There’s an old Hollywood saying that goes: “It’s not a movie/show unless someone’s uncontrollably vomiting.” Okay, I made it up, but you have to admit it’s catchy, and happens to be factually correct. Some of the most informed and nuanced performances of our time involve yakking. There’s Reese Witherspoon puking in Big Little Lies, Lindsay Lohan vomiting first words, and then, well, actual vomit, all over Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, and now there’s Lili Reinhart in Hustlers, who throws up no less than five times throughout the course of the film.
Reinhart plays Annabelle, the most innocent of the aforementioned hustlers. She’s been kicked out of her family home by her parents, who disapprove of how she makes a living. When we first meet her, she’s crying in the locker room of the club — she’s just gotten her period and isn’t sure how to hide it from clients given her skimpy attire. Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona shows her how to cut the tampon string, and cheers her up with a little of that her already-iconic brand of motherly love. Chin up, she says, taking yet another budding dancer and business woman under her wing and into her near-brilliant scheme to hustle men out of thousands of dollars. Annabelle quickly becomes a part of Ramona’s family, settling into her new life of luxury, but never loses her ability to throw up whenever she feels anxious.
But the movie is, of course, about so much more than bile, or even boozy, drugged-up finance bros being swindled out of thousands of dollars: Hustlers about friendship, hardship, and motherhood.
Still, we’re here to talk puke.
“I was a little intimidated at first because I had no idea what that situation was going to be like because I had never done that before,” Reinhart tells Refinery29 of her character’s nauseating tick, "but it was really just comedic.”
Lili Reinhart: “I actually hadn't heard of the story before, so when I read the script, and then read the article, I was like, This is a perfect movie right here. Reading about Annabelle, I didn’t really envision anyone and I think it's better that way because I don't really like to create characters or play characters based off of someone else. I really just wanted to kind of hone in on her being so innocent — or, not innocent...that's ironic [Laughs] — but her just her being so young and naive. She's the baby of the group, and she is looking to Ramona and Destiny [Constance Wu's character] for guidance on what to do. It was fun to play a young girl who doesn't necessarily know what path she's on.”
Why did the article feel like it would make a perfect movie?
“Scriptwise, I was so impressed and so taken with Lorene’s writing. I love a writer-director because it means that they're incredibly invested and usually have a very specific vision. I [first] met with Lorene over FaceTime, and it was just very clear that she had done her research. I was really taken with her talent for writing this story, really going off of an article, which isn't super long or detailed. Making an entire film [that] really has the heart of that article in it is really impressive.”
I want to know more about your character’s tick — the vomiting. What were the logistics behind that?
“I was a little intimidated at first because I had no idea what that situation was going to be like because I had never done that before, but it was really just a comedic moment. It was purely out of Annabel being nervous and scared. When she's overwhelmed, she throws up. It's gross, but to me it's kind of cute and just sort of emphasizes her childlikeness through physical manifestation.
[The vomit] was crushed up animal crackers mixed with Sprite. I don’t do well with those things. I don't like food mixed together. It really grosses me out, so I was worried that I was actually going to get sick from having to do that because the idea of soggy crackers in a liquid actually makes me want to vomit. But it wasn't bad — it wasn't like some weird gelatinous mixture. It tasted like Sprite-animal crackers.”
Is it in your mouth while you’re shooting a scene?
“We would do the scene and then go back, and when they wanted to get the actual vomiting, I would take a gulp, open my mouth, and hold it there. Then we would do the line to two before I throw up, and then I would throw up.”
Having seen it, it’s not as gross as it sounds. I do agree — it’s weirdly endearing.
“Right? It’s not like projectile vomit. It’s just a little quirk that she has that makes her innocent and cute.”
“I do not, but that makes sense. [Laughs]”
Did it make filming any scenes more difficult?
“It didn’t have that big of an impact. I wouldn’t really say there was necessarily a hardest scene to shoot because the environment on set was always really pleasant and very enjoyable. There were scenes where I had to get emotional, which can always be hard in a situation where there's a million people around and especially when you're just like in a new environment with new people trying to get emotional. The locker room scene where J. Lo sees me crying was probably the most difficult. I was at a time in my life where I was a little distracted from other things that were going [on]. My cast mate Luke Perry had passed away not too long ago, and I find it ironic sometimes when you're going through an emotional part of your life it's hard to get emotional on camera. It can get hard to conjure emotions on the spot like that.”
Did you guys film in a real strip club?
“It was a real strip club in New York. I think it was an active strip club that they had taken over during filming. So it wasn’t a set. There was a set for the champagne room where we bring all the guys and we’re handing them drink and drinks.”
Have you been to a strip club before? Did you ever go together as a cast?
“We didn’t go together, but I have been before. I think it had been a while since the last time I went, [but] I went to a strip in LA when I was done shooting. I had so much more appreciation for strippers — how hard it is and physically demanding it is to do what they do.”