The upcoming comedy The Wedding Ringer (due out in theaters on January 16, 2015) started for co-writer/director Jeremy Garelick when he got a phone call, out of nowhere, from somebody he went to high school with that asked him to be in his wedding. After going and making up stories about how great the guy was, the entire time, he felt he should have been getting paid for it, and the idea for the movie was born.
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, filmmaker Jeremy Garelick talked about waiting over a decade to get this script into production, why a service like this would be really useful for people, how this is more a movie about friendship, how lucky he was that Kevin Hart and Josh Gad were already signed on when he was brought in to direct, allowing the actors to bring their thing to the script and make it better, and why it’s so fun to direct comedy. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: What’s it like to direct someone as funny as Kevin Hart?
JEREMY GARELICK: Kevin Hart is very funny. Kevin Hart is so funny that so many takes are ruined because people are laughing around him, including me. I’m sitting about 100 feet away, and I’m laughing so hard that we have to cut. He’s ridiculously funny.
Do you have to just let him do his thing?
GARELICK: Yeah! When you’ve got LeBron James playing for you, you don’t want to coach him, you just want to let him go play. He’s an artist. The more freedom he’s allowed, the more fun and creative he’ll be. I’m blessed with amazingly funny people in this movie, and I just want to let them do their thing. I’ll say, “Action!” and “Cut!,” and hopefully something funny comes out.
What was the appeal of this story, for you? How did this idea come about?
GARELICK: It came from a true story. It happened to me. Somebody I went to high school with called me out of nowhere, years later, and said, “Hey, how are you doing, man? Rebecca and I are getting married!” I was like, “Congratulations!” I didn’t even know who Rebecca was, but I was trying to be nice. He was like, “We would be honored if you would be in the wedding party.” And I didn’t know what to say. I was like, “Sure!” So, I had committed to going to this wedding. I showed up and it was me, the bride’s brother, and another guy from high school that I didn’t know, and there were 15 bridesmaids, all perfect.
It was a massive wedding. The entire time, I was sitting there and telling stories like, “When we were in gym class together, we used to do this,” and how great he is. I was making this guy look so good that I should have been getting paid for it. I was like, “I should be a professional best man.” And then, I was like, “Wait a second, that’s a good idea for a movie.” I pitched it to a friend of mine who worked at Creative Artists Agency with me. His name is Jay Lavender, and we were always fans of each other’s work and writing, and we always helped each other. So, he loved the idea and we wrote it together, and here we are, 12 or 13 years later, making the movie.
Have you checked to see if there really is a service like this?
GARELICK: No, I have not checked. That’s a really good question. So many people, when I pitched the idea to them, were like, “Oh, god, that would be a great thing. I could use one of those.” This movie is not necessarily about weddings. It’s really about the friendship between two guys, and what it means to have friends. A lot of times, these days, we’re all dealing with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and our friends are not really our friends. They’re just numbers and statistics that we add up. A lot of people have forgotten what it means to be a true friend because we’re caught up in our own lives, in success, in work, in Instagramming and in hashtags. It’s hard to really unload to somebody and really be there for somebody when they break their arm or when they are going through problems in life. This movie is really about finding a true friend, in a time when people don’t think they need true friends.
What was it like to assemble this cast together?
GARELICK: I got really lucky, specifically with Kevin [Hart] and Josh [Gad]. They were brought in before I was brought in, as the director. I’ve worked with Todd Phillips a lot, and I’ve learned so much from him. One of the things he taught me was, if you’re doing a funny movie, the most important thing to do is put funny people in it. So, once we had Kevin and Josh, for me, I felt that my job was 90% done. And then, we surrounded them with Kaley Cuoco, Cloris Leachman, who’s won more Emmy awards than anybody in history, Ken Howard, Olivia Thirlby, who’s just incredible, Jeff Ross and Whitney Cummings. All of our groomsmen are amazing. They’re such fresh faces. I’m so excited for people to see this movie and go, “Who are those guys?” Most of those guys are not recognizable, except for maybe Jorge Garcia from Lost, but it’s such a different role than what people are used to. I’m truly blessed to have an amazing cast.
