New Line Cinema
In the outrageous comedy, Wedding Crashers, divorce mediators John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) are business partners and life- long friends who share one truly unique springtime hobby…crashing weddings! Whatever the ethnicity of the wedding party – Jewish, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Hindu – the charismatic and charming duo always have clever back stories for inquisitive guests and inevitably become the hit of every reception, where they strictly adhere to their proven “rules of wedding crashing” to meet and pick up women aroused by the very thought of marriage.
At the tail end of another successful season of toasting brides and grooms, Jeremy learns that the daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (Christopher Walken) and his wife Kathleen (Jane Seymour) is getting married in what is sure to be the Washington, D. C. social event of the year. After infiltrating the lavish affair, John and Jeremy quickly set their sights on bridesmaids Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher) Cleary.
With the lavish reception in full swing, Jeremy works his game plan to perfection in seducing Gloria, but John’s flirtatious banter with Claire is unexpectedly impeded by her pompous, Ivy League boyfriend Sack (Bradley Cooper). Having uncharacteristically fallen hard and fast for Claire, John convinces a resistant Jeremy to bend the crashing rules and accept an invitation to an extended weekend party at the Cleary family compound.
Once at the palatial waterfront estate, John and Jeremy endure a multitude of comical mishaps at the hands of the hysterically dysfunctional members of the Cleary family, but also learn a few unexpected lessons about love and relationships.
Wedding Crashers is a New Line Cinema presentation of a Tapestry Films production directed by David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights). The original screenplay was written by Steve Faber & Bob Fisher. The producers are Tapestry Films partners Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy and Andrew Panay. The executive producers are Guy Riedel, Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener and Cale Boyter.
The creative team includes director of photography Julio Macat, ASC, production designer Barry Robison, costume designer Denise Wingate, composer Rolfe Kent, and editor Mark Livolsi. In addition to Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, the talented cast also includes Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Jane Seymour, Ellen Albertini Dow, Bradley Cooper and Ron Canada.
New Line Cinema will release Wedding Crashers nationwide on July 15th, 2005.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION – “INVITES ARE FOR LOSERS”
On the surface, weddings may be all about bringing together families and friends to celebrate a couple’s love, but for most single attendees these often elaborate parties are equally notable for their open bar and the opportunity to meet a new love interest. It was this single guy’s perspective on attending weddings that initially inspired Wedding Crashers.
“The idea for Wedding Crashers started with an invitation I received for one of my friend’s weddings a few years ago,” says producer Andrew Panay. “I began thinking back to my college days when I crashed a couple of weddings with a buddy of mine because it was an easy way to meet girls. I thought it could be a great backdrop for a film – two guys who crash weddings to meet girls until one of them breaks all the rules and falls for one of the bridesmaids, but has lied about who he is for an entire evening.”
Panay developed the concept with Peter Abrams and Robert L. Levy, his partners at Tapestry Films, before eventually hiring the writing team of Steve Faber & Bob Fisher to bring the story to life.
“We felt within the concept of wedding crashing there was a lot of strong material which could be turned into a really funny story and script,” says producer Peter Abrams. “We were looking for writers and Andrew Panay had met with Steve Faber & Bob Fisher on a script called We’re the Millers which we all thought was incredibly funny, witty and smart. We told them about the basic storyline for Wedding Crashers and they immediately ran with the idea.” Faber & Fisher instantly clicked with the concept, but quickly realized that they would need to expand the story beyond a tale of just a couple of guys on the make.
“After we were pitched the basis for the film, both Bob and I agreed that we needed to create a world that was funnier than simply a couple of young guys crashing weddings all the time,” says Faber. “We thought, ‘What if they were older and really shouldn’t be doing these types of things?’ Weddings are the ultimate in forced bliss and we came to the creative conclusion that these guys really needed to be experts in the art of wedding crashing, so we devised dozens of rules that they always adhere to.”
Fisher adds, “We also knew we couldn’t sustain an entire film with just wedding crashing, so we thought that it’d be a good idea if one of the guys were to fall for a woman at one of the weddings. We wanted the characters to be caught in a place where their lives could be really affected by the choices they made.”
