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 on October 17, 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, producer Will Packer talked about how he got involved with the film, getting Kevin Hart attached, what makes Josh Gad so special, what Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting adds to the project, why this film is more like The Hangover than your typical wedding film, finding magical moments in improvisation, and how he chooses the projects that he’ll produce. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: Why did you get involved with this film?
WILL PACKER: I got involved because Jeremy Garelick brought me this script that I thought was hilarious. It was one of the funniest scripts I’d ever read. He was trying to figure out who would be the right guy to play this character, Jimmy. Jimmy is a guy that runs Best Man Inc. He provides best man services for loser guys that don’t have any friends and who are about to get married. We meet Josh Gad’s character, Doug, as he’s literally moments away from getting married. He’s found the girl of his dreams and he has all of these expectations from her and the bride’s family that he can’t meet because he doesn’t have any friends. Not only does he not have a best man, he doesn’t have one groomsman, and she’s got all of these bridesmaids ‘cause she’s got it all figured out. So, Jimmy comes in and says, “I’ve got you. This is what I do.”
Doug orders the package called The Golden Tux, which is the ultimate wedding package that Kevin Hart’s character provides. If you don’t have shit, you call Jimmy and you ask for The Golden Tux and you get the groomsmen, the best man, a bachelor party, and everything that you need to make it look like you’re a normal human being with friends. So, when I read the script, we talked about making this movie and I said, “Absolutely!” It’s one of those movies where the script is so good that you’re worried about the execution. Oftentimes, when you make a movie, you hope to elevate the material. The script is one thing, but you want to make the movie even better. With this movie, we hope that we can be true to the material and that the movie turns out as good as the script is.
So, how did Kevin Hart get attached?
PACKER: I talked to Kevin Hart, who’s a good buddy of mine. We’ve done five movies together. He’s a great talent, and he’s definitely somebody to watch. He’s in his moment, right now. So, I sent him the script and said, “Dude, take a look at this.” Kevin felt it was something very different from the characters that he’s had the opportunity to play, and he was excited about the chance to broaden out and show some range. Jimmy is a con man at heart. He has to assume these different roles and pretend to be various people, but at the end of the day, what he’s afraid of is commitment and relationships in his own life. So, through the course of this film, we see that he discovers a little bit about who he really is, as a person, and he gets closer than he thought he’d ever allow himself to get with the Josh Gad character.
You’ve worked with Kevin Hart on quite a few films now. Is there a fear of spreading him too thin?
PACKER: Well, the thing with comedians is that there is definitely an over-saturation point, but Kevin doesn’t believe in the less-is-more model. He’s a workaholic and he’s always generating new content, and that’s not just in the traditional sense of the movies that he’s done or the television show. He’s generating new content, almost on a daily basis, through his social media network. He’s done an excellent job of really accepting the new matrix of what it means to be a star today. It used to be that stars were stars because they weren’t accessible. You only saw them every now and then, and you had no idea about their personal lives. That’s what made them stars. They were so elusive, and you wanted to know stuff, but you had to wonder and guess and fill in the gaps about who they were, in your own fantasies. But, stars today are different. They’re Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and they’re Kevin Hart. They’re fully accessible to us. We know everything about them, and we still love them. Somebody like Kevin, who’s built to do spontaneous things, who’s so quick on his feet, who’s so quick-witted, and who can constantly generate things that people gravitate to, I think that he will be able to overcome the over-saturation challenge. There are people who, even though you have so much of them, you still want more, and I think he has that type of charisma and that type of skill set.
What makes Josh Gad so special?
PACKER: I knew he was talented, coming in, but I had no idea how talented he really is. He is a talented motherfucker. You can quote me on that shit. Josh has got a theater background. I always think that that’s the purest form of the art. If you can stand on the stage and perform, where there’s not the perfect angle and lighting, and you don’t get takes to do it over and over again, and you can stand up and entertain people in that kind of a live setting, then you’ve got something. Josh has that. I think that audiences, as they get to know him through the films that he does, are going to gravitate towards him because he has such an engaging personality. On the page, the Doug character is your typical lovable loser. He’s the guy you want to root for to win because he’s way over his head, his girlfriend is way too hot, you know she doesn’t really love him like that, he doesn’t have any friends, and you just want him to win. Josh brings this character to life with a level of earnestness that wasn’t really on the page. He really gives this character layers and depth, so that you truly get invested in what Josh is bringing.
What does Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting add to the project?
PACKER: Kaley is my girl! K. Cuo, as I call her. She got engaged during the shoot, our unit publicist got married during the shoot, and I proposed a couple of weeks before we started shooting, so the wedding bells are definitely in the air. Josh is already married, so we’re just waiting on Kevin. Kaley obviously has a huge fan base. She’s no stranger to comedy, and she has great timing. She thought this would be a fun role for her to play. She gets to be a little bit of the shrew that you don’t necessarily see coming right away. Kaley is great. The thing about this cast is that there’s such good energy on set, between all of them. You have a bunch of comedians who you’ve given a lot of free rein to. We’ve let them run with this material a lot, and I think you’re gonna see that with the end product. You’re going to see a really talented group of people who were allowed to have fun with their roles, and Kaley is one of them. She’s doing things with her character that none of us necessarily saw coming, but it’s fun. She’s a hot, sexy shrew.
