"It was too edgy for the studios," said Todd, who originally tried selling the script (which made it onto the 2009 Black List, a compendium of Hollywood's hottest unproduced screenplays), to the studios. "People have likened it to a female 'Superbad.' It's definitely from a girl's perspective. But until we do it and succeed at it, it's a question mark of how far we can push it."
"Bridesmaids" does seem to be giving writers more courage to push the boundaries, specifically when it comes to big comedic set pieces and raunchy talk that was previously reserved for the boys. Parker has already seen a slew of copycats since "Bridesmaids" opened. And yet there's also fear of a bit of a backlash — that every script for a female comedy that lands on a development exec's desk will feature over-the-top scatological humor and gross-out gags.
"Whenever a phenomenon happens, there is a lot of conversation about the new trend and how people will chase the new trend and make it a new thing," said Fogelson. "It does a disservice to 'Bridesmaids,' … to suggest that it's easy to replicate what was created."
Indeed, even Universal hasn't rushed to greenlight another R-rated female-driven comedy. Todd's "Desperados," with Isla Fisher attached as a thirtysomething on a quest to Mexico to retrieve a scathing email from the computer of a man she's dating, is in development at the studio. But Universal is still tweaking the script, from Rapoport, before it says go.
"Had it failed in some way, it would have given us a harder climb," Todd said of "Bridesmaids." "Anytime a movie in any kind of space fails, everyone runs."
Women pushing for comedies say it's frustrating that studios will keep making expensive comic-book movies and other tentpoles even when some fail, yet seem profoundly averse to taking risks with their relatively modestly budgeted projects.
"This little genre — the low-budget studio comedy featuring women — is vulnerable and it only takes a couple of misfires to take the rug out from under us," said Smith, who is developing an R-rated buddy comedy with Faris at Paramount and is about to shop another comedy with writer-actress Krysten Ritter, star of the new fall ABC series "Apartment 23." She's hopeful the market is more accommodating than it was before "Bridesmaids."
"Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig said that he and Wiig (who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo) never set out to carry the torch for women's potential in comedic films. Yet he realized a lot was riding on the project.
"The whole time we were getting ready to do this movie, I had a lot of angst: If I screw this up, Hollywood is just waiting for an excuse to say, 'See, you can't do a movie with this many women in it,'" says Feig. "I'm just relieved we made money."