In the film, John Beckwith and Jeremy Gray are best friends and partners in a Washington, D.C. divorce mediation firm where they use their unique brand of negotiating to help couples realize that the end of their marriage is not to be blamed on each other, but should be blamed on the institution of marriage.
“John is a man who’s really had enough with the lifestyle he is leading and feels that he is not following his own bliss,” says Faber. “He doesn’t realize this, of course, until he meets the woman of his dreams. Jeremy, on the other hand, lives more in the moment, steamrolling from one wedding to the next, one sexual encounter to another, without ever really looking back.”
The film’s producers were thrilled with the layers that Faber & Fisher added to their original concept. “Steve and Bob did a great job with the script,” says Andrew Panay. “They created these incredible characters and a really funny story and were able to mix the wedding crashing concept with the dynamic of meeting girls who change their lives.”
New Line Cinema also clicked with the Wedding Crashers pitch and quickly set up the project. Faber & Fisher then delivered a hilarious first draft of the script that landed on the radar of director David Dobkin. Once Dobkin was on board, he enlisted actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, who he had directed before (Vaughn in Clay Pigeons and Wilson in Shanghai Knights).
“I had just finished working with Owen and did my first film with Vince, so I thought it would be amazing if I could find a script that would enable me to pair these two guys up together on screen,” says Dobkin. “The Wedding Crashers script crossed my path and I could hear their voices in the screenplay. Luckily for me, both Owen and Vince were really into it and loved the characters in the film.”
For Vince Vaughn, the script represented exactly the kind of comedic material he enjoys.
“I have always liked films that have a story within the comedy which is based in reality and human circumstances,” says Vaughn. “I loved the concept – two guys going to weddings pretending to be people they are not in order to meet and hook up with girls. You’re following these extreme characters through situations we’ve all thought about or have done on a smaller scale. It’s an exaggerated circumstance, but one that is completely relatable – crashing a party that you’re not necessarily invited to.”
For Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers offered the opportunity to reunite with director Dobkin and Vaughn. “I liked the way David worked on Shanghai Nights and remembered how comfortable he made me feel creatively on set,” says Wilson. “I worked with Vince on Starsky and Hutch, but we didn’t have many scenes together, so it was a really enticing prospect to do a buddy comedy with him.”
In approaching their roles, Vaughn and Wilson agreed with Dobkin that one of the keys to the film was ensuring that their characters be likable.
“John and Jeremy’s fun-loving nature was an element of the characters that Owen, Vince and I talked about very early on,” says Dobkin. “We all felt that it was very important for their characters to be sympathetic as opposed to dark and predatorial. Being the life of the party is what attracts the women, but these characters really do love the food, the bands, entertaining the kids and dressing up in their suits.”
Dobkin adds, “having worked with both Owen and Vince separately, I was excited by what the creative potential would be with the three of us together. I am a strong believer in maximizing a film’s potential through script development. Owen and Vince always make significant and substantial contributions to story and character. With Owen you get the added heavy artillery of ideas one can expect from an Oscar nominated screenwriter. And Vince is without a doubt as sharp and inventive as anyone when it comes to working a script.”
With Wilson and Vaughn signed on, the filmmakers turned their attention to casting the supporting roles in the film. First order of business was finding an actor to play the role of the powerful and prominent Treasury Secretary, William Cleary.
“Secretary Cleary is the linchpin of this movie,” says Dobkin. “The way you cast the role dictates if the film is going to be a little bit of a classier comedy with some intelligence, or if it was going to be a very broad comedy with little intelligence.
The film’s basically about these two guys who go to the Treasury Secretary’s mansion to scam on his daughters, so I felt the character better be somebody that John and Jeremy were scared of because it would raise the stakes of the comedy.”
In Dobkin’s eyes, there was only one perfect choice for the role.
“Christopher Walken was my first choice because he has a certain intimidation factor about him, but more importantly his performances in Catch Me If You Can and The Dead Zone have a certain warmth to them that I wanted to inject into the character. Chris also has an unbelievable sense of comedic timing and could create laughs out of a role where there wasn’t necessarily a lot of comedy written on the page. Once we got him on board, it really galvanized the casting process.”
