Fact Check: How Real are the Internships in The Internship?

The head of Google's internship program dishes on how much of the movie could really happen

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Phil Bray / Twentieth Century Fox / Regency Enterprises

No one will ever mistake the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy The Internship (in theaters June 7) for a piece of gritty realism—in fact, the movie’s basic plot seems fairly ludicrous. The two play old-fashioned salesmen who, after their company goes under, apply for summer internships at Google—and get them. They soon learn that landing the coveted internship comes with no guarantee of a job, as they have to join a team and compete against bright college students—in what they dub the “mental Hunger Games”—hoping to qualify for eventual employment.

(VIDEOCheck out the trailer for The Internship)

But Kyle Ewing doesn’t think the movie’s premise is that far-fetched. And she should know: as Google’s head of global staffing programs, she’s in charge of the company’s internship program. More to the point, she and her team advised the filmmakers throughout the production. When Vaughn (who co-wrote The Internship) and director Shawn Levy first reached out to the company about the project, she assumed they were researching a fictional tech company like Google. But the The Internship, made with the company’s full cooperation, is most decidedly about Google—which is portrayed on screen in a nearly 100-percent positive light. And now that Ewing has seen the movie she’ll vouch for the truth behind the tale it tells.

“I think the movie does a great job of portraying Google’s culture,” she says. “I was happy to see the work that the interns do all summer, the hard work that they put in, be the object of a feature film.”

So, could two unemployed watch salesmen get an internship at Google?

In theory, sure. Although the internship program seen in the movie covers all aspects of Googliness, in real life, the company offers many different internship options—including ones that are designed for older students and for people more focused on jobs like marketing or sales, as opposed to coding or programming. And yes, sometimes they conduct interviews over Google Hangout. Once the internship commences, it is “a very Googley summer” says Ewing, which—as (sort of) seen in the film—includes non-work activities.

What’s not the truth? The competition is all the screenwriters’ imagination, says Ewing. In reality, teams of interns are encouraged to help each other, rather than slug it out for quota-limited jobs. Ewing says that if every intern did a good job, the company would like to be able to hire each one. “That was probably the starkest difference,” she says, “but I think it was clear from watching the movie that that was a fun Hollywood thing to do.”

Ewing jokes that she hopes this summer’s crop of interns, who started last week and got to see a screening of The Internship, aren’t worried that they’ll be forced to compete as the movie’s characters do, but she has little reason to fear that potential interns will be scared off. This summer’s intern class—1,500 of them, filling spots for which there more than 40,000 applicants—is the company’s largest ever.