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Project X (2012 film)

Project X
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Produced by Todd Phillips
Screenplay by Matt Drake
Michael Bacall
Story by Michael Bacall
Cinematography Ken Seng
Edited by Jeff Groth
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • March 2, 2012 (2012-03-02)
Running time 88 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million[2]
Box office $102.7 million[3]

Project X is a 2012 American comedy film directed by Nima Nourizadeh and written by Michael Bacall and Matt Drake based on a story by Bacall, and produced by director Todd Phillips. The film follows three friends—Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown)—who plan to gain popularity by throwing a party, a plan which quickly escalates out of their control.

The title Project X was initially a placeholder for a final title, but interest generated by the secretive title kept it in place. A nationwide open casting call was employed to find fresh faces. The majority of the cast were sourced from this casting call, but a few with prior acting credits, such as Mann, were accepted after multiple auditions. Filming took place on sets in Los Angeles over five weeks on a US$12 million budget. The film is presented as a home video from the perspective of an attendee using a camera to document the night's events.

Project X was released in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom on March 2, 2012, and grossed over $100 million worldwide during its theatrical run. Criticism focused on the "loathsome"[4] behavior of the lead characters, the perceived misogyny and the disregard for the effects of drug use. Other reviews considered it funny and thrilling, and equated it to a modern incarnation of the 1978 comedy Animal House. Following release, incidents of large scale parties referenced or blamed the film as an inspiration. A sequel was announced shortly after release, with Bacall returning to write the script.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Development 3.1
    • Casting 3.2
    • Principal photography 3.3
  • Release 4
    • Box office 4.1
    • Critical reception 4.2
    • Accolades 4.3
    • Home media 4.4
  • Soundtrack 5
  • Impact 6
  • Sequel 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


In Pasadena, high school students Costa and J.B. plan to throw a party for their friend Thomas's birthday, aiming to increase their popularity. Thomas's parents go away for the weekend, leaving him alone in the house, but warn him not to have too many people over, and not to drive his father's Mercedes. Thomas is reluctant to have the party at his house, but Costa continues with his plan. Costa hires AV-student Dax to chronicle the night's events. Costa and J.B. advertise the party throughout the school. Thomas himself invites Alexis, the hottest girl at school, and his best friend Kirby, who has a crush on Thomas.

Costa, Thomas, and J.B. go to buy marijuana from drug-dealer T-Rick. While T-Rick gets the marijuana, Costa steals his lawn gnome to use as a party mascot. As they leave, T-Rick discovers his gnome stolen and chases after them but they escape in Thomas' mini-van. As night falls, the party's start time passes but no one turns up and Thomas worries that the party will fail. Suddenly, party-goers arrive en-masse. Thomas intends to limit the party to the backyard and poolhouse with the house guarded by two young security guards, Everett and Tyler. However, more and more people begin to arrive and the party moves beyond their control and into the house. Thomas questions Costa on how he advertised the party, forcing him to confess that he put ads on Craigslist and on a local radio station, worried that no one would attend.

Things escalate quickly and the police arrive, responding to a noise complaint. The party goers remain silent, convincing the officers that the party has already ended. The police leave and the party resumes. T-Rick's gnome is smashed, revealing that it contains a large amount of ecstasy tablets, which are quickly consumed by the partygoers. Thomas kisses Kirby and reveals that he loves her. Alexis meanwhile flirts with Thomas throughout the night and eventually seduces him. Kirby walks in on the pair as they are about to have sex and leaves the party upset. The noise and chaos of the party, which has now spilled into the surrounding neighborhood, receives televised news coverage with helicopters flying over the house. A dwarf guest drives Thomas' dad's Mercedes into the pool after being put into an oven by other partygoers.

The police return in force but are overwhelmed and repelled by the guests. They decide to let the party end naturally before moving in. T-Rick arrives armed with a flamethrower in an attempt to reclaim his gnome. He begins setting fire to the trees and cars in search of Costa, forcing the guests to flee and the party to end. The police shoot his flamethrower pack and it explodes. Thomas, Costa, J.B., and Dax flee with the other guests as Thomas' house burns and the SWAT team moves in to retake the neighborhood. The neighborhood is left aflame.