For Walken, an Academy Award-winning actor whose film resume is as diverse as the many memorable characters he has portrayed, the role of Treasury Secretary was one that caught him a little off guard.
“I was really surprised when I got the call to see if I was interested in the film,” admits Walken. “When you combine my own personality and background with the kinds of parts I’ve played in the past, it doesn’t lead me to believe that I would be cast as a political figurehead who’s entrusted to control and keep up with the country’s money. I have always played characters a little bit on the outside, so it’s a nice change of pace to play a family man with three daughters.”
“MAKE SURE SHE’S SINGLE”
It is at the lavish wedding of the Treasury Secretary’s daughter Christina that John and Jeremy – posing as brothers John and Jeremy Ryan, venture capitalists from New Hampshire – decide to pursue Christina’s sisters Claire and Gloria Cleary. For Jeremy, Gloria is just another potential conquest, but John is immediately enamored by Claire’s classic beauty and elegance.
Finding an actress to play the headstrong Claire proved to be a long journey that resulted in the casting of Rachel McAdams, who starred in last summer’s hit films The Notebook and Mean Girls.
“I never stop casting because if I cast the movie correctly, I’ve done half my job already,” says David Dobkin. “Hundreds of actresses auditioned for the role of Claire, but none of them really captured the essence of the character. I was an hour from going to the studio and presenting my top two choices when Rachel McAdams came into my office. I just loved her energy immediately. I threw her a couple of curve balls just to see how good she was and she nailed both of them, which made my decision really easy.”
Even McAdams was surprised at how quickly she landed the role.
“I was really surprised to get the part because it all happened so fast,” says McAdams. “I loved the script and laughed out loud when I read it. Claire has grown up in a world of privilege, but somehow has managed to stay pretty grounded despite her very eccentric family. She meets Owen’s character at her sister’s wedding and finds him charming and interesting because he doesn’t take himself so seriously, and is terribly funny and witty.”
While John runs into a road block in his pursuit of Claire – her blue-blooded boyfriend Sack – Jeremy is almost too successful in his seduction of Gloria, played by Isla Fisher, the youngest and most “adventurous” of the Cleary daughters.
“Jeremy sees Gloria and kind of fancies her so he presents himself in a certain way to hook up with her,” explains Vaughn. “He plays his hand very well and she ends up becoming extremely attached very quickly, which really scares him because her father is the Treasury Secretary and his taxes haven’t been in line for years.”
Vaughn continues, “John doesn’t have a chance to connect with Claire in the way that he wants to, so he accepts an invitation to spend the weekend at the Cleary estate, which infuriates Jeremy because Gloria is very clingy and thinks that she loves him.”
Actress Isla Fisher agrees with her co-star’s assessment of her character.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s love at first sight for Gloria when she meets Jeremy,” smiles Fisher. “She’s very young and impressionable and Jeremy is a real ladies man who woos her with all sorts of romantic stories. Gloria is swept off her feet by his dashing good looks and becomes very much a woman obsessed. She’s a bit like a spoiled kid with a new toy who just wants to snap its head off she loves it so much.”
Director David Dobkin was thrilled with the chemistry between Vaughn and Fisher.
“Vince is a powerful actor and I wanted his character to get hooked into somebody that audiences would believe could run him into the ground,” explains Dobkin. “Isla Fisher was the only actress we saw who was sexy and could go toe-to-toe with Vince. She has a real fiery side to her, but she also has this real soft, sweet side as well, which is exactly what I wanted.”
While John can’t seem to get a moment alone with Claire, he also can’t seem to escape the advances of her mother Kathleen Cleary, who loves young men almost as much as she loves a good martini.
“The role of Kathleen was the last one cast because it was difficult to find an actress who could match up well with Christopher Walken, but also someone who exuded the sex appeal to play a vixen type of character,” says producer Andrew Panay. “We went against the grain a bit in casting Jane Seymour, who has never really played a role like this before in her career.”
Seymour jumped at the chance to take on the role.
“I love being in comedies, but I’ve only been allowed to do it a few times,” says the actress. “Kathleen is very flirtatious and doesn’t have a good marriage. She has been married for 30 years and faithful for two of them so she is always looking for distraction, either with the bottle or with a young handsome man. At her daughter’s wedding, the combination of champagne and the sight of Owen Wilson’s character is more than she can possibly handle and she just has to have him.”
