AFI Movie Club: THE BIG SICK – American Film Institute
The Big Sick Film Still - Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani



Based on a true story, the humorous and heartfelt comedy THE BIG SICK was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2017 – recognizing it as one of the 10 outstanding films deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image.

Watch this exclusive AFI Archive video about THE BIG SICK:


Movie Trivia about THE BIG SICK

DID YOU KNOW Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon spent three years writing the script for THE BIG SICK? Although Gordon had executive produced Nanjiani’s show THE MELTDOWN WITH JONAH AND KUMAIL and they had hosted a podcast together, the pair had never collaborated before as writers. For their efforts, they were nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar® for THE BIG SICK.

DID YOU KNOW that the idea to make a script about Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s relationship was first considered when Nanjiani pitched the idea to eventual producer Judd Apatow on a 2012 episode of the “You Made It Weird” podcast?

DID YOU KNOW as part of the prep work for his first major role in a feature Kumail Nanjiani hired an acting coach and also practiced monologues from movies where characters were in a coma, such as THE FISHER KING and AWAKENINGS?

DID YOU KNOW that Anupam Kher was cast as the main character’s father in THE BIG SICK, based on Kumail’s real-life father’s request that the Indian actor portray him in the film?

DID YOU KNOW while Emily V. Gordon’s parents are significantly different than their onscreen counterparts, they were incredibly excited about the casting? They were particularly thrilled about Holly Hunter, since RAISING ARIZONA is their favorite film!

DID YOU KNOW that while the film is based closely on their actual relationship, the real Nanjiani and Gordon hadn’t actually broken up before her coma? Discussing the creative license they took, Gordon said, “It’s interesting to be at your casual girlfriend’s side when she gets sick. But it’s even more interesting to be at your recent ex-girlfriend’s side.”

DID YOU KNOW, although it wasn’t a part of the original script, a real-life incident involving Holly Hunter heckling a tennis player during a U.S. Open match inspired a similar scene in THE BIG SICK where Nanjiani’s character is heckled during one of his stand-up sets?

DID YOU KNOW that Kumail Nanjiani and Adeel Akhtar are the only two actors in their onscreen family of actual Pakistani origin? The rest of the actors – Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff and Shenaz Treasury – are all of Indian descent.

DID YOU KNOW that THE BIG SICK composer Michael Andrews has also collaborated with producer Judd Apatow previously on the films BRIDESMAIDS and FUNNY PEOPLE, as well as the TV series UNDECLARED and FREAKS AND GEEKS?

DID YOU KNOW that THE BIG SICK opened in wide release on co-writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s 10th wedding anniversary?

DID YOU KNOW Kumail Nanjiani and director Michael Showalter had previously known each for 10 years from the New York comedy scene? Nanjiani also had a small role in Showalter’s previous film HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-What were your favorite comedic moments in the film?

-How do Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon take creative license with their onscreen counterparts?

-What does the film have to say about differences between Pakistani and American culture?

-How does the film depict Pakistani culture, including the tradition of arranged marriage, in a nuanced rather than a stereotypical way?

-How does Kumail’s relationship with his own family change throughout the film? Why does he keep his relationship with Emily a secret from them, and what does he fear will happen if he discloses it?

-What discrimination – both outright and more subtle – does Kumail experience throughout the film? How does Holly Hunter act as a good ally when she witnesses racist heckling during one of Kumail’s comedy sets?

-Describe how Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s parents evolves throughout the film. How do they grow closer by the end of the film?

-How does Emily’s health scare reaffirm the couple’s feelings for each other?

-As a romantic comedy, how does THE BIG SICK expand the genre?

-How would you rate THE BIG SICK?


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