When you give your actors as much liberty as you are with this, do you worry that they won’t convey the script that you wrote?
GARELICK: A lot of times, we come in and rehearse something and one of the actors will have an idea that alters the script, or they have a line that they think is going to be great and we talk about it and work it out. When we wrote the script, I didn’t know who Kevin Hart and Josh Gad were. They were probably about 12 years old. So now, it’s about taking the script and taking these actors who are so talented and saying, “Okay, now that we have these guys on our team, we’ve designed the plays, but every once in awhile, let’s just see what they can do.” We want to take what’s on the page and allow those actors to encompass and enhance the characters that are there. Those guys are so good that it just keeps making the script better and better.
What sort of challenges have you faced with this?
GARELICK: The thing about movie making is that there usually are no challenges, and nothing ever happens that doesn’t go well. It’s the easiest job in the world. There are probably 10,000 details that go into making a movie, every single day, and every single one of those details work out perfectly, at all times. No, I’m being sarcastic. The beauty of filmmaking is that you’re presented with challenges, at the last minute, that allow you to make the movie better than what it would be, if there were no challenges. It was pouring rain when we shot the football scene, and now we have a great football scene in the rain. There are things you can’t control. You’ve just gotta embrace it and make the movie better. That’s what filmmaking is about. We have an amazing team that can adjust. It’s great. The rest of the team has to be ready for it, and I’ve got a great team. It’s awesome.
Why do you like writing about bromance?
GARELICK: Everything that I write usually comes from something that I’m either going through or have experienced, at some point. I wrote this quite a long time ago, so it was about that time where all my friends were getting married around me, and I was a bachelor and wouldn’t even think of that life. My best friend, at the time, was the first person to say that he was getting engaged and I was like, “Are you sure she’s the one?” It was my job to say that because I didn’t want him to go through his life miserable. What I realized was that, before he got married, my couch was his couch, and his couch was my couch. And then, once he got engaged and married, his couch was his wife’s couch, and I wasn’t really part of the picture anymore.
It’s a tough transition in life, when you’re losing your friends. Unfortunately, I lost two of my best friends this year, and it really, really inspired me to tell this story, and really add the heart and the importance of bromance and friendship within this movie. When you see this movie, you’ll realize that it’s a lot more than laughs. There’s a lot of heart, or at least what I intended to do was put in a lot of heart, and not just Kevin Hart. I did The Break-Up with Jay Lavender. That was when I had my first serious girlfriend, and we were living together, for the first time, and trying to figure out how to live with each other. Now I have three kids, so I’m wondering about what I can write about guys having kids and how they deal with that. I don’t keep a diary, I just write scripts.
Has your approach to writing changed, over the years?
GARELICK: The process on every project changes. I’ve written with a bunch of different partners, which is always fun. It’s much more fun to write with somebody than it is to sit in your room and smoke cigarettes. I don’t smoke. I just was painting that image of a writer. I love collaborating. It’s also great when you collaborate with the actors who are actually going to end up being in the movie. It’s also great when you are the director or you’re collaborating with the director and coming up with what’s going to be the movie, as opposed to just writing a screenplay and putting it out there and hoping that it will end up in the movie.
How fun is it to direct comedy?
GARELICK: It is so fun. It’s literally like having a comedy club follow you around for two straight months. Everybody in our movie is into stand-up comedy, and they’re always on and always performing. They’re all always trying to outdo each other, and they riff. They do bits and schtick. It’s literally like you’re watching a non-stop show. It’s insane, and it is a lot of fun. It’s a dream come true, without a doubt.
What do you think of Kevin Hart doing so many movies?
GARELICK: He likes to work. It’s great. It feels like he deserves it. He’s one of the hardest, if not the hardest, working people I know. He’s immensely talented. He is blessed. He’s incredibly grateful to everybody. He’s professional. He comes on time, and he inspires everybody around him to come on time and to be prepared. He sets the tone for everybody. He deserves everything he’s getting, and he’s truly talented.
The Wedding Ringer opens in theaters on January 16, 2015.