Producer Peter Abrams says it was clear early on that Seymour was perfect for the role.
“We needed someone who was very elegant and beautiful with a lot of experience,” says Abrams. “The fact that she has an English accent was also great because it fits right in with the Washington, D.C. society types.”
When John and Jeremy arrive at the Cleary estate they can’t escape the presence of Claire’s alpha-male boyfriend Sack, played by Bradley Cooper.
“The Clearys march to the beat of a different drummer,” says Cooper. “Sack is Claire’s soon-to-be fiancé and a member of the Lodge family, a pillar of old- school East coast money. He isn’t threatened by John and Jeremy at first, but when things start to go crazy for him he can’t really understand why these two guys are suddenly being accepted into Claire’s world. It feels like his whole paradigm has shifted and he really starts to unravel a bit.”
Casting the role of Sack was no easy task.
“We talked a long time about what the character of Sack should be like and we seemed to cast for a long time before Bradley Cooper walked in the door,” recalls David Dobkin. “He was so good that when he walked out of the room I said, ‘Make him an offer.’ I pushed him to be really big and he stayed so grounded and real that I knew he was going to be fun to work with.”
Making his feature film debut in the role of Todd Cleary, the family’s emotionally tormented gay son, is Keir O’Donnell.
“Keir’s first audition was on tape and when he came into the room for his callback, I said, ‘Just do what you did before on tape,’” remembers Dobkin. “Then I gave him a little bit of direction and he didn’t lose any of the syncratic rhythms or beats he had built into the character – things like rubbing his shoulder and twitching. Although he has never been in a film, he is really talented and what he brings to the role is sure get a laugh almost every time he comes on screen.”
O’Donnell clicked with the quirky nature of his character.
“Todd is always rebelling against his family and has some really dark secrets he is harboring,” says O’Donnell. “The first time you see Todd he’s sitting on a dock, throwing rose petals in the water and yelling at the ocean. It doesn’t take long to realize that this kid has some major issues with society and life in general. He also has a crush on Jeremy and thinks they have a moment at the dinner table which results in a really funny compromising situation in the bedroom.”
The senior member of the family is Grandma Cleary, the sharp-tongued mother of Secretary Cleary whose diminutive size and old age is unceremoniously accompanied by her poorly timed crass comments and crude behavior.
“Grandma Cleary is like Rose Kennedy,” laughs actress Ellen Albertini Dow, who also played the memorable role of the rapping grandma in The Wedding Singer. “She is the head of this big Catholic, political family and feels that she is old enough to tell everybody off and doesn’t take anything from anybody. I’m a typical mother who thinks that the woman their son marries is just not good enough for him and she has always felt that her son William could have done better than Kathleen.”
“Ellen was perfect for this character because we needed someone who looked like this sweet little grandmother, but could turn on a dime and blurt out the most profane, inappropriate comments,” says producer Andrew Panay.
Rounding out the stellar cast of Wedding Crashers are Ron Canada as the Clearys’ longtime, pot-smoking, Jamaican butler Randolph; Henry Gibson as the family priest Father Gibson; Carson Elrod and Josh Wheeler as the conniving Cleary family friends Flip and Kip; Jenny Alden as Christina Cleary; and Geoff Stults as her new husband Craig.
“Properly casting a film is 90% of the battle,” says producer Peter Abrams. “We were also incredibly fortunate to have people like Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour, Bradley Cooper and Henry Gibson – who are all great actors in their own right – to play supporting roles because it elevates the film to another level.”
Andrew Panay adds, “It wasn’t just about who was great, but it was also about what combinations of actors worked together and how it affected the specific look of the film we wanted.”
“NEVER USE YOUR REAL NAME”
With the cast in place, producers then had to address another difficult challenge – the film’s location.
“One of our biggest challenges early on was that the movie was initially written for Boston and Cape Cod,” reveals producer Peter Abrams. “We were always going to shoot a small portion of the film in Los Angeles, and the majority on location, but the availability of our actors was something we couldn’t control, and our window was March, April and May, which meant shooting in Boston wasn’t going to work. I grew up on the East Coast, and the beginning of April on Cape Cod can be freezing cold, so we needed to find a location that was going to be warmer.”
