The Easter Eggs in the ‘Bottoms’ Production Design Were Written Into the Script
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film The Easter Eggs in the ‘Bottoms’ Production Design Were Written Into the Script

The Easter Eggs in the ‘Bottoms’ Production Design Were Written Into the Script

The Easter Eggs in the ‘Bottoms’ Production Design Were Written Into the Script

“Bottoms” has rightly gotten a lot of praise for the rapid-fire script co-written by director Emma Seligman and actor Rachel Sennott, who plays a high school fight club founder — beg pardon, female self-defense club founder — alongside Ayo Edebiri. But Sennott and Edebiri’s characters’ absurd and fevered scheme to get laid is also supported by a host of visual gags, ones that make the world of “Bottoms” a hilarious reflection of the characters’ raging hormones. 

“A lot of little jokes in the background were baked into the script,” Seligman told IndieWire. “I’m pretty sure Rachel wrote all of them, what’s on the posters (around the school), the costumes and particularly for the mascot.” 

There’s a laundry list of visual gags — from the poster encouraging girls to smile or the flyers advertising the big game with quarterback Jeff in a state of perhaps ecstasy (or perhaps something else). The mentions in the script created a foundation for production designer Nate Jones and costume designer Eunice Jera Lee to create a world that reflects the lightning-fast jokes of the script and the heightened, horny sensibility of the characters and to help shape the film’s tone. 

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Sometimes this works out in big, noticeable ways. While the scene probably would work without it, there’s something about the fact that quarterback Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine) eats lunch behind a cafeteria mural recreation of “The Creation of Adam” with Jeff as both God and Adam that makes his public breakup with Isabel (Havana Rose Lee) all the funnier. Little asides on cork boards, the progression of graffiti on PJ’s and Josie’s lockers, the fevered scribblings of Mr. G’s (Marshawn Lynch) chalkboard, all add visual spikes of absurdity that make the film look as overblown as high school feels. 

But some of the visual gags Seligman had the most fun realizing with the production team aren’t ones that the camera gets a good look at. The Rock Bridge High School dog mascot, for instance, has some equipment that viewers might not spot on a first watch. 

“The mascot has a giant human penis. I remember our production designer and I had like an hour-long conversation and then (our costume designer) joined, because Eunice had already had a long conversation with me about the mascot costume. (We had to decide) is it fluffy or what the texture is like. It was the most ridiculous conversation,” Seligman said. “It was really fun to work with Eunice and Nate crafting this tone through production design and costuming.” 

In addition to the visual gags, some of the ways that Seligman and their team signaled tone was through a melding of different visual reference points. Because “Bottoms” is neither recreating the present moment nor pulling specifically from, say, the fashion and technology trends of the ‘50s, it exists as a kind of platonic ideal of high school: Everyone is weird and horny and the teachers don’t know what’s going on and the world seems to revolve around football players. “I really wanted the movie to feel timeless and I really wanted to insert queer characters into decades of teen movies that we haven’t been able to exist in,” Seligman said. 

BOTTOMS, from left: Rachel Sennott, Ruby Cruz, Ayo Edebiri, 2023. © United Artists / courtesy Everett Collection
“Bottoms”©United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection

Creating a timeless backdrop to center the film’s queer characters required a very conscious blending of a lot of different things, which Seligman brought to their production team. “I was throwing old Americana references at them (where) these stereotypes of the jock and the cheerleader and the nerd were created, like ‘Grease’ and ‘American Graffiti’ or movies that took place in that time period, like ‘Crybaby,” Seligman said. “But then also John Hughes and also Y2K movies, particularly for the costuming. I feel so grateful that Eunice took all of my references and somehow made them all work within one world and made it feel cohesive. Because I was like, ‘I want Isabel to feel like she’s Sandy (from ‘Grease’) and I want Brittany (Kaia Gerber) to feel like she’s Julia Stiles. But Ayo and Rachel are in ‘American Pie.’ And she made it cohesive.” 

Seligman said that a running joke throughout production was, “Nate was making a John Hughes movie and (cinematographer Maria Rusche) was making ‘Scott Pilgrim.’ It was like Scott Pilgrim in a John Hughes world.” 

One of the tricks to creating a consciously stereotypical high school for a couple of queer Scott Pilgrims to potentially battle their way to the girlfriend of their dreams? Being very intentional about anything that would actually suggest a particular time period. If “Bottoms” points to any one era, it’s the early ‘00s, but the tells for that are small; perhaps the largest one is the flip phone Tim (Miles Fowler) has. “That was a choice I feel like a lot of people weighed in on because we were like, ‘This is the only piece of technology we’re seeing in the movie, so whatever it is, is the only glimmer of a time period that it will suggest to an audience what’s going on.” 

BOTTOMS, Miles Fowler, 2023. © United Artists / courtesy Everett Collection
“Bottoms” ©United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection

Throwing back, but not too far and only to a Motorola Razr, does definitely help “Bottoms” feel like it is in conversation with early ‘00s teen comedies that inspired it. Keeping the film in that conversation and not pushing too far into parody or pastiche was something Seligman and their team were very conscious of; it was important to let the world of “Bottoms” be absurd but always have an internal logic. 

“(From the opening,) we wanted to show football players rule all, losers are losers no matter their sexuality, this person’s dating this person, this person’s out of this person’s league, (these are) the jokes and the tone,” Seligman said. 

When you think about it that way, the embodiment of the world of “Bottoms” would be a giant dog mascot with a swinging dick. You’ll have to rewatch the film to catch whether or not it’s fuzzy.

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