Anna Faris’ Hilarious Just Friends Character Almost Got A Spinoff Until A Sacha Baron Cohen Movie Stole Its Thunder

Anna Faris as Samantha James and Ryan Reynolds Chris Brander in Just Friends
(Image credit: (New Line))

It’s been 15 years since Just Friends. Time has been kind to the comedy, as it has since become a holiday classic and an endearingly remembered as an early hit for Hollywood’s most treasured comedy stars, Ryan Reynolds and Anna Faris. Upon rewatch, one of the most viscerally memorable parts of the film is Faris’ Samantha James, a quite irritating, yet lovable, doe-eyed pop star who sings all about how “forgiveness is more than saying sorry.”

In celebration of the film’s milestone, CinemaBlend had the chance to speak with Just Friends’ writer Adam 'Tex' Davis and director Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions) all about it. One major subject of conversation we delved into is Anna Faris’ Samantha James, who became such a popular character that there was once talk to continue her story after Just Friends. As Davis put it:

It wasn’t long after the movie, I talked to the people at New Line and we were considering doing a Samantha James spinoff movie. I actually came up with a whole treatment and was about to go pitch it. You’re not going to believe this, I went to see Brüno, the Sasha Baron Cohen movie and the plot of Brüno was so shockingly similar, including with her singing with Bono finally that I just clammed the Samantha James movie. I said, ‘I gotta cancel the pitch meeting, go see Bruno, that’s my pitch’. Then it kind of went away.

To this day, Samantha James is one of Anna Faris’ most iconic and hilarious characters, and according to Just Friends’ screenwriter he was ready to get the ball rolling on a movie of her very own. That is before he tuned into Sasha Baron Cohen’s 2009 movie Brüno. Cohen’s wild follow-up to the original Borat (before Borat Subsequent Moviefilm made waves this year) was about a blacklisted celebrity who goes to the United States to launch a celebrity interview show. It’s not hard to imagine Davis dreaming up a similar scenario for Samantha James after some kind of public media snafu, since she’s obviously chaotic. But, when the writer saw Brüno he decided to scrap his own ideas.

The ironic part of the whole thing is in Brüno, Sasha Baron Cohen gets to sing a song with Bono called “Dove of Peace,” and in Just Friends, Samantha James discloses to Ryan Reynolds’ Chris Brander while they are on a plane in the beginning that she wanted to stop in Ireland to find out where U2 lives. She suggests that Bono sing backup on “Forgiveness.” None of this happens, because of course the plane has to make an emergency landing in New Jersey, where Reynolds’ character grew up. They have to then spend the week with his family, where he bumps into Amy Smart’s Jamie Palamino, Chris’ childhood friend and crush.

While Reynolds and Smart as the leads were no brainers, director Roger Kumble talked about the process of finding their Samantha James:

We went through a lot of auditions and the craziest was Paris Hilton. For me, when I sat with Anna Faris, she was like who is this? And I go, well Tex created the character and to me she’s like if you stick Lindsey [Lohan] and Paris [Hilton] and all of them in a blender, and add some amphetamine to it and that’s Samantha James. And she instantly got it.

Just Friends was a moderate hit when it hit theaters on Thanksgiving weekend in 2005, competing against giants like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Walk the Line. When the movie was released, there wasn’t a sense of what it would become later as the years passed by. In Kumble’s words:

When this movie came out, no one was talking about it and I thought, ‘Oh that’s a bummer.’ And then, five to seven years after the movie came out that around the holidays Tex and I would start getting emails. We’d share, ‘Oh, someone’s sent something nice’ and every year it's built. It’s such a great experience to have something you made that keeps getting more and more love as the years go on.

Ryan Reynolds later went on to make many other rom-coms before entering the big-big leagues with things like Deadpool and Anna Faris has been the center of a massively popular sitcom, Mom. If you’re wondering if a straight sequel is on their minds, here’s what Kumble said about it:

Every few years there’s talk… I’m probably shooting myself in the foot by saying this but I’m so protective of this movie where I’m so kind of like, I’ll take this to the grave. I love this movie, I’m so proud of this movie that I’m like ‘No, I’ll only screw it up.’ I don’t know, there was something about the simplicity, the time that we did it and the actors. I don’t know.

It’s sweet to hear how important the movie was to the filmmakers, who still love the movie 15 years after its release. How do you look at Just Friends 15 years later? Vote in our poll below and check out the movie on digital.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.