In 2000 the cult classic Coyote Ugly won a legion of movie-going fans with its tale of dreams, dancing and badass bartenders. However, it seems the set of the raucous New York bar that the movie centered on wasn’t always as carefree as it seemed. There was actually lots of drama going on off-camera, as these 40 secrets from behind the scenes reveal.
40. The film was inspired by author Elizabeth Gilbert
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert is best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love, but she also played a part in bringing Coyote Ugly to the big screen. The movie was in fact based on an article that Gilbert wrote for GQ entitled “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon.” The piece documented her time working as a bartender in a raucous New York City bar.
39. Director David McNally received the script by special delivery
In August 2020 director David McNally told Variety that he received the Coyote Ugly script in mysterious circumstances while relaxing pool-side at Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel. He revealed, “This young man dressed in black with a Jerry Bruckheimer cap with a black envelope [approached] and he said, ‘Are you David McNally?’ And I was like, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Special delivery from Jerry Bruckheimer.’ It was very dramatic.’”
38. Coyote Ugly was based on a real bar
Yes, Coyote Ugly was based on a real-life bar of the same name. New York University graduate Liliana Lovell opened the Coyote Ugly Saloon in the Big Apple in 1993 after turning her back on a career on Wall Street. And, just like in the film, the drinking joint was known for its fun-loving bar staff and rowdy atmosphere.
37. The meaning behind the Coyote Ugly name
According to Liliana Lovell – the creator of the real Coyote Ugly bar – its name referred to something rather specific. She explained to the New York Post in August 2020 that it’s “when you get so drunk that the next day you wake up in bed with some awful guy and you’d rather chew your arm off than wake them up.” Yikes!
36. Coyote Ugly marked a change of style for Jerry Bruckheimer
Legendary Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer was behind Coyote Ugly, but the movie was markedly different from much of his previous work. In fact, the filmmaker is probably more associated with the action genre. And prior to 2000 – when Coyote Ugly was released – he was known for flicks such as Beverly Hills Cop, Bad Boys and Armageddon.
35. Jessica Simpson auditioned for the film
Jessica Simpson reportedly auditioned for a role in Coyote Ugly and was even considered for the lead part of Violet Sanford. The young starlet may have been perfect to play the aspiring singer who winds up working in a raunchy bar, but it was sadly not meant to be. Simpson apparently refused to take part in a sex scene, most of which was eventually cut from the final movie.
34. The filmakers chose newcomers on purpose
The team behind Coyote Ugly were apparently eager to choose newcomers over established actresses for the main roles. With that in mind, the five leading ladies in the film – Piper Perabo, Izabella Miko, Maria Bello, Tyra Banks and Bridget Moynahan – were all fairly fresh faces in the movie industry.
33. Piper Perabo told a lie to get the part
Perabo reportedly had no idea what she was getting herself into when she arrived at her first Coyote Ugly audition. So, the actress claimed that she could play the guitar when asked by a casting director. As a result, Perabo had to learn to play the instrument after landing the gig while on the set of the film The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
32. Perabo had something in common with her character
Perabo once earned a living serving people booze – just like her character in Coyote Ugly. The actress revealed as much in an interview with Entertainment Tonight on the set of the movie in 2000. She said, “I moved to New York and worked as a cocktail waitress and I was horrible, I mean horrible.”
31. Perabo and John Goodman appeared in two movies together in 2000
In Coyote Ugly John Goodman was memorably cast in the role of Violet’s dad: Bill. Amazingly though, it wasn’t the first film he’d starred alongside Perabo in that year. That’s because the year 2000 also saw the pair share a screen in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
30. The movie’s many filming locations
Coyote Ugly was filmed in various locations across New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles in the second half of 1999. For some scenes, the production team used a bar on the Upper East Side – rather than the original Coyote Ugly bar. Apparently, the real deal was too small and its owner was unwilling to close it down long enough to accommodate shooting.
29. The Coyotes’ individuality
In the film, the bar’s staff – who are affectionately known as “The Coyotes” – were each given a unique personality. As Tyra Banks would later explain, “Cammie’s the flirt and the sweet one… Then there’s Rachel who’s like tough with her biker wear.” Speaking of her own character, Banks added, “I think Zoe’s the zany one that’s just happy and having a good time.”
28. Tyra Banks impressed on set
In one scene, Violet is mesmerized by The Coyotes in a diner. Director McNally recalled Banks’ performance to Variety, saying, “A lot of that was completely improvised and that script wasn’t written that way for her to get up and try to shimmy and dance and do her thing. And she just did that spontaneously – ad-libbed some of those lines.”
