In 2000, the world was introduced to Gracie Hart, aka Gracie Lou Freebush, an FBI agent who goes undercover at the Miss United States pageant and wants nothing more than world peace. And while Gracie, played by Sandra Bullock, gave us quirky one-liners and life advice to live by (S.I.N.G., anyone?), there are some fun behind-the-scenes facts you might not know.
Did you know a six-year-old composed the lyrics to “Miss United States”? Or that the infamous “I’m gliding here” line is a parody from another movie? If you want to learn more facts about Miss Congeniality, aside from the description of a perfect date, keep on reading!
Bullock Would Make Fun Of Michael Caine
Michael Caine is a highly-decorated British film icon, having a career spanning over 60 years. Many in the industry find it to be an honor to work with him on projects, including Sandra Bullock. But being the quirky lady she is, Bullock didn’t let Caine get away with messing up his lines.
While filming, any time Caine messed up a line, Bullock would jokingly yell, “take his Oscar away!” Caine is one of two actors who has been nominated for an Oscar in every decade from the ’60s to ’00s.
Bullock Ad-Libbed The Apartment Scene
After the first scene of the film, a restaurant mission that goes wrong, Sandra’s character Gracie is found arriving at her apartment and sulking. Interestingly, the only thing written in the script for the scene was, “Gracie comes home and starts boxing.”
If you remember the scene, nothing is said, but Gracie does trip over a rogue sheet, kicks her bed, and gets in a little fight with her microwave. Everything is improvised by the actress, including her shoving the spoon in the microwave to keep the door shut.
The Pageant Scenes Were The Most Difficult To Film
From rough-and-tumble FBI agent to stiletto-rocking pageant queen, Sandra Bullock had a few things to get comfortable with during filming, and it’s not what you’d think. For the actress, it was harder to film the pageant scenes as Gracie Lou Freebush than any of her action scenes as Gracie Hart.
The scenes were harder for one not-so-simple reason: the shoes! During an interview, Bullock said, “The most difficult thing for me is walking and talking in six-inch stiletto heels.” She would practice wearing the stilettoes by walking up flights of stairs.
Gracie Lou Freebush’s Look Took Two And A Half Hours
While Gracie Hart is a tomboy down to her soul, her alter-ego that had to go undercover at the Miss United States Pageant, Gracie Lou Freebush, is a beauty queen through and through. Well, at least as far as everyone outside of the FBI knows.
To get stage-ready for the pageant scenes, Sandra Bullock underwent two and a half hours of hair, makeup, and wardrobe. That’s a long time, since Bullock’s hair is typically straight and her makeup minimal! Well, we guess you can’t rush perfection.
“I’m Gliding Here!” Is A Parody Line From A Famous Movie
One of the many funny lines in Miss Congeniality is when Vic is trying to teach Gracie how to walk correctly, aka glide. While “gliding,” Gracie happens to walk straight into a car/a car runs into her while she is crossing the street. Of course, being a New Yorker, she yells, “I’m gliding here” while hitting the hood of the car.
This line is actually a parody of the famous line “I’m walking here” from the film Midnight Cowboy. In the movie, virtually the same thing happens to Dustin Hoffman’s character. He’s walking, a car hits him, he hits the hood and yells “I’m walking here.”
Sandra And Benjamin Bratt Went All-Out During Fight Scenes
It’s no secret that Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt, aka Agent Eric Matthews, went all-out during their fight scenes. But instead of using stunt doubles or professional fighters for their wrestling, boxing, and other fight scenes, these two opted to do it themselves.
Both Bullock and Bratt went through extensive combat and fight training, only using professionals to show proper form. During an interview, Bratt said, “Both of us went at it gung ho…I went back to the hotel room with a twisted neck and a sore back, but she helped me out. She sent me a masseuse from out of town”.
Pre-Pageant Gracie Hart’s Look Took A Half Hour
Before being selected to go undercover at the Miss United States Beauty Pageant, FBI agent Gracie Hart couldn’t have cared less about her appearance — something very apparent with her lack of makeup, baggy clothing, and bushy hair. Gracie even says, “I don’t even own a dress! I don’t even own a brush!”
Considering these traits, it should come as no surprise that actress Sandra Bullock was only in hair and makeup for about 30 minutes to “complete the pre-pageant Gracie Hart look.”
Bullock Didn’t Want A Swimsuit Competition In The Film
One of the competitions in the Miss United States beauty pageant is the swimsuit event. And while real contenders know they have to be in tip-top shape during pageant season, a tomboy actress who is only portraying a beauty queen on screen wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea.
According to Bullock, “[The swimsuit competition] was a huge bone of contention for me. I was trying to get it written out so many times. It’s in the script. We already shot it—outside in San Antonio.”
April 25th Is The Perfect Date For The Film’s Director
One of the most iconic lines in Miss Congeniality is when Miss Rhode Island answers the question, “please describe your idea of a perfect date.” Her answer: “April 25, because it’s not too hot and not too cold; all you need is a light jacket.”
Would you believe April 25th is considered the perfect date for the film’s director? It’s actually director Donald Petrie’s wife’s birthday! Talk about being overly cute and winning husband of the year.
“Miss United States” Was Written By A Six-Year-Old
The first time we see Gracie Lou Freebush with the other 49 beauty queens, it’s on a trolley to their luncheon. Little did the undercover FBI agent know, but they were all about to break out into the “Miss United States” song. Of course, no one told her, so she sits there with an uncomfortable smile.
