The True Story Behind This Year's Greatest Rom-Com

Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The Big Sick, out June 23, starts off in firmly familiar romantic comedy territory. Boy meets girl, boy and girl are completely smitten. But where other romantic comedies challenge their lovers with tired tropes of miscommunication and mixed-up identities, The Big Sick throws its paramours, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and Emily (Zoe Kazan), into wholly uncharted territory.
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The trouble begins after Emily falls gravely ill and is put into a medically induced coma. As Emily fights for her life, Kumail bonds with her parents in the hospital. But things aren't so rosy with his own, very traditional Pakistani parents, who want Kumail to marry someone of their culture. Combining family issues and, hello, mortality, The Big Sick becomes so much more than a rom-com.
The best part? It's based on a true story. Husband-and-wife duo Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon were inspired by their relationship's early days to write the script. Here's proof of their lives.
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Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
Meet real life Kumail and Emily.

You might already know comic Kumail Nanjiani from his role as Dinesh on Silicon Valley, or from his various appearances on Veep, Portlandia, and Franklin & Bash. He's the host of a podcast on the X-Files, and the keeper of a very active Twitter account.

His wife, Emily V. Gordon, worked as a therapist before becoming a writer and producer. She's best known for co-creating the Comedy Central series The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, and for writing a book, Super You.

They host a podcast about video games together. And now, they have a movie.
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Meet the movie Kumail and Emily.

In the The Big Sick, Nanjiani plays his younger self, a struggling stand-up comic in Chicago.

Zoe Kazan plays Emily, who, at the time, was in grad school and pursuing a masters degree in psychology.

Gordon's happy with the way casting turned out. In an interview with Bust, Gordon said of Kazan, "She’s an amazing actress and could not have been more comfortable in a situation that could have been incredibly weird and off and uncomfortable."

Gordon also addressed the elephant in the room. "As odd of an experience as it is to watch someone make out with your husband on camera...[Kazan] made it as un-awkward as possible.”
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#tbt to Rififi. The vibe there inspired meltdown.

A post shared by Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) on

Emily Gordon got sick eight months into their relationship.

When she woke up from the 12-day coma, her perspective on Nanjini had changed.

"Oh, you’ve gotta be able to trust this guy," she told Paul Gilmartin on The Mental Illness Happy Hour. "This guy stayed with you, watched you when you were like asleep — literally in a coma for 12 days on a respirator, like if you can’t trust him with that, like what are you doing? Who can you trust?”

Gordon was hospitalized for a full month, and had to relearn to walk upon waking.
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Happy #lovingday.

A post shared by Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) on

@emilygordon
Nanjiani really did bond with both sets of parents during Gordon's coma.

In the film, Kumail bonds with Emily's parents while she's comatose.

The same thing happened in real life. As Nanjiani said in an interview with Cosmo, "She was in a coma and it was really bad, and I hung out with her parents, and things super-escalated."

Nanjiani also took Gordon's coma as an opportunity to tell his own parents about the relationship. He recalled telling them, "'Good news/bad news — actually, for you guys, bad news/good news? — I dunno. Anyway, I'm in love with a white girl and she's in a coma.' Luckily they were really, really good about it and they saw how distraught I was."
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@emilyvgordon
This period helped strengthen their relationship.

Had it not been for Gordon's illness, Nanjiani might've continued to avoid speaking to his parents.

He said to Cosmo, "If this thing hadn't happened, we probably wouldn't have gotten married because I wouldn't have had the guts to tell my parents. There was this huge thing I was struggling with because they wanted me to get arranged married, and this sort of forced me to confront all of that stuff all at once."
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Expectations versus reality for being a teenage goth. It was nice to use @zoe.kazan to fix my past.

A post shared by Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) on

@emilyvgordon
Yes, Emily Gordon really was a teenage goth.

Emily in The Big Sick is self-conscious over her former high school get-up. Turns out this aspect of the character is based in real life.
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We had no idea what we were doing. Thank goodness. #tbt

A post shared by Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) on

@emilyvgordon
They got married three times.

Three months after Gordon was released from the hospital, she described in a piece for Lenny, "I became so fearless that I married my boyfriend in a manic haze."

Kumail and Gordon ended up having not one, but three ceremonies. The first, eloping to a Chicago courthouse. Two weeks later, they were married in a three-day Muslim Pakistani ceremony. Then, after moving to New York later on, Gordon and Nanjiani announced the news to their friends with a small restaurant reception.
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Dressed up Gordon-Nanjianis.

A post shared by Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) on

@emilyvgordon
Nine years later, Judd Apatow helped tell their story.

Nanjiani had always been interested in converting their story into a romantic comedy film. "We have the story, let’s write it, see if anybody wants to make it, and I’ll play myself," he told Vulture of his early conception of the movie.

Nanjiani then pitched the idea to Judd Apatow, who enthusiastically signed on to produce.

Gordon and Nanjiani wrote their story together, with Apatow's guidance. "It turns out, we write very well together, which we were very happy to discover," Gordon told Bust.
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But The Big Sick isn't exactly their story.

While filming, Gordon continually had to remind herself that these were characters, not real people from their lives.

"I had to work really hard to not to press [director Michael Showalter] about how Emily was or how Kumail was or how Emily’s parents were, which by the way are not at all like my parents even a little bit," Gordon told Bust. "So stuff kept getting altered and we kept realizing that it’s a story, it’s not necessarily our story."
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Coming to a theater near you.

After premiering at Sundance, The Big Sick was snatched up by Amazon Studios for a whopping $12 million.

You can catch the movie, which also stars Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, and Anupam Kher, on June 23.
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