By morning, the friends return to their respective homes to discover what punishment awaits them. After his parents return, Thomas' father commends him for managing to throw the party because he thought he was a loser, but he uses Thomas' college fund to pay for the damages. At school, Thomas, Costa and J.B. are cheered by the students and Thomas reconciles romantically with Kirby. In the epilogue, T-Rick is recovered alive following the explosion, Thomas is convicted for disturbing the peace, contributing to the delinquency of minors, and inciting a riot, and Costa and J.B. are acquitted; Costa because of his expensive lawyer and J.B. because his parents convince the court that he is mentally incapable and unfit to stand trial. Costa, however, is currently waiting for the results of three paternity tests. Dax, meanwhile, is under investigation for the disappearance of his parents. In an interview with Jillian Reynolds, Costa promises his next party will be even better.


Mann had prior acting experience, in the feature film It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010), and was told he could not audition for Project X because the producers wished to cast only people without acting credits. Mann ultimately auditioned seven times before winning the role.[5]
The film is Cooper's feature film debut.[7] Costa's confident nature and backstory of being unwillingly moved to the film's setting of North Pasadena from Queens, New York was developed based on Cooper's auditions, where it was felt he gave the impression of being from New York City, despite originating from Ohio.[8]
  • Jonathan Daniel Brown as J.B.
The film is Brown's feature film debut.[5]
  • Dax Flame as Dax
A friend of Costa's hired to chronicle the party.[9] Flame was discovered through his personal YouTube video blog.[7] Describing his character, Flame stated "Because he’s holding the camera, my character doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but when he does, it’s very impactful."[10]
Thomas's friend, who has an unrequited crush on Thomas.[8]
  • Brady Hender and Nick Nervies as Everett and Tyler
A pair of children hired as security for Costa's party.
A popular high school girl.[11] Knapp's character required nudity, something with which she was initially uncomfortable, stating "I just had a lot of moral issues with it but I got over it and I heard that it’s not that revealing. So I’m relieved." Knapp described her character as a tomboy, and was given the opportunity to add to the role, move beyond a "hot chick" archetype.[11]

The cast also includes: Miles Teller as college jock Miles; Martin Klebba as Angry Little Person, a party guest; Rick Shapiro as drug dealer T-Rick; Rob Evors as Rob, Thomas's neighbor; Caitlin Dulany and Peter MacKenzie as Thomas's Mom and Dad respectively;[12] Nichole Bloom as J.B.'s girl; and Jesse Marco as the party DJ.[13] Television hosts Jillian Reynolds and Jimmy Kimmel cameo as themselves.



Producer Todd Phillips described the film as an experiment, after executive producer Alex Heineman provided a basic concept, with the production team sharing tales of memorable parties that they had either attended or heard about.[14] Writer Michael Bacall developed these stories into an outline scenario in one night with the goal of creating the "gnarliest high school party of all time". The remainder of the story was fleshed out in the following weeks.[14] Bacall and Drake were told to "go crazy" with the script, although Bacall confessed "I was a nerd in high school so I never did anything like what's in the movie". Bacall worked on the script generally at nights between simultaneously working on the scripts for 21 Jump Street and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.[15]

Nima Nourizadeh had previously only worked directing music videos and commercials, but he came to the producers' attention for his directing work on a series of party-themed Adidas commercials.[16] Nourizadeh explained to the producers how he would want to develop the script and how he would want the film to look and feel, and he was eventually brought from London to Los Angeles, for what he believed would be two weeks, but stretched to two years.[16] Phillips believed that Nourizadeh's interpretation of the film was compatible with his vision, influencing the decision to hire Nourizadeh in his feature film debut.[16][17]

Project X was not intended to be the title of the film, but it was kept to capitalize on interest generated by the rumored secrecy surrounding the project.[18] Adding to the secrecy, producers decided to not send full scripts to any prospective cast member, instead providing only watermarked individual pages.[17]


To create the impression that the events of Project X had actually happened, the producers decided against casting known faces, but to find completely new actors.[19][17] Phillips stated that the goal of the open call was to cast “unknown actors" and "real people of all ethnicities,” who would not normally be given a chance to star in a film.[17] Phillips and producer Joel Silver decided to create a nationwide open casting call, allowing any United States resident over the age of 18 to audition for Project X through a specially created website. Actors were required to provide videos of themselves telling embarrassing or funny stories, or dancing.[18] However, traditional casting was still employed to allow actors with little professional acting credits to audition.[18][20] The process allowed traits of the selected actors to be incorporated into their characters, including in several cases, their respective characters taking the actors' names.[19] In casting the three leads, the production avoided solo casting and instead had a group of three actors auditioning together, switching out and adding different actors to see which group worked best together.[8]

The casting of low-profile actors aided in keeping the production budget low by avoiding the larger salaries attached to stars.[17] To prepare for the role and create a believable friendship between the leads, Brown, Cooper, and Mann were sent to Disneyland together and spent a weekend in a cabin at Big Bear City, California.[5][8]

