You remember that wild 2000 musical with gorgeous, scantily-clad barmaids doing flips and tricks with liquor bottles while dancing atop the bar itself. It’s fun, rambunctious, and though it received poor reviews upon its release, Coyote Ugly continues to hang around — the movie undeniably offers an entertaining watch. At the time, most of its stars were fresh-faced up-and-comers, but they’ve come a long way in the past two decades. By 2021, the once up-and-coming stars are making waves we never imagined.
Nobody knew the name Piper Perabo before 2000’s comedy/musical/romance film Coyote Ugly. The beauty was cast as the role of Violet Sanford, a small-town girl with the voice of an angel who moves to NYC to become a singer-songwriter (only to get sidetracked by the spellbinding excitement of her day job at the Coyote Ugly dive bar). It was Piper’s breakout role, and she’s taken on many projects since then.
Since her days donning low-rise jeans as Violet Sanford, Piper Perabo has starred in films such as Lost and Delirious, Cheaper by the Dozen, and The Prestige. Her look hasn’t changed much, as she still rocks long blonde waves. More recently, you can catch her in Netflix’s 2019 comedy series Turn Up Charlie.
Contrary to Piper Perabo, everyone knew who seasoned actor John Goodman was in 2000, as he famously played Dan Conner on the popular working class family sitcom Roseanne from 1988 to 1997 (a role he reclaimed for its spinoff series The Conners). John, the most famous name in the Coyote Ugly cast, took on the role of Bill Sanford, Violet’s overprotective father.
Over the years, John Goodman has solidified his reputation as a phenomenal Hollywood actor. The Emmy winner and The Big Lebowski star has aged quite a bit since acting in Coyote Ugly (and managed to drop several pounds in the mid 2010s) but his charm and talent are everlasting.
You may not know Izabella Miko by name, but you’ve likely seen her in a ream of films over the years. But in 2000, she was a “nobody.” She played one of the roaring “Coyotes” in Coyote Ugly, announcing her character via the line “I’m Cammie, the Russian tease.”
The Polish-American actor has added dancer and environmental activist to her resume. You’ve likely seen her in dance films Save the Last Dance 2 and Step Up: All In (if you’re into those cheesy flicks). To this day she practically looks the same as she did slapping drinks together on the bar 20 plus years ago! Those bouncy curls just won’t quit.
These days TyTy is a mainstream Hollywood figure, but she wasn’t always the famous modeling mogul we know today! Still, when she starred in Coyote Ugly as Zöe, she’d been a Victoria’s Secret Angel since 1997.
Tyra continued modeling as a Victoria’s Secret Angel until 2005, and she launched her beloved reality competition show America’s Next Top Model in 2003. The model and TV presenter always surprises us with her innovative projects, her most recent one being ModelLand, a mysterious model-themed amusement park. Well, we’ll have to see that one for ourselves.
Adam Garcia played Violet’s love interest Kevin O’Donnell, the dreamy Australian who encouraged her to follow her songwriter dreams. With his totally 2000s haircut and stunning blue eyes, he made a great leading man. Though Adam went on to act in more teen flicks, such as Riding in Cars With Boys and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, the Aussie is also known for bringing his talents to the stage.
Aside from being a film actor, Adam is a skilled tap dancer and theater actor! He’s displayed his abilities in live stage productions of Saturday Night Fever and Kiss Me, Kate, both of which earned him Laurence Olivier Award nominations. He shared a video on Instagram in 2020, which he captioned, “Tap class: beginner/advanced steps,” in hopes of teaching the public how to tap dance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Country starlette LeAnn Rimes already had made a name for herself when she appeared in Coyote Ugly, so much so that she played herself in the movie! That’s right, LeAnn’s cameo only added to the fun of the number “Can’t Fight The Moonlight,” which she and the Coyotes performed on the bar.
The sweet country gal, who has an effortless girl-next-door charm, rose to notoriety at just 13 years old with the release of her cover of Bill Mack’s song “Blue.” Since then, LeAnn’s put out over 10 studio albums, and in 2020, she won season four of reality competition show The Masked Singer!
Maria Bello played Lil, the feisty owner of the Coyote Ugly bar. She had one very strict rule for those who worked at her riotous spot: no boyfriends allowed, period. And it turned out that Maria wouldn’t be having a boyfriend herself…
Maria Bello’s 2015 book, Whatever… Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves, discusses her experiences, struggles, and growth as a gay woman, and how she discovered who she truly is. She’s also appeared in films like A History of Violence, Prisoners, and Lights Out, and television shows like NCIS. The sultry actor, author, and activist doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon!
Bridget Moynahan as the sexy, leather pants-donning Coyote Rachel was one tough cookie. She was even rougher, tougher, and icier than Maria Bello’s character, but, like most cookies, she was warm and soft on the inside. In the year 2000, Bridget was a newbie to the silver screen, but she was familiar with making love to the camera.
See, Bridget began her career as a model before moving on to acting. Over the years you’ve probably spotted her as Mr. Big’s wife in the cult favorite love letter to NYC, Sex and the City, Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan on CBS’ Blue Bloods, and as Mrs. Wick in the John Wick films.
Melanie Lynskey played the role of Gloria, Violet Sanford’s warm and supportive New Jersey BFF. Fun fact: Melanie moved to the US in 1997 from New Zealand, so she was still growing accustomed to the American culture shock at the time of filming. “People are rude everywhere, I guess,” she confessed to Time.
It’s likely you’ve seen this dark-haired beauty on the small screen, perhaps as Rose, Charlie Sheen’s stalker/lover on Two and a Half Men. More recently, Melanie took on roles in the Stephen King-themed series Castle Rock, and in the film I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, which she starred in alongside Elijah Wood.
You may be thinking: “Johnny Knoxville was in Coyote Ugly?” He sure was. But the goofy stunt performer and comedian is credited as playing “College Guy,” as it was more of a cameo than anything else. This frat bro was one of the many rowdy men who practically drooled watching the Coyotes dance and sing on the bar.
At around the same time, Johnny Knoxville and his trusty gang of clowns starred in the buffoonery-filled MTV cult hit, Jackass. The show defined a generation of MTV-loving teens, but there’s no question that the antics on the set of Coyote Ugly take the cake for most dramatic. Ever think about where the name even comes from?
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! But, of course, it gets crazier…and even more X-rated.
Yes, as we’ve just mentioned, 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.
Actress 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.
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.
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.’”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.’”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.’”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”