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‘The Big Sick’ Is Very, Very Warmly Received at Sundance, and a Buyer Frenzy Ensues

The dramatic comedy based on "Silicon Valley" star Kumail Nanjiani's courtship with his wife was seen as a hot acquisition title going into the festival.

"The Big Sick" cast and crew

Judd Apatow, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily Gordon, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Barry Mendel, and Michael Showalter

Daniel Bergeron

Let the bidding begin. Going in, director Michael Showalter’s “The Big Sick” was pegged as the big acquisition title for this year’s Sundance Film Festival and based on the very warm reception it received at tonight’s premiere, that’s the case. It premiered at the sold-out Eccles Theater and earned a number of big laughs from an audience that also appeared to be equally engaged in the film’s heartfelt drama.

READ MORE: Michael Showalter’s Second Act: How the ‘The Big Sick’ Filmmaker Reinvented His Career — Sundance 2017

Represented were top executives from Magnolia, Neon, Bleecker, IFC, CBS Films, Roadside Attractions, Amazon, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Netflix and A24. With 15 minutes left in the movie, executives were climbing out of their seats and conferring in the back of the theater and in the lobby.

"The Big Sick" Premiere

Fox Searchlight executives huddle in the Eccles lobby after “The Big Sick” Premiere

Anne Thompson

The story is based on the co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s real-life relationship. After falling in love, the couple, (portrayed by Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan) break up because Kumail refuses to tell his traditional Muslim Pakistani family he is dating a white girl. The story takes a turn when Emily’s becomes very ill and is put into a coma. Under the frightening circumstances of waiting for the doctors to figure out how to treat her mystery illness, Kumail spends a number of intense days getting to know Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) and comes to some important realizations about his own family.

Nanjiani and Gordon during the post-film Q&A told the audience that much of the movie’s detail comes from their real-life story. What they left out for the movie was that they got married three months after Gordon emerged from the coma. (They thought that part was too unbelievable.)

"The Big Sick" Premiere: Michael Showalter, Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano

“The Big Sick” Premiere: Michael Showalter, Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano

Chris O'Falt

Producer Judd Apatow said that despite so much of the detail coming from the couple’s own story, the two co-writers worked “full time” for three years on the script getting the balance right between humor and drama.

The Q&A made it clear that when the film does sell, the couple’s humorous and honest banter will be an enormous asset to the film’s distributors. Asked about their current situation with their families, the two say they’ve been married for 10 years and and most issues were resolved years ago. As to how they became resolved, Gordon joked,”Lots of fucked-up dinners. That’s my favorite line in the movie.”

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