The Major Change The Big Sick Made In Adapting Its True Story

The Big Sick Kumail Nanjiani Zoe Kazan

Because not everything in life is cinematic, there is a certain flexibility that is inherent in the phrase "Based On A True Story." The process of bringing a real-life tale to the big screen typically requires a bit of fudging so that the story remains engaging to an audience -- though the idea is still to ultimately remain true to the spirt of the reality. The new romantic comedy The Big Sick is no exception to this, and as I recently learned from writers/story inspiration Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, they actually changed one major detail when they were adapting their story for the film:

Kumail Nanjiani: In real life we did not break up before she went into the coma.Emily V Gordon: That's true, yes!Kumail Nanjiani: Which is a pretty big change, but it's more awkward to have an ex-boyfriend there than a casual boyfriend there. And we also wanted to give them a longer way to go once she wakes up. Because you find a lot of comedies, in the third act there's not that much going on. So we wanted a third act where there was still a lot of story to be told, and a lot of work to be done. We wanted the whole movie to be moving the story, and working with Judd [Apatow] that's how we landed on that!

The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter, is an adaptation of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's own love story, which involved her becoming sick in the early stages of their relationship and requiring placement in a medically-induced coma. In the movie, Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan) breaks up with Nanjiani (playing himself) due to certain societal pressures that he feels from his family, but it turns out this was a slight embellishment of reality, and that they were actually still together when she was battling illness. I learned about this while sitting down with Nanjiani and Gordon at the Los Angeles press day for The Big Sick earlier this month -- and they provided legitimate reasoning for the change.

Much in the same way that the movie doesn't chronicle the extended time Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's parents (played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) spent just sitting in a hospital waiting room, the writing duo understood that The Big Sick couldn't simply be a completely accurate account of what happened... though that is where the script started. The first draft was a 170-page beast that went through events point by point, but it was through collaboration with each other and consultation with producer Judd Apatow that they realized the necessity of alteration. The break-up not only adds dramatic tension to the narrative while Nanjiani is waiting for Gordon to wake-up and recover, but as he pointed out in the interview, gave the film an important third act conflict for the couple to overcome.

You can watch Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon discuss the big change in The Big Sick by clicking play on the video below!

The Big Sick is in theaters now in limited release -- where it is performing extremely well -- but it won't be long until the film finds its way to a theater near you. The movie will be expanding to theaters nationwide on July 14th, and we highly recommend checking it out, as it is one of the best movies that we've seen in 2017 so far.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.