One of the big events of the 2015 Sundance film festival was the gymnastics comedy The Bronze. It opened the festival and starred Melissa Rauch from TV’s The Big Bang Theory as a washed-up Olympic winner clinging to her glory days in a small town.
But instead of giving her main character a happy Hollywood façade, Rauch (who also co-wrote the script with her husband) plays her as a foul-mouthed monster, someone with rough edges and unafraid to break the rules to get what she wants. It’s a comedic antihero rarely seen onscreen, and to hear Rauch tell it, she’s happy to fill that void. She recently traveled to San Francisco to promote The Bronze and the following is a transcription of her conversation with us.
Q: How much of a gymnastics fan were you prior to starting this movie?
Rauch: Huge! I was a huge gymnastics fan but had no gymnastics ability whatsoever. I was definitely not the kid who passed with flying colors, but my husband and I love watching the Olympics. When we watched the games together and were looking for ideas for the original concept of the movie, we always found it funny when the announcers said something like, “Oh, and they’ll have to settle for the bronze.” It sounds bad, but when you think about it, they’re saying you’re the third best in the world, which is still a big deal. So we thought it would be a fun way into the story that this main character has hung her hat on this achievement her whole life.
Q: You mentioned your husband as one of the screenwriters of this movie, how easy or difficult was it to bounce ideas off each other? Especially when you have to walk a fine line between making your character off-putting but not enough to completely alienate the audience.
Rauch: We wanted to remain faithful to this and her journey. This character is stuck, she’s angry, she’s bitter and we didn’t want to put a glossy finish on her. It was important that she take baby steps, or rather embryo steps, to progress. The character is a hard pill to swallow and very unlikable, yet there’s a long list of male antiheroes but not a lot of female antiheroes. I think that’s because there’s this pressure on women to be likable in film, probably because there’s a pressure for women to be likable in general. We didn’t have many luxuries on this small-budgeted film, but the one luxury we did have was the freedom to create this character the exact way we wanted to.
Q: Have your Big Bang Theory cast mates seen the film yet?
Rauch: They haven’t yet, but I’m so excited for them to see it. They’ve been so supportive and they’re actually going to see it even before my parents. I kind of want to put a Go Pro on my parents as they watch it.
Q: You probably wouldn’t want the Go Pro on them during the sex scene, right?
Rauch: I think that would be hilarious. I sort of want to put it on their faces just during that scene. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Q: Has every journalist asked you about the sex scene?
Rauch: Most have but I love talking about it.
Q: I feel like the sex scene is probably the go-to question for 99% of these interviews, right?
Rauch: Well, you’ve been asking a lot of questions I haven’t talked about yet with other journalists, but I’m also happy to talk about the sex scene.
Q: OK, let’s try this a different way. What about that sex scene have you not been asked about yet that you would like to talk about?
Rauch: Interesting. I haven’t talked about this much, but when we wrote it in the script we wrote it as the most epic and crazy gymnastics sex scene ever. We didn’t know how we were going to pull it off but then we found this handicapped accessible hotel room that had the handicapped rings on it and we struck gold. We also had two phenomenal body doubles from Cirque Du Soleil, but Sebastian Stan also did a lot of his own moves in that sex scene so you get to see a lot of Sebastian in our movie.
Q: It’s surprising the Marvel people let him show as much skin as he did in the movie.
Rauch: Yeah, it’s great. This project was a small labor of love so we got to make that scene stand out.
Q: Would you consider your time on The Big Bang Theory with that same filmmaking mentality of creating a new project week-to-week?
Rauch: Big Bang is such a well-oiled machine and they have these amazing architects behind it, I sit back and am in awe of them every week. It’s been a lesson to me as a writer to watch them work.
Q: Do you like to pitch jokes or ideas on set?
Rauch: I don’t because the Big Bang writers are the masters of that, so I just sit back and enjoy reading their scripts.
Q: Do you see a lot of Bernadette in your future?
Rauch: Yes, I hope the show runs for 500 million more episodes. I was at the unemployment line a week before I got my first guest star on The Big Bang Theory, so I was so excited when I got to audition.
Q: I’m not going to ask you to do it, but how often do you get asked to do Bernadette’s voice?
Rauch: I do get asked to do it a lot and a lot of people think I actually talk that way.
Q: If you could go back and tell yourself something on the first taping of The Big Bang Theory, what would it be?
Rauch: At that time I was so worried about paying my rent and not knowing where I was going that I was in this state of panic all the time. So I think I would’ve said it’s going to be OK, this isn’t the last time you’ll be here.
The Bronze is now playing nationwide.