Principal photography

"Project X was filmed on eight different camera systems. It’s a POV film told by the masses of people who attend the party, which gives it a totally unique point of view on the situation. We also really looked at how best to capture the size of this event and the level of destruction with our resources. For instance, how we could make 200 or so extras look like more than 1,000"

– Cinematographer Ken Seng on filming Project X.[10]

Principal photography was scheduled to begin on June 14, 2010, in Los Angeles, California on a budget of $12 million.[18] Filming took place over twenty-five nights[21] between 5pm and 5am on the Warner Ranch in Burbank, California.[22] The set contained a faux residential area featuring multiple houses. The house belonging to Thomas was situated directly opposite the house used by Danny Glover's character Roger Murtaugh in the Silver-produced 1987 action film Lethal Weapon.[22]

The production decided to film on a set because locating a real neighborhood that could be effectively closed off and which would allow filming throughout the evening and early morning proved difficult.[5] Phillips explained that using a real neighborhood would have also proven difficult because of the fire damage required for the film.[22] Much of the set was destroyed as part of filming.[5] The film was largely shot in chronological sequence as repairing the set damage from a later scene to film an earlier one would have been difficult.[22] Mann described the filming as a "party atmosphere", with New York disc jockey Jesse Marco on set performing music even when the cameras stopped rolling to maintain the energy of the cast and extras. Many of the same extras were brought back for multiple nights of filming, and would continue to party between scenes. Periodic takes of up to 20 minutes were made of just extras dancing.[5] During filming, Burbank police were called to the set concerning noise complaints made by nearby residents.[6]

Project X was filmed in cinéma vérité style, only displaying the events of the film through the first-person view of the cameraman observing the party, to create the effect of the audience being in attendance at the out of control party.[18] Nourizadeh stated that the style allowed the film to seem "real" and "show some of the realities of what kids do". Cinematographer Ken Seng and Nourizadeh tested twelve different camera systems before choosing the digital-HD Sony F23 video camera, basing their decision on its ability to handle sudden extreme changes in lighting due to natural daylight and strobe lights.[23]

The film is primarily presented from the perspective of the character Dax and his camera, but Nourizadeh also obtained footage by providing the cast and extras with recording devices such as BlackBerrys and iPhones to capture events occurring outside of the perspective or knowledge of the cameraman. This resulted in hours of unusable footage that had to be observed by Nourizadeh and his team to find segments that could be incorporated into the final film. Nourizadeh stated "when you have real material being shot by real people, it then kind of feels like it is. It is found footage. I hated spending 10 hours looking through bits of flip footage – people didn’t press stop, it’s like in their pockets. But yeah, it was great, man." Other footage was provided from fictional police and news cameras to give a different perspective on the events.[9]


Project X held its world premiere on February 29, 2012, at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood,[24] followed by an after party with performances by Kid Cudi, Tyler, The Creator, and The Hundred in the Hands.[15] Party guests were greeted by a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser and a bouncer warning them to keep their clothes on.[15]

The film was scheduled for release in November 2011, but in August of that year the date was pushed back four months to March 2012. The film first received a wide release on March 1, 2012, in Australia, followed on March 2, 2012 by the United States and Canada.[25]

Box office

During its box office run, the film grossed $54,731,865 in North America and $48,000,000 from markets elsewhere – a worldwide total of $102,731,865.[3]

The film opened to $1.2 million in midnight takings from 1,003 theaters in the United States and Canada.[26][27] Throughout its opening day, the film's release was expanded to 3,055 theaters,[27] where it grossed a total of $8.2 million including midnight takings.[28] The end of the opening weekend saw the film take a total of $21 million – an average of $6,891 per theater[3] – finishing as the number two grossing film of the weekend behind the animated family film The Lorax ($70.2 million),[29] and exceeding expectations that it would finish with a gross in the mid to high teens.[30] Project X was highly popular with males and youth; 58 percent of the opening weekend audience for the film was male, and 67 percent of the audience was under the age of 25.[31]

Outside of North America, the film had its most successful opening weekends in France ($3.8 million), Australia ($1.3 million), and Germany ($1.2 million). These countries also represented its largest total gross takings, with $15 million from France, $4.4 million from Australia, and $4.3 million from Germany.[32]