Were there any wedding films that you had in mind, while you were making this movie?
PACKER: I know that Jeremy did, and we talked about it a little bit. Even though it’s a wedding movie, it’s unlike most wedding movies because it really is a bromance, at the end of the day. It’s not told through the eyes of the typical woman’s fairy tale of getting married. It’s told through the eyes of the guy who’s dealing with the pressure of that stereotypical woman’s fairy tale of what a perfect marriage could be. So, the movie that we talked about, going into this, was The Hangover, because we have some absurdly hilarious moments in this film where you say, “WTF?! Did they just do that? Did that just happen?” That is this film. It’s not a typical wedding movie, in that sense. It’s a lot more of a raucous, in-your-face, absurd comedy that has some great set pieces and some broad moments.
How does Doug have the social skills to get a fiancée that looks like Kaley Cuoco, but not have the social skills to get a best man?
PACKER: That’s an excellent question. As you know, in America, you can get a hot wife. He’s doing well for himself, so you can read between those lines, as far as how that relationship is working. He’s a guy who took over and followed in his dad’s footsteps, in terms of business, and he does very well for himself, financially. He’s put himself at a certain level, where he has been able to score somebody on the level of Kaley Cuoco. But his business skills don’t necessarily translate, as is often the case, into his social skills, so he’s a bit socially awkward. The way that Josh expertly plays his character, you ultimately get invested in him.
What is it about Josh Gad and Kevin Hart’s characters that compliment each other?
PACKER: That’s a good question. They have such an interesting chemistry. It’s not unlike what you see when you think about Will Smith and Kevin James in Hitch. Jimmy is the slick, smooth talker who’s always got it together. He’s a rapid-fire, hip dude. And then, Doug is the stumbling, bumbling, lovable loser who you’re afraid may trip, walking down the street. There are elements, though, that you don’t initially see in each of them. Jimmy is not quite as cool as he’d like to be, and Josh has actually got it more together than you think that he does. Together, it’s a great chemistry. You want to see more of them on film, giving each other the business, having fun with each other, playing with each other and, at the end of the day, becoming very close, in a relationship that, as the audience, we also become invested in.
What can you say about Ken Howard’s role?
PACKER: Ken is great. When you look at this cast, we have such a great collection of folks. And we’ve got a few surprises in the film, that I know audiences are going to enjoy. Ken came in and rocked it. He’s perfect as the cranky, well-off, WASP-y father-in-law who has all of these high expectations for his daughter. Nothing is good enough for his daughter, and especially not Josh Gad’s character. Mimi Rogers, who I love, plays his wife and Kaley’s mom. That’s what Doug is up against, so good luck.
When you do a movie with so many funny people who like to improvise, is one of the hardest parts getting into the editing room and deciding what to keep and what to cut?
PACKER: As somebody who’s done a bunch of Kevin Hart movies, I can tell you that that’s a challenge. The improvisation is where you get some of the magical moments, obviously. You don’t want to tell these guys what they can’t do. You don’t want to constrain them. You want to let them go. The groomsmen that we have are talented comedians, many from the stand-up world, so they’re quick. You can give them a line, but they’re going to give you seven different versions of it, and it’s tough to try to figure out which one to use. That’s a great problem to have. I’m not going to sit here and act as if it’s not and complain. What Jeremy’s challenge, as a director, is to give them parameters that make sense for the good of the film, but let them run and have fun, and we’ve been able to do that.
How do you choose your projects?
PACKER: It’s about the material. It’s tough to get movie made, at all. So, as a producer, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I had to keep an eye on what studios are looking for and the types of movies that can get made. But at the same time, you also want to choose good material. Since the first major comedy that I made, which was Think Like A Man, I’ve had the opportunity to do three or four comedies since then and it’s an area that I’m really interested in. People don’t really have to go to the movies anymore. You can get that experience at home, online or wherever. But comedy is something that is still a communal experience. People will still go out and sit with other people, so that they can enjoy a good comedy together.
How have you set yourself apart, as a producer, from other African American producers?
PACKER: I happen to be an African American film producer, but I can do a variety of genres and a variety of themes. I have no shame in the fact that I’ve done films that have played very, very well with African American audiences and have themes that are culturally relevant to that audience, but I’ve also done films like The Wedding Ringer, which is just a broad comedy. There’s nothing specific to any particular culture or ethnicity in this film. I happen to be the producer, who is African American, but I want the film to be judged on the basis of the film. And Kevin Hart is in it, but the majority of the cast is not black. At the end of the day, the audience tells you what works. Films have to be good. I don’t care who’s in it, what it’s about, or who it’s trying to appeal to. These days, audiences have too many choices. A film has to be good, in order for it to work. So at the end of the day, I want to be on the side of making good films, and that’s what I strive to do.
The Wedding Ringer opens in theaters on January 16, 2015.