It was David Dobkin who initially suggested moving the setting a little further south to Washington, D.C.
“Since one of the characters in the film was the Secretary of the Treasury, I said ‘Let’s shoot it in Washington,” says Dobkin. “It’s a city that is typically used for political films and thrillers, but rarely is the backdrop for a comedy. The other advantage was that I grew up in Washington, so I knew exactly where I wanted to go for everything and could shorthand the scouts and get the locations very quickly. We ultimately decided to shoot the Maryland Eastern Shore instead of Cape Cod and make Washington a character in the film.”
Wedding Crashers began principal photography on March 22nd, 2004 at the Wilshire Ebell in Los Angeles. The mood on the set was very festive due to the filmmakers’ decision to shoot the crashing montage of five weddings and receptions – Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Irish and Hindu – during the first week of filming.
“The wedding crashing montage only lasts a few minutes at the opening of the film, but I wanted the movie to start with energy,” explains Dobkin. “I also wanted to establish that same frenetic energy on set right off the bat, so we set up the first week of shooting real commando style, gunning with lots of cameras and pushing the guys through the crashing sequences.”
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson got on board with Dobkin’s vision for the initial crashing montage.
“When the movie opens, John and Jeremy have crashed over 300 weddings and it’s been good for them in many ways,” says Vaughn. “It’s not just meeting the girls – which they do enjoy – but they love the party atmosphere, the food, the drinks, the music, the dancing and the fact that love is in the air. They relish the whole event and feel that it’s the best party anyone can go to.”
Wilson adds, “We also like to spread the wealth around and be multicultural, so we crash many ethnically diverse weddings. Italian, Jewish, Hindu, Chinese – it doesn’t matter – we just come in, take over and are the life of the party. If I personally were at a wedding, I would probably try and hide in the corner, but John and Jeremy get in the center and take the opposite approach of blending in by sticking out. It’s the idea that these guys are so obnoxious that they have to have been invited, because no one would act like this much of an idiot if they weren’t.”
“DANCE LIKE YOU MEAN IT”
John and Jeremy use their secret language and proven “rules of wedding crashing” in order to successfully execute their “blend in by sticking out” mantra. From toasting the bride and groom in their native language, to dancing with the flower girl, performing magic tricks and playing with the kids, John and Jeremy never miss a beat and always get the crowd moving when they lead the room in singing a rousing rendition of “Shout.”
“If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve probably had to dance to this song,” laughs screenwriter Bob Fisher. “It’s an awful and embarrassing ritual and I, for one, would totally favor legislation outlawing it, but it’s definitely a cross-cultural constant. The fact that it’s so embarrassing is ultimately what’s pretty cool about it. The song also made for a natural, effective transitional device and the thought of what Owen and Vince could bring to it always struck us as extremely funny.”
Vaughn adds, “It’s almost like we do them a favor at each wedding because we get everyone on the dance floor, sing ‘Shout’ and whip everything up into a complete frenzy. There’s nothing casual about it, the champagne is flying and everyone is jumping around screaming and yelling.”
For director David Dobkin, “Shout” was not only fun to shoot, but also served as a barometer of how adept John and Jeremy are at taking over a reception and bringing it to the next level.
“I don’t think Owen, Vince or myself liked the song all that much, but I knew watching these two guys perform the song would be hilarious,” says Dobkin. “We also needed something that was high energy and could elevate everything to a raucous crescendo as if these guys had pushed these weddings into a feeding frenzy.”
Producer Andrew Panay suggests that the sequence has the potential to spawn a whole new resurgence for the song and dance.
“The fact that ‘Shout’ is played at every wedding could propel the song back into the pop culture mainstream much in the way that Animal House did in the late 70’s,” says Panay. “No matter how many times Owen and Vince had to dance to it, they performed it like it was their first time and were so committed to it that it made the sequence believable.”
In addition to performing “Shout,” Wilson and Vaughn also had to be light on their feet in performing all the different types of traditional dances their characters use at the weddings to woo their prospective dates for the night.
