"I could sense a sort of communal sigh of relief," says Sophia Bush about meeting and getting along with her female co-stars in "John Tucker Must Die."
In the Betty Thomas-directed high school comedy, Bush plays Beth, one of four young women who fall under the spell of the school's basketball star/resident hottie John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe). During gym class, environmentally minded Beth, cheerleader Heather (Ashanti) and student leader Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) find out that they're all dating the same guy -- John Tucker. Intent on revenge, they scheme to make him fall in love with shy wallflower Kate (Brittany Snow), the new girl who distrusts womanizers.
Because of the actresses' instant connection, the film set became one big slumber party, although Snow denies they enacted the cliched pillow fights.
"I've never had a pillow fight with my girlfriends," says Snow with a laugh. "I was watching 'Animal House' the other day, and I was like, 'This is where it all started. No one does this.' Basically, all of us were going through our own things, and we kind of just really bonded. I definitely call Arielle and Sophia my best friends. And I definitely would call Ashanti my best friend too if she wasn't always in Japan or on tour doing her, you know, singer thing."
She even has Kebbel to thank for her love life. Snow met her current boyfriend, a "ridiculously good-looking" drummer at one of her co-star's parties. Being friends also made their on-screen catfights that much sweeter.
"In that scene in the beginning when we're all girlfighting, that was one of our most exciting days," recalls Kebbel. "We were all like, 'I can't wait to hit you!' There are so many moments in the film where Soph and I, literally, we would smack each other, and ... we came up with the plan to make it turn our heads because we knew we were going to be laughing so hard."
The initial fight starts during a volleyball game when Heather overhears her teammate Carrie saying she's dating John. Heather immediately and repeatedly serves up the volleyball straight into the side of Carrie's face. Kebbel got beaned over and over the entire day in order to get just the right force or sound on the hit.
"I felt so bad," admits Ashanti. "But [Arielle] really took it like a champ, and it looks really good and we had to keep doing it and doing it. Sometimes I would miss and she would have to fake it and the ball would go way over this way, but it worked out really, really well."
Except for being a cheerleader her senior year, Ashanti says she's not like her diva character. The other actresses, however, found they could identify with their on-screen alter egos. Like Carrie, Kebbel found herself drawn to school TV reporting from an early age, and Snow understands what it's like to be an outsider who just wants to fit in.
"Definitely in middle school and high school I was a lot like Kate. I really was not that popular," confesses Snow. "I hadn't discovered hair gel yet, and I had braces and I had curly hair, and I thought combing curly hair was genius. Not a good idea. So I was just not that cute."
Bush, on the other hand, has found herself becoming more like her angry environmentalist character Beth.
"I'm getting a little aggro with how environmentally conscious I'm becoming," says Bush. "It's all that I've talked about with anybody for weeks. [Yesterday I was] driving a hybrid and I'm leaving the airport and this man is getting in his car service Excursion and I'm like, 'Tree killer!' And I'm sitting there like, 'Okay, Sophia, you need to calm down.'"
But unlike their characters, none of the girls will admit to having dated or wanting to date a John Tucker-like player, much less seek revenge against one.
"I've never cared enough about a boy to go to such extreme lengths to get even," says Kebbel. "So it was really difficult for me. You know, I had to kind of make John Tucker somebody else in my head to figure out why it was so important to [Carrie] to spend so much time and energy getting even."
All the girl power on set unfortunately meant that Metcalfe was outnumbered, not that they paid him that much attention anyway.
"Poor Jesse. He didn't have a fighting chance," says Kebbel. "I think he spent a lot of time probably writing music and hanging out in his trailer. Let's face it: He's John Tucker. The movie's named after him, so we had to at least take what we could get ... You know, he's got quite a big female fan base, so we were able to go out and have some great nights out on his behalf. We all enjoyed the dance floor in the best clubs thanks to him."
The four actresses even found themselves enjoying Metcalfe's real-life humiliation resulting from a scene in which the girls toss food at him from the balcony of a movie theater.
"We're all throwing popcorn from the rafters at Jesse," recalls Bush. "We hit him in the face with a Whopper so hard. He had like a welt on the side of his face. So we see it make the [final cut] and we see his head bounce because we hit him right here and his ear swelled up. We were laughing and screaming and having so much fun."
"John Tucker" gets his comeuppance beginning on Friday, July 28 nationwide.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun