Barbie Secrets Revealed: All the Fantastic Bombshells

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All the Stars Who Were Almost Cast in Barbie

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Barbie movie.

This Barbie has some secrets to spill. 

Greta Gerwig‘s pinktastic Barbie movie is already breaking records—and that proverbial glass ceiling—by earning $155 million in the U.S. its first weekend, the most ever for a film directed by a woman. And fans are buzzing over the movie’s hilarious take on their beloved childhood doll (Margot Robbie), who reins in the patriarchy rodeo in Barbieland while sharing the message that even her sidekick Ken (Ryan Gosling) is “Kenough” as he is.

But hidden amongst the one-liners, satire and that girl-power monologue delivered by real world resident Gloria (America Ferrera) are Easter eggs about the toy’s 60-year history, massive movie franchises and more pop culture references that you may have missed.

For starters, what’s with that dramatic opening scene? Film Buff Barbie would recognize that it’s nearly a shot-by-shot homage to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, including the iconic song. (She’d also be able to Barbiesplain nods to The Wizard of OzGrease, the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.)

It took a star-studded cast—with sea-prising cameos from Dua Lipa and John Cena—to prove that Barbie has more up her perfectly pressed sleeve than some Godfather jokes and girl power galore. The film assembled a huge crew of familiar faces from Bridgerton (Nicola Coughlan), Insecure (Issa Rae), Saturday Night Live (Kate McKinnon) and Sex Education (Emma MackeyNcuti Gatwa and Connor Swindells)—yet, some popular actors ultimately didn’t get to skate, bike and snowmobile their way through the portal into Barbieland.

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First Amy Schumer and then Anne Hathaway were slated to play the lead Barbie, before Margot slipped on those pink plastic heels.

And the film’s casting director told Vanity Fair that Hamilton alum Jonathan Groff was originally supposed to appear as Ken’s buddy Allan before backing out (and being replaced by comedian Michael Cera). Others stars that almost embraced their Kenergy onscreen? Bowen Yang, Dan Levy and Ben Platt, who were all invited to play Ken dolls but, says casting director Allison Jones, were “really bummed” that they couldn’t make it work.

Keep reading to uncover more secrets behind the Barbie movie—and its casting process—that will have you dancing the night away. 

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How Ryan Gosling Was Convinced to Join

Margot Robbie, who stars as Barbie and also produced the film, admitted in an interview that she always wanted Ryan Gosling to be her Ken. She said he was written into the script—as the character “Ken Ryan Gosling”—and joked, “We pretty much wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“We just kept bothering you,” writer/director Greta Gerwig admitted to Ryan in an SXM interview. “Margot was like, ‘Is it weird if I go to his house?’ I was like, ‘Don’t go to his house. We’re just gonna stay put.’ Send a follow-up text.” As Margot teased, “I would see a sea of blue on my phone.”

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Ryan Gosling Received Daily Presents

Ryan revealed that Margot gave him daily gifts inspired by his character Beach Ken. 

“She left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming,” Ryan told Vogue. “They were all beach-related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says ‘Pray for surf.'” He said that he’s “never quite figured out” what Ken’s job as “Beach” means, “But I felt like she was trying to help Ken understand, through these gifts that she was giving.”

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Why Amy Schumer Left the Project

Amy Schumer explained the real reason she dropped out of the Barbie movie.

“I think we said it was scheduling conflict, that’s what we said,” she said on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in June 2023. “But yeah, it really was just, like, creative differences. But you know what? There’s, like, a new team behind it, and it looks like it’s very feminist and cool. So, I will be seeing that movie.”

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Actresses That Almost Played Barbies

These Barbies were almost movie stars—or, rather, these movie stars were almost Barbies. After Amy left the movie, Anne Hathaway was signed up to take the lead, but it was later reported that she was no longer involved. When Margot got on board, she tried to recruit Gal Gadot to join as another Barbie, but the Wonder Woman star wasn’t available. 

Greta Gerwig’s former Lady Bird and Little Women muse Saoirse Ronan was also supposed to appear in Barbie but had to cancel. “I was supposed to do a cameo because I live in London and they were [filming] there,” the actress admitted to People. “There was a whole character I was going to play—another Barbie. I was gutted I couldn’t do it.”

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A Fart Opera Scene Was Cut From the Final Movie

“We’ve always tried to get in a proper fart joke and we’ve never done it,” Greta told IndieWire. “We had like a fart opera in the middle [of Barbie]. I thought it was really funny… And that was not the consensus.”

But her editor Nick Houy has hope she’ll let one rip in a future film, adding, “We need to work it into a more significant narrative moment next time.”  

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There’s No Place Like Home in Barbieland

While the script comedically name-drops other shows and movies—including the The GodfatherPride and Prejudice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League—there are multiple Easter eggs to The Wizard of Oz hidden in the set. A movie theater marquee shows that the 1939 film is playing in the doll world, but the inspiration didn’t stop there.

“[The Wizard of Oz] does something that I wanted to emulate,” Greta said in an interview, “which it’s using these incredible sound stages and these painted skies and this sense of ‘authentic artificial,’ which I think is very beautiful and emotional.”

The 39-year-old explained, “I think of the painted backdrop of the Emerald City as they go towards it, and we put in our movie, we have the pink brick road, instead of the yellow brick road. We also have beautiful painted backdrops of horizons. We executed it like they would have done in the ‘30s and ‘40s.”

