The Wedding Ringer (due out in theaters on January 16, 2015) is a comedy about lovable but socially awkward groom-to-be Doug Harris (Josh Gad), who needs to impress his in-laws and pull off the perfect wedding. With less than two weeks until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides best men for socially challenged guys in need. As the two of them try to fool everybody, a real friendship forms between Doug and his fake best man.
Back in October of 2013, Collider was invited, along with a handful of other press, to visit the set of The Wedding Ringer while they were shooting the big wedding scene at the Hollywood Methodist Church, and we were able to chat with some of the cast and filmmakers. During a group interview, very busy funnyman Kevin Hart talked about the importance of controlling your own career, working at not losing touch with his audience, the appeal of this character, how this is a really funny movie with a great emotional backstory, why he and Josh Gad make such a great team, and how he relates to a guy that is so caught up in his work that he sometimes forgets about his personal life. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: We’ve been seeing you a lot. You’re on fire with movies. Is there a time when you can get stretched too thin?
KEVIN HART: No, you only get stretched too thin when you don’t control your career. I’m very much in control of what I do, from stand-up to the movies. It’s all a plan, from releasing Let Me Explain to taking a year and a half off from touring before I go back out. It seems like I’m doing so much because I have about six movies coming out. But you have to understand, these movies are all spread out. I’m filming them now, but they won’t be out for another year. And before these come out, I have some surfacing in the next couple of months. And in between those surfacing, there’s down time with DVDs coming out and circulating. Once everything dies down, I have a TV show. And then, the TV show goes back down, and a movie preview comes out. And then, the movie comes out and goes away, and I go back on tour. It’s a wave. You have to dictate that wave, and how often you want it to go up and how often you want it to go down. As I’m comedic relief for my fans, it’s hard to get sick of what’s funny. You get sick of what’s sexy. But when you see me in so many different things and in so many different lights, it’s kind of hard to get sick of that. I control all my own shit.
We’ve seen comedians who have lost touch with their audience, over time. Are you ever afraid of losing touch?
HART: You get too big when you lose contact. I think with my way of promoting and of dealing with social media, I’m reachable. I’m not in a house on top of a hill with a zoo around me. I’m out. I’m at Wal-Mart, on a regular basis. I’m at parks with my kids. I walk my dog. I ride my bike with my friends. You can’t get too big to where you can’t be a pedestrian. I think that’s where when you lose sight of things. When you cut yourself off and get outside of society, that’s when you get weird, and you show up with shirts that are covering your palms, or you have leather glasses that just don’t make sense.
What can you say about your character in this movie?
HART: I play a guy named Jimmy. Jimmy has a business where he provides for those with no friends. You have a certain type of person who is a loner. The biggest fear for a loner is getting married and having a wedding, and your wife presents this huge plethora of people, but as a husband, you have two people on your side, and not one of those people can tell you anything about your life. To prevent that, Jimmy provides a best man service where he learns what he needs to know about you and he makes you look like one of the best guys who ever walked the face of the earth. And he gets paid to do it. He’s very good at it. He’s a man of many personalities and many faces. But to contradict what he does, he doesn’t have a life himself. He does so much for other people, and provides for so many. He doesn’t have anybody doing the same for him, on an emotional level. It’s actually a really funny movie with a great emotional backstory. It’s a different character for me.
What do you think of Josh Gad, and how is your chemistry with him?
HART: Me and Will Packer were talking, and we thought this script was great. We were thinking about who that other guy could be. It’s such an endearing character to play. There’s a fine line. You’re playing a loser that’s successful, so he’s not really a loser, and he’s found a woman that he thought was his dream, but now that he’s found her, he realizes that he hasn’t lived life and doesn’t know what life really is. He’s a guy with so much shit going on in his head. The beautiful thing about Josh Gad is that he made it real. I believe Josh. I believe he got with a beautiful woman that he never thought he would get. I believe that he thought he loved her because he thought he couldn’t get any better. I believe that he would throw away money because he thinks that it will make him look great, and that that can justify her love for him. It’s all about other people. And once he figures that out about himself and realizes that, “Wow, am I a loser? Am I fucked up?,” the guy he’s paying to make him feel better actually makes him feel better.
That’s what I mean about the levels in this movie. Josh is good. Josh is not about just being a comedic actor. With his Broadway background and coming from an educated acting background, that helps him a lot. I don’t have any training. I’m just a funny guy. They said, “Action!,” one day, and I got lucky. I just keep doing it, and I keep getting better as I keep doing it. But Josh is an amazing guy, and I think this movie is going to propel him into more fame. It wasn’t about us meeting and having chemistry. I met Josh one time before making the movie. We talked for three hours in my office. We talked about his family and my family. We talked about his kids. He asked me for advice. He asked me a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with the movie. I wanted to see who he was, as a person. We bonded. And on the set, it’s nothing but good times.
Will you guys make other movies together?
HART: The beauty of this business is that when we find great relationships, you hold on to them. It’s about making sure that when you do revisit, you are constantly recreating and bringing other things to the table, so that people can say, “Wow, that’s completely different than what they did before.” If it’s The Wedding Ringer 2 and we’re somewhere off on the beach and continuing with him as a bachelor, it’ll be great. It depends on what the project is.
Because your character is in the business of making people feel good and he’s a workaholic, do you find that you can relate to him?
HART: The one thing that I’ve learned to do, within doing these films, is to put myself in the position of whoever I’m playing, from Think Like a Man to About Last Night to The Wedding Ringer to Grudge Match. My trick is putting myself in that situation. It’s not changing my voice, it’s not growing my hair down my back, which I couldn’t do anyway, and it’s not about losing weight or gaining weight. It’s literally about taking on the persona of whatever this person does. Sometimes it’s worth taking a hit to give a boost in spirits to someone who’s on the verge of possibly killing themselves on a depression level. I’ve done it with my friends. I’ve done it for family members. It’s worth taking a seat on the back burner and making another person feel good.
My nephews are in school, and one of them is having problems because nobody believes that I’m his uncle. He’d call me, but I ignored the calls because I was working. So, when I heard how down he was, I just showed up with a brigade of SUVs and made this big deal. The school let out and I was just standing there, and I called him and said, “I’m outside the school. Where are you?” He 14, and he saw me, and it was that one moment where all his friends saw it. I said, “You want to come to the club tonight with your uncle?” It was that moment of relief. He felt good. It felt good. That lasted a long way. Now granted, I don’t have to talk to my nephew for two years. Moments like that are what I used to identify with the character of Jimmy. Jimmy is not a bad guy. It’s the chance to make this guy look great in front of so many people that have no idea who I really am.
One of the film’s producers compared you to Richard Pryor and Josh to Gene Wilder. What do you think about that comparison?
HART: That’s actually too good of a comparison. Richard Pryor is a legend. He’s on a pedestal. Gene Wilder is a legend. You’re looking at two guys who have done so much for the realm of comedy. You can’t compare anything to those guys. What me and Josh are is a fresh tandem. We’re something that’s different. We’re something new. Comedy craves that. Judd Apatow put comedy on his back and launched so many careers, from Jason Segel to Jonah Hill to Michael Cera to James Franco to Russell Brand to Paul Rudd to Seth Rogen. There are so many talented people out there. Me and Josh are just an example of what’s to come, not just from us, but from all these up-and-coming actors. Our groomsmen aren’t major stars, but these guys are some of the funniest guys on camera that I’ve ever seen. People are going to walk away from this, talking about those guys. But, we’re no Pryor and Wilder. I don’t want that pressure.
The Wedding Ringer opens in theaters on January 16, 2015.