Critical reception

Project X received generally negative reviews. The film garnered 28% approval from 130 critics on Rotten Tomatoes – an average score of 4.2 out of 10 – whose consensus reads: "Unoriginal, unfunny, and all-around unattractive, Project X mines the depths of the teen movie and found-footage genres for 87 minutes of predictably mean-spirited debauchery."[33] It earned a score of 48 out of 100 from 25 critics on review aggregate website Metacritic,[34] indicating "mixed or average" reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B" on an A+ to F scale, with young males rating it the highest (A),[35] and males in general rating the film higher (B+) than females (C+).[35]

Criticism against the film focused on the perceived misogyny, mean-spirit, and "loathsome"[4] behavior of the characters, and disregard for the effects of drugs. Empire '​s Chris Hewitt gave the film one star out of five, and referred to the central characters portrayed by Mann, Cooper, and Brown, as "spectacularly unlikable". Hewitt labeled the characters "unrepentant, nihilistic, vile, venal, animalistic, avaricious, charmless, entitled, sub-Kardashian, stunningly irresponsible brats". Hewitt ended his review by stating that the film was "possibly the worst film of the last 20 years. It’s certainly the worst comedy of the last 20 years".[36] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter was similarly critical, calling it "grimly depressing, glumly unfunny teensploitation", but admitted that it would "enthrall a portion of the high school/college age demographic it depicts, just as it alternately outrages, confounds and disgusts other, presumably older audiences."[37] USA Today '​s Claudia Puig found the film treated female characters poorly, labeling it a "heinous, misogynistic movie filled with faceless crowds and nary a character who resembles an actual human being",[38] a sentiment echoed by Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice who felt the film promoted "skull-numbing hedonism without consequences", and "second-nature misogyny", and that the only purpose of the male characters is to "'get high, fuck bitches.'"[39]

Robbie Collin of The Telegraph called the film "flamboyantly loathsome on every imaginable level" and was critical of the three lead characters, saying "unlike Superbad '​s leads, these three are poisonously unpleasant, and the supposedly comedic banter between them comes off as bullying."[4] The Los Angeles Times '​s Robert Abele called the main trio "numbingly predictable" and the film itself "unoriginal", stating the film "bears a cravenly piggish attitude toward rewarding socially unacceptable behavior that feels unseemly rather than exciting".[40]

The New York Times '​ Neil Genzlinger said that the funny script and skilled editing potentially made it the "Animal House of the iPhone generation".[41] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised the film for updating the clichés of similarly themed films from the 1970s to the 1980s like Animal House and Risky Business "so that they look just dangerous enough to make nostalgia feel naughty", but stated that the film does not offer anything more outrageous than real parties, despite implying "that it's breaking down bold new barriers of misbehavior".[42] Gleiberman accused negative reviews of "fulfilling the role of all those uptight parents in ’50s news reports about the dangers of rock & roll", by applying moral judgments to the events of the film.[43] Time Out '​s Joshua Rothkopf gave the film four stars out of five, calling it "brainless", but feeling that the sheer anarchy of the film's events were "thrilling".[44] Pete Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film as "gut-bustingly funny" that appealed to a base youth element to become "shitfaced and run amok", and said that it puts its own spin on Animal House. Travers gave particular mention to Mann as "excellent", however he also stated that Nourizadeh's filmmaking was a "disaster".[45]

Several reviewers were particularly critical towards Cooper and his character. Hewitt called him "the most annoying movie character since Jar Jar Binks",[36] while others similarly described him as "singularly loathsome, venal and without humor",[37] "supremely annoying",[38] "that dick in a sweater-vest"[39] and a "misogynistic" imitation of Jonah Hill "minus the timing, sad sack appeal and motormouth grace".[40] Conversely, Genzlinger praised Cooper for bringing a "mischievous likability" to Costa that "anchors" the events.[41]


Cooper was nominated for two 2012 MTV Movie Awards for Best Comedic Performance and Best On-Screen Dirtbag, and the film received a nomination for Best Music for the Steve Aoki remix of the Kid Cudi song Pursuit of Happiness.[46] Project X was listed as the number 1 most illegally downloaded film of 2012 on BitTorrent with approximately 8.7 million downloads.[47]

Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2012 MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance Oliver Cooper Nominated [46]
Best On-Screen Dirtbag Oliver Cooper Nominated
Best Music "Pursuit of Happiness" by Kid Cudi (Steve Aoki remix) Nominated