“I’ve always liked dancing,” says Vaughn. “We started it with Swingers and I think that style of dancing is romantic, very cinematic and there is just something elegant and cool about it. I’ve learned over the years that if you can dance, it’s very helpful in meeting girls, especially in situations where dancing is paramount. In the film we do some swing dancing, a little salsa and the fox trot, but with a little bit of comedic element injected into each of them.”
Choreographer Ina Haybaeck-Rogers helped organize the dance scenes in the film. “When John and Jeremy are at the different weddings, dancing is a big part of how they pick up girls,” she says. “The most important element in dancing is unspoken communication. It doesn’t really matter which steps you do, as long as it comes from inside you. So in essence, dancing is a big part of how they communicate with the women they meet.”
Although he has never danced on camera before, Owen Wilson surprised himself with some of his moves on the dance floor.
“I had to dance with a lot of girls and I actually discovered that I may not be the greatest dancer, but I can do all right,” laughs the actor. “Slow dancing is my specialty though, because I like to get in there close with the ladies, mix it up and let them feel the music.”
Although co-star Rachel McAdams didn’t get to participate in the festive atmosphere of the various wedding receptions shot during the initial stages of production, her first day on set found the young actress sharing the dance floor with another accomplished dancer – the sure-footed Christopher Walken.
“My first scene was dancing with Christopher Walken – no pressure, right?” laughs McAdams. “I had been practicing with a choreographer during pre- production because I knew he was a really good dancer, but it was so nerve- racking on the day because I assumed there would be a whole bunch of people dancing and it turned out it to be a whole ballroom full of people watching us dance the polka. I did encourage him to do some solo work and he broke out a few times, which made it a lot of fun for me.”
“FREE DRINKS, WHY NOT?”
In order to keep all of the various weddings and receptions looking and feeling authentic, the filmmakers brought on board wedding planner Lovelynn Vanderhorst as a technical advisor.
“I have coordinated a lot of ethnic weddings and mixed-faith weddings and I used to be a costume supervisor so I know what looks good on film,” says Vander Horst. “I went over with the filmmakers all of the different types of weddings, what takes place during the ceremony and reception, what kind of music is traditionally played and what kind of attire is typically worn at various ethnic weddings.”
Vander Horst’s expertise proved to be a valuable asset to the project.
“Having Lovelynn on board was such a blessing for the production,” says producer Andrew Panay. “We shot five different ethnic weddings in two weeks and she was right there every step of the way working with all our departments to ensure that wardrobe, décor, music, dances and small details were as authentic as possible.”
For Vander Horst, wedding crashing is a reality that she’s witnessed at some of her own events.
“I’ve actually had to deal with crashers and the reason why most people do it is they’re thinking, ‘Let’s go get some free food and drinks,’” she says. “The hard part for me is usually a client will say, ‘I don’t know who that person is, can you go find out?’ Usually they’re not invited and I have to ask them to leave. But at one wedding, it ended up being the groom’s uncle and the bride was really embarrassed. That’s why, I hate to admit it, but it wouldn’t be as hard as you think to crash a wedding.”
In addition to shooting the various ethnic weddings for the wedding crashing montage, the filmmakers also faced the challenge of staging the enormous and lavish Cleary Wedding and reception in three different cities. The first part of the equation would entail shooting the actual wedding ceremony of Secretary Cleary’s oldest daughter Christina. In the film, the exclusive affair is the crème de la crème of Washington, D. C.’s social season and for Jeremy, the ultimate wedding to crash.
“Wedding season is over, but Jeremy discovers that there’s one more wedding they can’t miss,” explains David Dobkin. “He’s really excited about crashing the Cleary wedding because they are a great American family and he knows the food is going to be very high end. John is reluctant and kind of growing tired of the crashing, but being the good friend that he is, he doesn’t want to look like he’s not showing up for his buddy, so he goes along for the ride.”
The event had to reflect the caliber of the people involved.
“When the daughter of a cabinet member of the United States government gets married, there’s going to be a lot of powerful and influential people in attendance and probably some secret service agents as well,” says Vaughn. “The crashing degree of difficulty is very high, but Jeremy feels like if you can fool these people, then you can fool anybody.”
