Coma leads to mar­riage and movie for ‘The Big Sick’ writ­ers

Ku­mail Nan­jiani and Emily V. Gor­don share a bit of their own story in new film

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Pa­trick Ryan

Ku­mail Nan­jiani pro­posed to his wife a year af­ter they tied the knot.

“We talked about (mar­riage) like a cou­ple of adults and made a de­ci­sion to­gether,” says Nan­jiani, sit­ting with Emily V. Gor­don, his co-writer on The Big Sick and spouse of nearly a decade. But af­ter they wed in July 2007, “Emily was like, ‘I still want to be pro­posed to.’ So I (waited a while) and she was very sur­prised.”

Gor­don jokes: “Any time you’d drop to a knee, like if you dropped some­thing, I’d be like, ‘It’s com­ing!’ ”

His be­lated pro­posal is hardly the most un­usual thing about their love story, which is the ba­sis of the Judd Apa­tow-pro­duced com­edy The Big Sick (in the­aters Fri­day in New York and Los Angeles, na­tion­wide July 14), a crit­ics’ fa­vorite with 98% pos­i­tive re­views on ag­gre­gate site Rot­ten Toma­toes.

The cross-cul­tural ro­mance fol­lows Pak­istan­born co­me­dian Ku­mail (Nan­jiani) as he gets to­gether and breaks up with grad stu­dent Emily (Zoe Kazan), whom he keeps se­cret from his de­vout Mus­lim par­ents (Zeno­bia Shroff and Anu­pam Kher). But when he learns Emily has fallen mys­te­ri­ously ill and is placed into a med­i­cally in­duced coma, Ku­mail forms an un­likely bond with her par­ents (Holly Hunter and Ray Ro­mano) and vows to win her back when — and if — she wakes up. Sick paints a mostly faith­ful pic­ture of the writ­ers’ early courtship. They met in 2006 when Gor­don play­fully heck­led Nan­jiani dur­ing one of his stand-up sets in Chicago. He worked a day job as an IT spe­cial­ist, and she had been pur­su­ing her mas­ter’s in psy­chol­ogy. “Ku­mail asked me out and I said no, and I texted him a cou­ple of days later and asked if we could just get a pla­tonic din­ner to­gether,” Gor­don says. “But we both knew it was a date.” They dated for months with­out Nan­jiani ever telling his par­ents he was see­ing a white, non-Mus­lim woman — a predica­ment Gor­don re­spected, de­spite feel­ing un­sure about the re­la­tion­ship’s long-term prospects. Un­like their char­ac­ters, they hadn’t bro­ken up when Gor­don was hos­pi­tal­ized for what was later di­ag­nosed as adult-on­set Still’s dis­ease, a rare au­toin­flam­ma­tory dis­or­der. It was dur­ing her eight days in a coma that Nan­jiani “re­al­ized how much I love her,” he says, and fi­nally told his par­ents.

“They were very con­cerned about Emily’s health,” says Nan­jiani, whose Sil­i­con Val­ley wraps its fourth sea­son Sun­day (10 ET/PT) on HBO. But “when she got bet­ter, they were like, ‘ Why did you do this to us?!’ ” They were mar­ried just two months af­ter Gor­don checked out of the hos­pi­tal.

Sick marks the first big-screen col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Nan­jiani, 39, and Gor­don, 38. The duo say they’d like to write another movie to­gether, although it’ll prob­a­bly be set out­side an ICU.

Con­sid­er­ing their dif­fer­ent back­grounds, “both of us come at (writ­ing) from odd an­gles, which is fun and gives us more life experience to take from,” Gor­don says. “I want to keep do­ing that, but maybe not some­thing about my coma. Not again.”


Ku­mail Nan­jiani and Emily V. Gor­don based The Big Sick on the early days of their own re­la­tion­ship.


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