27. The Coyotes’ choreographer already had an impressive client list
Parts of the film were choreographed by Travis Paynes, who had already worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Salt-N-Pepa. Paynes would spend hours with the cast – helping them to perfect their moves. It seems that their efforts paid off, and dance became an integral part of the film.
26. Adam Garcia had to dumb down his moves on set
Australian actor Adam Garcia was actually a trained dancer before landing the part of Kevin in Coyote Ugly. But his character was not supposed to be so slick on the dance floor. So, when Garcia had to bust a few moves in the customer auction scene, the actor was told to dumb them down so that he was more relatable to the average male.
25. Garcia felt the female dance scenes were empowering
The Coyotes clearly looked amazing shaking their things on the bar, but Garcia felt that there was nothing smutty about his female castmates’ dance scenes. He told Variety, “Dance is a universal language. It’s a skill and it can be sexy, but it’s also athletic and artistic. And because it does happen in the bar it anchors this to something that didn’t make any of the possible sexuality gratuitous.”
24. It took a while for The Coyotes to perfect their bottle-spinning technique
In Coyote Ugly the cast spin bottles and toss them into the air like nobody’s business. Their bartending performances look flawless, but it turns out that it took a lot of practice to get there. Luckily, the actresses had a bartending consultant to work with on set, though they still broke a good number of bottles while perfecting their moves.
23. The cast soon learned the tricks of the bartending trade
Eventually, it seems the Coyote Ugly stars became experts in bottle spinning. Perabo told Variety, “You only want maybe a glass or two of wine in the bottle so that then, when you spin it on your palm, the weight of the liquid doesn’t fling it out of the way. When we were doing the movie, it was Bridget [Moynahan] who figured out how to do all that stuff. She’d been watching Cocktail and was like, ‘Let’s figure this s*** out.’”
22. The ceiling of the bar had to be raised to stop the cast from hitting their heads
Many of the dance scenes in Coyote Ugly take place on top of the drinking joint’s bar. But this posed a problem for set designers when they realized the ceiling was too low, and this meant that some of the cast – including models Moynahan and Banks – couldn’t fit on top of the counter to perform. As a result, the set apparently had to be redesigned to accommodate the taller ladies.
21. Falling off the bar was a risk
One danger of bar dancing is, of course, falling down. But the cast came up with an ingenious way of preventing this from happening. Perabo told Variety, “We would pour Coca-Cola on the bar before we left at the end of the day so it would dry overnight and be sticky and tacky. So, then the next day when we’d get up there in the morning, it was a little bit like a movie theater floor.”
20. Actress Maria Bello claimed to experience sexism on set
In Coyote Ugly Maria Bello stars as the no-nonsense bar manager Lil. However, the actress wasn’t calling the shots behind the scenes. The actress later told Variety that movie staffers had told her that she was “too old” to dance in the film. Bello added, “It was different back then. I remember arguing about it, but I wasn’t gonna win.”
19. The cast and crew experienced two hurricanes while filming
The filming of Coyote Ugly faced some major setbacks which included not one, but two hurricanes. Director McNally told Variety, “I remember one of the first days of shooting with [Perabo] and [Bello] in the basement where Violet meets Lil for the first time, when we got there that morning, that set was knee-deep in water and mucky. I’m like, ‘I guess we can’t shoot.’”
18. The set had to be drained and dried
The set apparently had to be totally drained of water after one particular storm. McNally revealed, “The crew was incredible. They were like, ‘Well, we can’t do this scene, we have to do something today.’ I think our cover-set was also shut down by rain. They’re like, ‘Okay, just go and wait here,’ and they pumped out the entire basement, they dried it, dressed it, put sandbags around the door so the water wouldn’t come in and we shot the scene.”
17. Coyote cameos
Watch Coyote Ugly carefully and you might notice some famous faces among the extras. They include the Hollywood producer Michael Bay, who made a cameo as a photographer. Meanwhile, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Kaitlin Olsen and Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame also took on small parts in the movie before they were famous.
16. Bay didn’t want any special treatment
As a producer, Bay would have been used to calling the shots on set. But he wanted to be treated like any other extra during his cameo on Coyote Ugly. McNally revealed to Variety, “He was a big name and I remember he insisted on being treated like any other actor that would have that role as a photographer.”
15. Some music industry heavyweights worked on the film
Coyote Ugly tells the story of an aspiring singer-songwriter, so clearly the production crew didn’t want to overlook the movie’s music. The Academy-Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren came up with original songs for the soundtrack, while legendary British producer Trevor Horn offered his home to record some tracks, according to Variety.
14. Carrie Fisher helped write the movie
Believe it or not, Star Wars legend Carrie Fisher served as a script doctor on Coyote Ugly during a rewrite. Bruckheimer told the publication, “It was a kind of a dream team between the musical elements and the wonderful writers we had working with us.” He added, “And also, we had Carrie Fisher, who was funny and smart. She worked on the movie for a while, so it was an all-star writing team.”
13. LeAnn Rimes made a guest appearance
Rimes enjoyed major success with her hit single “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” off the back of Coyote Ugly. The song is supposed to have been written by movie’s the lead character: Violet. She reaches the big time when Rimes agrees to record the track in the narrative, and the singer even made a cameo in the movie to perform it live.
12. Rimes was underage at the time of filming
Rimes was still under the age of 21 when Coyote Ugly was being filmed. As a result, she shouldn’t have been allowed to step foot in the infamous bar – let alone sing in it. Though manager Lil appeared to follow drinking laws in the movie, so it seems unlikely she would have turned a blind eye if she knew.
11. “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” was a last minute addition
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine Coyote Ugly without “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” But the song was a last-minute addition to the soundtrack; it was only added when the original final song rated poorly among a test audience. Luckily, songwriter Warren was at hand to save the day after being asked to come up with a new track.
10. Perabo had originally recorded the soundtrack but was replaced by Rimes
Originally, Perabo sang all of her character’s songs for the film – even recording them as an album. But she was later replaced by Rimes, who not only recorded the soundtrack herself but was drafted in to overdub Perabo’s performances in the movie itself. As a result, we never actually hear the actress’ singing voice.
9. Perabo took the overdub well
Perabo recalled the moment she heard that Rimes would be overdubbing her singing in Coyote Ugly. She told Variety, “I was so scared they were going to say something worse. They were like, ‘We’re going to redub it because your voice isn’t the right feeling for the character and the movie.’ I was like, ‘As long as the movie’s still okay whatever.’”
8. Rimes had to match Perabo’s singing perfectly
In order to pull off the overdub, Rimes had to match her singing to Perabo’s movements in the movie perfectly. The singer later explained, “I would watch the clip of her and what she was doing, and had to actually match my voice up to her mouth which was very hard to do… I had to put her emotion that she was showing on screen into my voice.”
7. Coyote Ugly didn’t impress critics but wowed audiences
The film has gone on to become a cult classic, though some critics were far from complimentary towards Coyote Ugly. Nevertheless, the movie proved popular with the public – grossing $113 million globally. And the film’s soundtrack became multi-platinum thanks to the combined talents of Warren and Rimes.
6. Perabo is forever linked to the role
It’s fair to say that Coyote Ugly propelled Perabo into stardom. Speaking of the part, Perabo told Variety, “It’s weird because I don’t really dance on bars, but that’s okay. I really like the story of a young woman with a dream.”
5. Fans still approach McNally about the movie
McNally commented on the legacy of Coyote Ugly, telling Variety, “I didn’t expect it to endure for so long, but I’ll still be working on set and young women will come up to me in their 20s and say, “I love that movie.” And often, they’ll say things like it moved them to follow their dreams.”
4. Perabo has come to see the story as a modern fairytale
Coyote Ugly might seem to be all about the wild antics, but it apparently has a deeper meaning for Perabo. She told the publication, “It’s sort of an American version of a Cinderella story, but it’s not a prince you’re looking for, it’s your job or your art. It’s positive and it’s about friendship and figuring out how to do things on your own which a lot of people can relate to.”
3. The film inspired a number of real-life bars
The success of Coyote Ugly spawned a number of replica bars throughout the world. Bello even found herself in one such themed joint in Johannesburg, South Africa. She revealed, “… I went to it and surprised the crowd and did a little speech and song and danced on the bar.”
2. Coyote Ugly 2?
We may not have seen the last of Coyote Ugly if Banks has her way. That’s because she has apparently been pushing for a sequel for some time. She told Variety, “I’ve even reached out to [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer and the team and the original writer and they’ve had some jam sessions on what it could possibly be.”
1. Perabo is unsure how a new Coyote Ugly would work with modern audiences
Gender politics have moved on a great deal since Coyote Ugly first hit our screens. With that in mind, Parebo thinks any sequel would need to reflect that. She explained, “Because that movie [was] in 2000 – that was a really different moment – that was the sort of stiletto-feminism and women’s rights. We’re maybe in the third wave of feminism now and things have evolved and I would want the movie to reflect that evolution.”