Interestingly, executive producer Marc Lawrence called on his six-year-old son Clyde to help him with the lyrics to the song. Along with other professional lyricists, Clyde pitched his version of “Miss United States,” and it wound up being chosen for the film.
Heather Burns Learned To Baton Twirl For Her Character’s Talent
In the film, Miss Rhode Island’s skill for the talent portion of the competition is baton twirling. And while the character of Cheryl knew what she was doing on stage, actress Heather Burns had to go through baton twirling training before the cameras started to roll.
The actress actually became pretty good at the skill. But when the time came to light them on fire, she refused to learn how to use the flaming batons. So, the studio brought in Coral Noonan, a Ph.D. student and baton twirler for the Texas Longhorns at the University of Texas.
Michael Caine’s Wife Helped Him With Pageant Lingo
Actor Michael Caine kind of had the upper hand on his beauty queen-training character Victor Melling. His wife, Shakira Baksh, was a pageant queen back in the day, winning the third runner up in the 1967 Miss World pageant when she was 19 years old.
So, when Caine accepted the role of Melling, his wife, according to him, taught him “masses of little tricks” for the film. Honestly, it makes sense. Caine looked way too comfortable embodying a beauty pageant coach.
Mark Lawrence Scripted The Physical Humor For Bullock
One of the screenwriters for Miss Congeniality knew that actress Sandra Bullock enjoyed the art of physical comedy in her films. So, while writing some of the scenes, he made sure to add in some physical humor, such as Bullock tripping, pulling off a mannequin arm, and “eating like a pig” when she first meets Victor at the high-end restaurant.
It’s a good thing he wrote in those parts, too, because it showed how ungrateful Gracie truly is, even though she was picked to go undercover in a beauty pageant — a task that takes all of the grace and poise a person can muster up!
The Starbucks Scene Had Actual Employees
One of the first scenes in Miss Congeniality has Gracie Hart running to a Starbucks in New York before heading into the Bureau. The audience watches as she uses her badge to elbow her way to the front of the coffee line, placing a large order when she gets there — much to everyone’s dismay.
The thing about the distraught employees is that they are actual Starbucks workers! The poor guys are juggling Gracie’s 15 orders, dropping cups, and, the best part, starting over when she messes up one of the coffees.
Gracie’s Parents Were Originally Written In The Script
In the film, we’re never introduced to Gracie Hart’s parents. Ironically, they were both originally written into the script. Hart’s mom was meant to be a top FBI agent who died in the line of duty. This would explain Hart’s need to be one of the best agents and prove herself to her superiors.
The directors thought including that backstory was going to be too much. Hart’s dad, on the other hand, was cast by Edward Herrmann and scenes were even shot, but eventually cut. One scene had Herrmann asking Hart, “honey, are you a lesbian?” and she replies, “I wish.”
Bullock Wore A Wig For Part Of Filming
When most people think of Bullock, a beautifully athletic woman with shiny brunette hair pops in their mind. So, when pre-makeover Gracie hit the screen, it was quite a shock to see the bushy hair that looked as though it hadn’t been brushed, let alone washed, in weeks.
Lo and behold, the hair isn’t actually Bullock’s. Instead, the makeup team decided to use a wig for pre-makeover Gracie’s look. That definitely explains why it only took the team 30 minutes to get her pre-pageant-Gracie ready!
Bullock Had To Learn How To Properly Handle Weapons
Part of being an FBI agent is knowing your way around weapons, since they carry them. In a majority of her scenes, Bullock’s character Gracie can be seen with a side holster or even a piece strapped to her leg, just in case she had to use it while undercover.
The thing is, before filming, Bullock had to undergo extensive semi-automatic weapons training to learn how to handle a weapon properly. She is playing a veteran FBI agent, after all! She couldn’t be fumbling around.
Most Of The Movie Was Filmed In Austin, Texas
While a majority of Miss Congeniality is set in both New York and San Antonio, Texas, only a few scenes were actually shot in the two locations. Ironically, the majority of the film was filmed in Austin, Texas, even though the movie is technically never set in the city.
For example, the interior of the St. Regis Hotel wasn’t shot at the actual location but in the Driskill Hotel in Austin. And even though the pageant is set in San Antonio, the entire final pageant scene was shot in the University of Texas at Austin’s concert hall, Bass Concert Hall.
Matt Dillion Was Supposed To Play Agent Eric Matthews
During casting for Miss Congeniality, actor Matt Dillion was originally selected to star opposite Sandra Bullock as her partner, Agent Eric Matthews. The part of Agent Matthews was recast to Benjamin Bratt due to a scheduling conflict with Dillion.
We’re not going to lie; we can’t imagine Dillion playing the part of the All-American agent who could do no wrong in the eyes of his superiors. Bratt played the role perfectly, and the chemistry between him and Bullock is spot-on.
The Script Was Re-Written For Michael Caine
The studio really wanted to hire Michael Caine to be Gracie Hart’s pageant coach. But it wasn’t easy to get the Oscar-winning actor on board. It took screenwriters multiple revisions and scene cuts to appease Caine and get him interested in the part of Victor Melling.
According to one writer, “It took some pretty major script rewriting to get Oscar-winner Michael Caine aboard. Nine originally planned parts were dumped to beef up Caine’s role sufficiently to nail his interest.”