’s Bullying Was Intended to Be a Realistic Depiction of High School
In the film, Courtney, played by Clare Kramer, dishes out some pretty nasty words to Missy during the audition. The wannabe queen bee was threatened by the appearance and talent of the new girl, and Bendinger wanted to make the dialogue seem like a real high school interaction.
Bendinger wanted to highlight the ridiculous homophobia that existed at the time. The slurs Courtney used were outrageous. Reed was also on board to make it an accurate representation of a high school experience where people aren’t accepted. It is one of the more dated aspects of the movie.
Blaque Had Trouble Adjusting to Appearing in a Movie
Natina Reed, Shamari Fears, and Brandi Williams made up the girl group Blaque, and Bring It On was their film debut. Although they were excited about the challenge, the girls had trouble adjusting to filming a movie instead of music videos.
At first, Reed, Fears, and Williams would look directly at the camera instead of Dunst. After a conversation with the director, the girls got it together and figured out the right places to look instead of the camera. They completed the Clovers squad.
Kirsten Dunst Related to Torrance
Dunst did a fantastic job portraying Torrance, and even though it was cheesy at times, her bubbly personality made for the perfect head cheerleader. It turns out Dunst felt connected to her character in many ways. In an interview, she said that she was Torrance.
When the filming began, Dunst was 16, and she felt like she was that kind of girl in high school. She felt like she was back in high school, and she was a cheerleader when she was younger, so the role made sense to her. Dunst’s best friend was also a cheerleader, so she felt like Torrance and Missy’s relationship mirrored that.
There Are Many Bring It On Movies
Due to the success of the first Bring It On, Bring It On: Again, was soon created. However, the issue was that it didn’t have the same actors or director. Shortly after, Bring It On: All or Nothing starring Hayden Panettiere and Solange Knowles, was released.
Three more movies were added to the franchise, but they didn’t necessarily connect with the original film or have the same success. However, no one can deny that Bring It On: All or Nothing had an iconic cast. Most recently, Syfy announced they were releasing a horror-themed version called Bring It On: Halloween in 2022.
There Was a Mistake in the Clovers’ Routine
The next time you watch Bring It On, make sure to pay close attention to the Clovers’ final Nationals routine. About 22 seconds into the performance, two girls run into each other. It’s surprising that they didn’t stop and redo the scene.
Now that we think about it, they shouldn’t have done the competition. It’s a good thing Bring It On isn’t real life because they probably would have come in third place for a mistake like that. They also should have been disqualified for using illegal moves.
Kirsten Dunst Was Still a Teenager When She Filmed the Movie
When Bring It On premiered in 2000, Dunst was by far the most famous cast member even though she was just 17. At that point in her career, she had already starred in films like Interview With a Vampire, Little Women, and Jumanji.
Since she played Torrance, Dunst hasn’t strayed from the screen. The actress has been in everything from the Spider-Man trilogy to Marie Antoinette and Hidden Figures. In 2017, Dunst got engaged to her Fargo costar Jesse Plemons, and a year later, they welcomed their first child together.
Gabrielle Union Was a Teen Movie Regular
Union made a name for herself in the late ‘90s on shows like Sister, Sister, 7th Heaven, and Saved by the Bell. Therefore, she was already a teen movie regular by the time she starred in Bring It On. She was also in 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, and Love & Basketball.
Union has continued to act over the past two decades. Most recently, she was a judge on America’s Got Talent until 2019, when she left after filing a lawsuit against executive producer and fellow judge Simon Cowell for alleged discriminatory actions. She also married Dwayne Wade in 2014 and welcomed their first child in 2018.
Eliza Dushku Was Known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Dushku earned her star status with her recurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Reed was a huge fan of the show and wanted Dushku to be in his film. He also took some inspiration from her Buffy role to create the edgy cheerleader, Missy.