With the Cleary wedding taken place in front of an assembly of 500 well-dressed extras in a Pasadena church, the line between art and reality wasn’t an easy one to decipher for producer Andrew Panay.
“The first shot we filmed that day was a wide shot of the bridesmaids coming down the aisle and when the organist started playing, I looked around this massive church which was filled to capacity and the combination of all of the elements on the day made you feel that you were really at a wedding,” he says. “We also wanted it to be much more opulent and grand then all the other weddings so that it would heighten the stakes for John and Jeremy.”
On May 1st, 2004 the production headed east to Washington, D.C., where the filmmakers would stage the crashing duo’s arrival at the high-powered ceremony that featured cameos by a number of well-known political figures. In addition, the filmmakers were thrilled to be shooting at Washington’s many iconic locations, including the familiar steps of the Lincoln Memorial and Monument reflecting pool.
“Many times in my youth I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial finishing off a long night with a bottle of champagne or wine as the sun was about to rise over the Washington Monument,” recalls Dobkin. “I’ve always had a very personal and nostalgic relationship with the monuments, so it was really cool to be able to bring some of the moments of my youth into the film.”
After a week of filming in Washington, D. C., the production moved to its final locations in the Maryland Eastern Shore towns of Cambridge, Easton and St. Michaels. The first order of business for the filmmakers was shooting the opulent reception that would match the Cleary wedding ceremony shot in Los Angeles.
With 500 extras dressed in tuxedos and formal dresses, a 20-piece orchestra and a $5,000 wedding cake, the waterfront grounds of the Inn At Perry Cabin resort would serve as the backdrop for the lavish reception.
For five-time Academy Award-nominated set decorator Garrett Lewis, pulling off the reception required his crew to prepare two separate locations – the first would include the resort’s colonial setting and lush grounds while the latter would be shot inside a 60’ x 120’ reception tent on another piece of waterfront property a few miles away.
“I wanted all the weddings and receptions to have completely different looks,” informs Lewis. “For the Cleary reception, the color scheme was lilac and whites and we used more fabric, flowers and beautiful china in the massive tent then I could have ever imagined. Luckily, we were only an hour and a half from Washington so I was able to bring in a great caterer and party planner who was used to putting together big political functions and receptions.”
The set decorator continues, “We wanted audiences to feel the richness and luxury of the reception. I knew that David was going to shoot pretty tight on a lot of the set decorating, so despite having 500 extras eating, drinking and dancing in the tent, we used fine crystal and china. We shot the reception for a week and a half, and because of the hot and humid weather we had to use silk flowers for the table presentations and free standing arrangements around the tent.”
The attention to detail paid off on the screen.
“Garrett did an exceptional job with all of the weddings and receptions which looked fantastic on film,” says Andrew Panay. “We knew it was going to be a set decoration intensive show and Garrett was faced with the challenge of creating seven completely diverse weddings and receptions on a very modest budget. He had such great ideas and vision which made it easy to understand why he has been nominated for an Academy Award five times.”
Lewis is quick to share the credit with David Dobkin.
“It really helps me when a director is interested in the details of set design and decoration,” says Lewis. “David’s very visual and had a very specific picture in his head about what he wanted. That decisiveness allowed me to run with it and it shows on screen in the richness and authenticity of the sets.”
The many diverse weddings and receptions were equally challenging for costume designer Denise Wingate.
“With all the montages, bits and pieces throughout the film, we ended up dressing people for 13 different weddings,” says Wingate. “David Dobkin and I sat down and worked out how to make the wardrobe at the various weddings distinctive in order to make it feel like you were in a different place color-wise. The Italian wedding was pink, the Jewish was blue, the Chinese was red, the Hindu was fuchsia and gold and each subsequent wedding or reception had a different color theme.”
Dobkin adds, “I’m a crazy organizational freak when it comes to wardrobe. I like everything to be discussed and understood beforehand so that wardrobe decisions are never made on set. I asked Denise to make story boards with examples of what everyone was going to be wearing at the various weddings and scenes in the film. I know she thought I was crazy, but to her credit she went with it and it helped us tremendously because I don’t ever recall a situation on set where we had an actor’s wardrobe that looked too much like another actor’s or blended into the background because of the colors of the set.”
