How Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon Transformed Their Love Story into a $12 Million Movie

The Big Sick is the single best film I’ve seen at Sundance this year, so it’s no surprise that it sold for a staggering $12 million.

It may seem like a premature proclamation, especially considering that I have at least four more films to screen before I leave and that the festival isn’t even halfway over. Yet there’s something so deeply affecting about this film, which was written by  Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Emily V. Gordon (The Carmichael Show) based on the real life story of how they fell in love. The movie tells the story of a Pakistani-American comedian (Nanjiani) whose relationship with a graduate student (Zoe Kazan) is thrown into turmoil when an unexpected health crisis and deeply entrenched cultural differences threaten to tear them apart. It manages to toe a delicate line between humorous and heartfelt, delivering laugh-out-loud gallows humor and heartstring-tugging pathos in equal measure.Bringing such a story to life is a difficult feat–especially when it’s so deeply personal and autobiographical–but Nanjiani and Gordon’s film rose to the occasion and has stayed with me ever since I left the Eccles Theater on Friday evening. They didn’t do it alone either; The Big Sick was produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, and directed by Michael Showalter, all three of whom helped to shape the film into one of the best romantic comedies in years. And the fact that Nanjiani and Gordon are part of the Nerdist family–as hosts of  The Indoor Kids podcast and the dearly departed  The Meltdown–is just icing on the cake.


While at Sundance, I sat down with Gordon and Nanjiani at the Creator’s League Studio in Park City to talk to them about how they adapted their real-life love story for the big screen, the challenges inherent to writing about yourself, and much more.

Read our Sundance review of The Big Sick, then let us know what you’re playing in the comments below.

Image: Sundance Film Festival

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