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Head of Mattel or Buddy the Elf?

Spreading Christmas cheer in July, Will Ferrell made some cheeky nods to his beloved Elf character Buddy while playing the Mattel CEO in the Barbie movie.

Among the discreet references to the 2003 comedy? He demands to be the one to press a button in the Mattel office elevator (calling back to the Elf scene where he presses every button in his dad’s office building elevator, because the lights look “like a Christmas tree.”) In Barbie, his suited character also starts a tickle fight—just like Buddy the Elf does with his dad Walter (James Caan) while being tucked into bed one night.

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This Classic Film Reference

Going where no Barbie has gone before… The opening scene of Barbie pays homage to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which shows a group of hominins discovering a futuristic monolith. In Barbie, a group of girls are shocked by a giant version of the original 1959 Barbie doll, wearing a black and white striped swimsuit.

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A Secret Bratz Cameo?

Fans speculate that Gloria’s daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) and her friends in the cafeteria were inspired by Barbie’s rivals, the original Bratz dolls: Sasha, Chloe, Yasmin and Jade.

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The Kens That Almost Were

Casting director Allison Jones revealed Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang, Schitt’s Creek actor Dan Levy and Dear Evan Hansen actor Ben Platt almost played Kens in the movie but weren’t able to make it work. She added, “They were, I’m not kidding, really bummed they couldn’t do it.”

Todd Owyoung/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank; Warner Bros. Pictures

Allan Was Almost Played By…

According to the casting director, before Michael Cera came on board as Ken’s buddy Allan, the part almost went to a certain Frozen actor.

“Dear, dear Jonathan Groff was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m typing this,'” Allison Jones told Vanity Fair, “‘but I can’t do Allan.'”

Jed Cullen/Dave Benett/WireImage

Onscreen and Offscreen Couple

America Ferrera‘s IRL husband Ryan Piers Williams plays none other than her character Gloria’s husband in Barbie. Ryan—whose past work includes producing, writing and acting in X/Y with America in 2014—is credited as “El Esposo de Gloria.”

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The Truth About How John Cena Was Cast

“It was a happy accident,” John Cena told Today of his casting as a Mermaid Ken. He said he “kind of” pitched himself to join the film “in an accidental run-in with Margot Robbie.” As he recalled, he told the actress, “‘I would do, pretty much, whatever you guys need ’cause I really enjoy the movie,’ and they asked me if I wanted to be a merman.”

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Breaking Down the Naughty French Poster

The French version of Barbie’s poster went viral after social media users pointed out the double entendre of the translation. The tagline, “She can do everything. He’s just Ken,” was translated to, “Elle peut tout faire. Lui, c’est juste Ken.”

However, fans went wild after pointing out that “ken” has a slang meaning in French as “f–k” and would translate to, “He can only f–k.” Bonjour, Ken!

Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Inside the Cast Bonding Nights

The Barbie actresses revealed they had a cast sleepover at London hotel Claridge’s to get close. “We all shared beds and wore our pajamas, and ordered room service,” Margot revealed on The Kelly Clarkson Show, “and played games, and found out that America is exceptionally competitive.”

America had her own tea to spill about the evening. “Nobody told me that it was a sexy Barbie sleepover,” she quipped. “So everybody was in like really pretty silky nightgowns, and I was in like the most grandma floral twin set you can imagine.”

As for the Kens? “Greta was very deliberate in what she wanted the Kens to do to bond,” Simu Liu exclusively told E! News, “which was to gym together.”

Warner Bros.

The Story Behind Nicola Coughlan’s Brief Appearance

Though Nicola Coughlan only appeared for a few moments in the film, it was very important to her that she experience life in plastic.

“I auditioned for Barbie back in January 22 when I was on holiday with friends,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’d packed one random hot pink dress I hadn’t worn at all and when I had to make my audition tape I thought—this is fate, I have a dress in Barbie Pink!”

Admitting she’s “obsessed” with Greta Gerwig, the Bridgerton star said that “the prospect of working with her was something I couldn’t even have imagined.” 

“When I found out she wanted to have me be part of @barbiethemovie, and then that I probably wouldn’t be able to make it work because of my schedule I was firstly elated and quickly heartbroken,” Nicola continued. “So when I was asked if I wanted to pop into Barbieland even briefly my answer was an immediate, and very emphatic yes.” 

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The Ending Explained

The film concludes with Margot Robbie adopting a new life as a human named Barbara Handler, a reference to Barbie inventor Ruth Handler‘s real-life daughter. Barbie enters an office building and delivers her final line to a receptionist: “I’m here to see my gynecologist.”

Why did Greta end on that note? “With this film, it was important for me that everything operated on at least two levels,” she told USA Today. “I knew I wanted to end on a mic drop kind of joke, but I also find it very emotional. When I was a teenage girl, I remember growing up and being embarrassed about my body, and just feeling ashamed in a way that I couldn’t even describe. It felt like everything had to be hidden.” 

The director said she hoped the way Margot delivered the line with a “big old smile on her face” and with “such happiness and joy” would help de-stigmatize conversations about women’s health and “give girls that feeling of, ‘Barbie does it, too’—that’s both funny and emotional.”

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