18 Untold Tales from the Set of ‘Sister Act’

When you think of ‘Sister Act,’ you’re probably thinking about Whoopi Goldberg belting out tunes in a nun’s habit. But there’s so much more to this 1992 comedy classic than its soul-lifting soundtrack and laugh-out-loud moments. Let’s take a look at 18 facts that might just make you see this beloved movie in a whole new light.


A Heavenly Accident

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Originally, ‘Sister Act’ was meant to star Bette Midler. Can you imagine the Divine Miss M as a lounge singer turned nun? However, she passed on the role since she felt it wouldn’t work for her. Enter Whoopi Goldberg, who stepped in to deliver one of her most iconic performances. Talk about divine intervention!


Casting Close Calls

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Speaking of close calls, the cast could have looked very different. For instance, another actress almost got Maggie Smith’s role, but scheduling conflicts led to Smith’s getting it instead. We can’t even imagine a world where someone else played Mother Superior. It’s nearly sacrilegious!


The Convent’s Musical Roots

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Did you know that the music in ‘Sister Act’ is actually historically inspired? The filmmakers chose songs that not only fit the narrative but also mirrored how music evolved within the Catholic Church. Several churches have actually praised this, claiming that the musical shows the joy of the gospel.


A Scriptural Makeover

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

‘Sister Act’ underwent numerous script revisions before hitting the sweet spot. The original screenplay was much darker and meant for a different audience compared to the family-friendly one we have today. It was the magical touch of screenwriter Paul Rudnick that gave the story its signature humor.


Divine Direction

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Though Emile Ardolino is credited as the director, he wasn’t the first choice. Several directors were considered, and some even started work on the project, only to part ways due to creative differences. Of course, Ardolino, known for ‘Dirty Dancing,’ brought his own sense of rhythm to the movie that just can’t compare.


Location, Location, Location

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Despite what you might think, the church scenes were filmed in a real church in San Francisco. This church had a history of community involvement and music, which is eerily similar to the themes of the film. Clearly, the filmmakers were committed to keeping things as real as possible, even in a comedy.


Sisterly Love

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

The chemistry among the nuns wasn’t just for show. Off-camera, the actresses had a genuine bond and spent a lot of time together between takes. This off-screen friendship really helped to elevate the movie, as it helped to make the on-screen relationships seem genuinely endearing and believable.


Whoopi’s Musical Revelation

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Before ‘Sister Act,’ Whoopi Goldberg didn’t think of herself as a singer. The film pushed her to explore her vocal talent. The outcome? She belted out tunes with real soul. Watching the movie, you’d swear Goldberg had been part of a gospel choir in another life. Turns out, all she needed was a habit to unlock her inner diva!


A Fashionable Faith

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

In ‘Sister Act,’ the nun habits underwent a holy makeover. They were specially designed to be more flattering than traditional ones, subtly tailored to improve the film’s visual appeal. They ended up being outfits that made choir practice look like a runway show. Even in a habit, style matters!


A Legacy of Laughs

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‘Sister Act’ has even inspired a Broadway musical! The transition from movie to musical was a rebirth, introducing Deloris and the sisters to theater-goers everywhere. The musical breathed new life into the story, proving that some tales are timeless. It’s a legacy that keeps on laughing, one show at a time.


Unscripted Sisterhood

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

We all remember the scene where the choir first sings beautifully together. But did you know it wasn’t entirely scripted? Some of the nuns were genuinely surprised at how well they could harmonize together. It’s a real moment of spontaneous movie magic, and we absolutely love that!


A True-to-Life Muse

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

As Sister Mary Clarence, Deloris’s character is a bit more real than you might think. Screenwriter Paul Rudnick was inspired by Mother Dolores Hart, a former Hollywood starlet turned nun, when writing the film. He even made a visit to her abbey part of his research process​​!


From Entertainment Tonight to Convent Nights

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Similarly, Kathy Najimy, who brought Sister Mary Patrick to life, was also inspired by real life. She got her bubbly nun persona inspiration from Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight! Najimy mixed infectious joy with a touch of Hart’s signature enthusiasm, adding a certain uniqueness to the ensemble​​.


A Star-Studded Script Polish

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Several Hollywood heavyweights contributed to the script, including Carrie Fisher. Fisher, alongside Nancy Meyers and Robert Harling, helped refine the screenplay. They gave it with the charm and wit that we’ve come to love! Outside of “Sister Act,” Fisher worked on scripts for other hit films, like “The Wedding Singer” and “Hook”.


Legal Dramas Behind the Scenes

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Behind the scenes, “Sister Act” also faced two significant legal battles. The first involved Donna Douglas, who claimed the movie was similar to a script she had submitted to the studio. Years later, Delois Blakely brought forward a case claiming her life and book, “The Harlem Street Nun,” was the uncredited inspiration for the film. Both of these cases failed.


Nun Habits and Mismatched Orders

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Eagle-eyed or perhaps more devout viewers might notice a small costume department mistake. The film’s nuns identify themselves as Carmelites, but a Carmelite habit is brown. Their habit looks more like the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis’s habit, although they don’t usually wear them anymore.


High Stakes and Holy Orders

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The cast found unique ways to make their roles part of the real world. Kathy Najimy and Wendy Makkena, dressed in their nun habits, decided to bring their characters to life off-set. This included gambling at blackjack tables or ordering room service with adult films playing in the background, all for the sake of a prank​​!


A Harmonious Name Mashup

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Deloris’s girl group, the Ronelles, comes from a clever mix of two iconic ’60s girl groups – the Ronettes and the Shirelles. During their first scene, they even sang “Heat Wave” by the ‘60s Vandellas. It was part of the writers’ goal to celebrate the era that inspired many of the film’s catchy tunes​​.

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William Tyler

Writer & Blogger

William Tyler is a prolific movie writer hailing from the vibrant state of Florida. Growing up amidst the lush landscapes and diverse communities of the Sunshine State, Tyler developed a deep appreciation for storytelling from an early age. With a knack for crafting captivating narratives and memorable characters, Tyler’s screenplays captivate audiences with their blend of heart, humor, and insight. Drawing inspiration from the unique experiences and colorful personalities he encountered in Florida, his work reflects a deep connection to the region’s culture and identity.

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