Directed by: Drew Barrymore
Written by: Shauna Cross
Produced by: Barry Mendel, Drew Barrymore
Production year: 2009
World premiere: September 13, 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival
Running time: 111 minutes
Kristen Wiig as: Maggie Mayhem
Other cast: Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Drew Barrymore, Eve, Jimmy Fallon
For years, Bliss Cavendar has been dreaming of escaping her tiny, truck-stop of a town Bodeen, Texas. Unfortunately her devoted, beauty pageant obsessed mother is convinced that Bliss can only succeed in life if she wins the crown at the local Miss Blue Bonnet Pageant, but the awkward outsider knows there’s something bigger and better out there. When Bliss sneaks off to the big city of Austin with her best friend Pash she discovers a world unlike anything she could ever imagine: roller derby, with its girl-power-meets-punk-rock spirit and its liberating celebration of wild individuality.
Inspired by the likes of Maggie Mayhem, Bliss secretly tries out for a spot on the Hurl Scouts, a rag-tag team of scrappy underdogs. Soon she’s trading in her gowns and crowns for skirts, skates and scrapes becoming her alter ego, Babe Ruthless. Leading a precarious double life, Bliss may be a waitress at Bodeen’s Oink Joint by day, but by night, she’s becoming the fastest thing on eight wheels. Now she’s doing things she never dreamed of – fearlessly facing off with bad-ass rivals like Iron Maven and falling for a boy in a band – while trying to be a heroine to her new friends and teammates. But when her secret gets out, Bliss will face her toughest fight yet: to take control of the future… on her own terms.
Maggie: You know what I like to think about before every game? My ex. Little piece of advice, Bliss. Don’t fall for your regional manager and think that he’s not gonna give you crabs, because he cheated on you. ‘Cause it happens. And when I think of myself in the shower using that special shampoo, which for the record doesn’t make anyone feel special at all, I really, really want to hit somebody. You have to find that thing that really pisses you off, and you use it… Have you ever had crabs?
Maggie: No? Okay. My doctor said it was really common, but…
When Bliss Cavendar slips away to Austin to see her first roller derby, it’s love at first sight, especially when she meets our hero team – the Hurl Scouts, each one a rough-and-tumble misfit, yet all of them sexy, savvy and seemingly living their offbeat lives to the hilt. Before the skating even begins, Bliss knows she’s found a world that’s for her. Casting the vivacious Hurl Scouts, and their equally hardnosed competitors, was a challenging and exciting task for Drew Barrymore, who hand-picked an ensemble of vibrant, funny actors – both
veterans and newcomers — who had a blast with their roles and took on the action with professionalism and enthusiasm.
First she cast Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem, the captain of the team who takes Bliss under her wing as a kind of no-holds-barred mentor. “Kristen is amazing and I believe will go down in history as one of our most important female comedians,” says Barrymore. “She is both current and timeless, and she perfectly embodies derby femininity. Usually, Kristen does these really broad comic characters but in fact, she’s very collected and has a great carefree quality that I wanted to capture in the movie. There are some wonderful scenes between her and Ellen where she becomes a kind of big sister figure to Bliss. On top of that, she skated amazingly.”
Stunt Coordinator/2nd Unit Director Jeff Dashnaw was involved with the skate training. He was amazed at how quickly the cast became committed to the sport. “When we were still in Los Angeles, I saw some of the girls skate for the first time,” he recalls, “and I said ‘you guys are nuts. This will never work.’ I now see how wrong I was. It was quite an accomplishment. Kristen Wiig and Ari Graynor, for example, had never been on skates. Ellen, who is now phenomenal, hadn’t skated since she was a child. I thought we were in big trouble, but they pulled it off.”