Home media

Project X was released on DVD, Blu-ray disc, the UltraViolet cloud storage service and digital download on June 19, 2012. Two versions of the Blu-ray disc were released: one containing a Blu-ray and UltraViolet copy of the film, and a combo pack containing the film on Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet. The Blu-ray disc version contains an extended edition featuring approximately 6 minutes of additional footage, the theatrical cut, and presents the film in 1080p/AVC with DTS-HD Master Audio sound. The home release also contains three featurettes: "Project X: Declassified", a behind-the-scenes look at the film's production; "Project X: The Pasadena Three", showing the casting of the three leads, Mann, Cooper, and Brown; and "Project Xpensive", detailing how much the damage caused in the film would have cost in reality.[49][50][51] The DVD version sold 401,204 units in the United States during its first week, earning approximately $5.9 million, and as of December 2012, it has sold 1,012,223 units and earned $15.5 million from home media sales.[52]


Project X (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released February 28, 2012
Length 53:55
Label WaterTower Music

The Project X (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released on iTunes and on CD on February 28, 2012, by WaterTower Music. The album features 13 tracks which appeared throughout the film, with songs by Kid Cudi, D12, MGK, Nas, and Pusha T.[53][54]

The score spent eighteen weeks on the US Billboard 200, where it peaked at number twelve. The album reached number five on the Top Digital Albums, number one on the Top Soundtracks and Top Independent Albums, and number three on the Top Rap Albums and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[55] It also charted on the Top Canadian Albums at number eight,[56] the Swiss Albums Chart at number seventy-three, the French Albums Chart at number twenty, and the Belgian Ultratop 50 Albums Charts at number sixty-six in Flanders and number twenty-nine in Wallonia.[57] In the United States, the album was the number 6 selling soundtrack album of 2012, selling approximately 217,000 units.[58]

Project X (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)[53][54]
No. Title Artist Length
1. "Trouble on My Mind"   Pusha T (feat. Tyler, the Creator) 2:04
2. "Bitch Betta Have My Money"   AMG 3:16
3. "Tipsy (Club Mix)"   J-Kwon 4:03
4. "Candy"   Far East Movement (feat. Pitbull) 3:58
5. "Ray Ban Vision"   A-Trak 3:35
6. "Le Disko (Boys Noize Fire Mix)"   Shiny Toy Guns 5:55
7. "Nasty"   Nas 3:04
8. "Pursuit of Happiness (Steve Aoki Remix)"   Kid Cudi 6:13
9. "Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)"   Yeah Yeah Yeahs 6:23
10. "Pretty Girls (Benny Benassi remix)"   Wale 4:13
11. "The Next Episode"   Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg 2:42
12. "Fight Music"   D12 4:21
13. "Wild Boy (Ricky Luna Remix)"   Machine Gun Kelly 4:08
Total length:


Youths standing in front of police in Haren during a Project X inspired party in 2012, called Project X Haren.

Following the release of Project X, many parties were inspired by the film.

On March 9, 2012, "Project M" became the first event to gain media attention after a party invite was posted on Twitter by [62]

On March 13, 2012, two separate parties were attempted in Miramar, Florida and Houston, Texas. In Miramar, people were invited to a foreclosed home to recreate the film as "Project X House Party 2". The promoter was arrested and charged with $19,000 of criminal damage before the party had begun. Police claimed to have turned away 2,000 teenagers who approached the property unaware of the party's cancellation.[63][64] In Houston, 13 teenagers were arrested after successfully throwing a party and causing up to $100,000 of damage to an empty home. When police questioned the teens about their motivation, they claimed to have been inspired by the film.[65][66] A second Houston party attracted between 500 and 1,000 guests, but resulted in the death of one person after an attendee started firing a gun when police attempted to break up the event.[67][68]

On September 21, 2012, in the small Dutch town of Haren a party spiraled out of control after a Facebook invitation. News reports indicated that "There were multiple mentions of an American film called Project X",[69] and that some revelers wore T-shirts marked 'Project X Haren'. The damage was estimated to be over €1 million ($1.32 million).[70][71]

In 2012, a party called Proyecto X ("Project X" in Spanish) was held in the Pilar Partido of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. The event gathered 4,500 teenagers who were sold alcohol.[72]

In 2014, a party called “Project P” was thrown in Mecosta County, MI which attracted more that 2000 people to an isolated farm house. There were go-go dancers, strippers, a fire thrower and two DJs reportedly hired for the party. Dozens of participants were taken to area hospitals after overdosing on drugs (particularly heroin) and alcohol including one reported sexual assault. Police from seven agencies who responded chose to manage the situation from the perimeter because of the risk of hundreds of intoxicated drivers fleeing the scene. Three suspected organizers of the rave were formally charged. [73] [74] [75]


On March 6, 2012, four days after its release, it was announced that Warner Bros. would pursue a sequel, with Bacall returning to write a script. Bacall began writing a draft script weeks before Project X was released.[76]


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