After Bring It On, Dushku continued to appear in Buffy and joined the spinoff show, Angel. Most recently, she had a recurring role on the CBS show Bull, during which she reportedly faced misconduct on set. Dushku has been married to businessman Peter Palandjian since 2018, and they have one child together.
Jesse Bradford Was a ‘90s Breakout
After his breakout role in Presumed Innocent, Bradford went on to appear in films like King of the Hill, Hackers, and Romeo + Juliet before landing the role of Cliff in Bring It On. He became an instant heartthrob for many teens and fans of the movie.
Like a fine wine, Bradford has only gotten better looking with age. Although Bring It On is still one of his most notable films, Bradford went on to appear on The West Wing, Outlaw, and Shooter. In 2018, Bradford married fellow actress Andrea Watrouse.
The Male Cheerleaders Made Some Dirty Hand Signs
There are a lot of small details viewers miss in the movie, and we are surprised the editors left some things in. During the first football game, the male cheerleaders behind Missy aren’t holding up the Torro bull hand signal. They are holding up a sexual hand signal, and the producers didn’t remove it.
It was something that could have changed the rating to R, but everyone must have missed this small detail because no one ever talks about it. They were being immature boys, and we can imagine regular high school students doing something like that.
Clare Kramer Joined A Vampire Show
Kramer played Torrance’s frenemy and fellow cheerleader, Courtney. Bring It On was one of her debut roles and still her most notable. Before her days on the Toros cheer team, Kramer was in the film In & Out, but she wasn’t well-known.
After the success of Bring It On, Kramer joined her costar Dushku on the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later appeared in the film The Rules of Attraction. While she had had small parts here and there, Kramer now works as a producer in television.
Shamari DeVoe Became a Housewife
Shamari Fears played Lava in Bring It On, and she was a member of the girl group Blaque. Fears said the producers reached out to the girl group, and they didn’t have to audition. They went to cheer camp for two weeks and then starred in the movie.
In 2004, Blaque broke up but tried to reunite in 2010. However, the group never performed together again. In 2006, Shamari married Ronnie DeVoe and joined the Season 11 cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. She only stayed for one season, but fans were excited to see her on TV.
Lindsay Sloane Switched Up Her Look
Before her role as the former Toros cheer captain Big Red, Sloane made regular appearances on sitcoms like The Wonder Years and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Interestingly, she plays a mean head cheerleader who picks on younger girls, but in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, she plays the junior member picked on by the head cheerleader.
After the cheerleading film, Sloane appeared on many TV shows and movies, including Over Her Dead Body, She’s Out of My League, The Other Guys, and Horrible Bosses. Most recently, she was cast in the CBS show The Odd Couple.
The Idea for the Movie Came From a Strange Combination
Bendinger was a hip-hop journalist with MTV before she wrote the script for Bring It On. She explained that she wanted to combine hip-hop and cheerleading because it would be hilarious to put these two things together. It turned out to be the perfect combination, even though it’s hard to see the hip-hop aspect.
While the Clovers have a much more hip-hop style than the Toros, we don’t see much hip-hop in the film. Everyone is quite peppy, like classic cheerleaders. The script was also rejected a few times before it was finally picked up.
The Film Was Greenlit Without a Director
When Bendinger’s script was finally picked up, there wasn’t a director on board yet. The team met with Universal and executive producer Max Wong, and they went into production right away. Universal told them they had 90 days to find a director.
For four long years, they had been begging and scrapping to get the movie made, but the studio wanted nothing to do with it. Then, overnight, everything happened so fast, and the film had traction without a director. Luckily, they found Reed.
Every Bring It On Movie Opens With a Dream Sequence
If you have watched all the Bring It On movies, you might notice that they all start with a cheerleading dream sequence except for Bring It On: Worldwide Cheersmack. In Bring It On, Torrance dreams about a routine where they all introduce themselves, and her top falls off.
In Bring It On: All or Nothing, Hayden Panettiere’s character dreams about the introduce yourself cheer, and she also winds up naked. It must be something that cheerleaders fear: showing up to school without clothes.