Emily V. Gordon Interview: ‘The Big Sick’ writer
“I kind of did not talk about being sick whatsoever for a couple of years after I got sick,” says Emily V. Gordon about the real-life health scare that inspired her to co-write the film “The Big Sick” with her husband Kumail Nanjiani. She became gravely ill and was placed into a medically induced coma as the result of a rare condition: adult-onset Still’s disease. “When we started working on the script about five years ago, a lot of it was the first time that I had dived back into those feelings and dived back into what it was like to go through that … This was kind of my coming out as a sick person. It’s not that it defines me, but it’s part of who I am.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Gordon above.
When you think about such a traumatic medical event, romantic comedy probably isn’t the first genre that comes to mind, but that approach to the weighty subject matter won the widespread approval of critics when the film originally opened in June. And it became a sleeper hit, grossing $53 million worldwide against a $5 million production budget. But it was a long road getting there. “It was a three-year process,” Gordon explains about writing the film, and then it came time to cast fictionalized versions of herself (Zoe Kazan) and her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) to star opposite Nanjiani, who played himself. As she describes the casting process, “The only part that was hard was watching the audition tapes and seeing all these gorgeous Hollywood actresses flirting with my husband and being like, oh yeah, that’s a thing I’ve done on purpose.”
There was the added challenge of reliving some of those difficult memories during production: “I have not been comfortable in hospitals for 10 years, and then we filmed in a hospital. That will really shake you out of being afraid of hospitals.” It proved to be therapeutic for her, and even beneficial in opening up discussions in her own life about health and well-being. “I’ve gotten so many people that have approached me to tell me about their medical struggles,” Gordon says. “I didn’t realize how many other people — writers, actors, regular people that I just know — how many people are also struggling with chronic illnesses, struggling with massive health scares because we just don’t talk about this stuff.”
Thanks to “The Big Sick,” now more people do talk about it.