The biggest challenge for Wingate on the film was coordinating the wardrobe for the Cleary wedding reception which was shot outside during a record-breaking heat wave at the Maryland Eastern Shore. The massive reception would entail coordinating the wardrobe for 16 principal cast members, 500 local men, women and children and a 24-piece orchestra band.
“From a costume designer standpoint when you’re looking collectively at your cast members mingling amongst 500 extras on this beautiful, sprawling waterfront lawn and everyone looks perfect, it just makes you feel that all the hard work prior to that moment has paid off. It looked so rich and lush, which is also a credit to our production designer Barry Robison and decorator Garrett Lewis because they provided us with beautiful sets which gelled seamlessly with all the wardrobe,” says Wingate.
The costume designer continues, “The local people that we used in Maryland were by far the best-looking extras I have ever worked with in my 17 years of being a costume designer. We brought a bunch of wardrobe with us from Los Angeles, but it couldn’t hold a candle to what they showed up on set wearing which really made the scene look as rich as it did. You know you’re dealing with people who are used to the lifestyle we were portraying when the men can tie their own bowties without looking in the mirror. I can’t even tie a bow tie and they did it perfectly and were the gems of the movie for me.”
“IF YOU CAN’T CRY…FAKE IT”
Throughout the 52-day shooting schedule the mood on the set was lively, due in large part to the on-set banter between Wilson and Vaughn, which kept the cast and crew alike laughing long after each take.
“Owen and Vince played off each other so well that they reminded me in a way of Abbott and Costello,” says David Dobkin. “They are a great comedy team because Owen has a very slow methodical delivery and Vince is like a machine gun. Their energy levels and timing were always spot-on and they’re definitely two of the best comedians out there today. It’s been amazing to watch them work together because they both raise each other’s game.”
For Wilson and Vaughn, having great chemistry also meant being able to keep up with each other when they would go off the page and improvise during a scene.
“You’re never going to get the last word with Vince,” laughs Wilson. “He improvises a lot and is super-fast and glib. Being from Texas, I have a much slower pace and rhythm, but I think it’s a funny coupling because although we have completely different deliveries, we have a similar sense of humor. Vince had some funny ideas for my character and gave me some great lines to say and sometimes I would have an idea for his character in the scene.”
“Owen has always been one of the guys out there that I’ve enjoyed watching because he’s really funny and has great timing,” praises Vaughn. “We both worked really hard before we started shooting to develop the story line between our characters. Most of the film, Owen is more of a straight man and I’m the crazy friend, which left a lot a room for my character to go off and riff in certain situations.”
Producer Andrew Panay credits the actors for keeping the atmosphere on set light.
“Everyday there was tons and tons of laughter on the set and it kept everybody loose and willing to take chances,” says Panay. “The real fun began after take three or four when David would let Owen and Vince have a free take to do whatever they wanted. Almost every time they would come up with these gems and it was difficult not to laugh during the middle of the take.”
A master at the art of improvisation, Vaughn shares his thoughts on the subject matter.
“Being able to improv doesn’t always involve coming up with the funniest thing to say,” offers the actor. “In a lot of ways, improvisation is very similar to method acting in that you’re listening and staying in the moment so that you’re open to what that specific moment brings. It’s not a planned course and if you know your character, his background and point of view, then sometimes things will pop into your head during a take to say and do.”
For director of photography Julio Macat, making sure he captured the unpredictable nature of Wilson and Vaughn’s on-screen antics required specific camera set ups and placements.
“You have to be loose with Owen and Vince so you’re not restricting them to hard marks for the lighting,” explains Macat. “If you’re not loose, you can miss a moment. In certain situations we did things like cover two people from across each other at the same time, which isn’t easy because it ends up being a jungle of flags and cutters. It takes more time to set up, but really pays off with guys like Owen and Vince, who may improvise their lines, but always get to the thematic point of the scene just by saying one little thing that touches a chord.”
Dobkin adds, “I think magic happens all the time, especially when you’re improvising, which is why it’s imperative to use multiple camera set ups. I also didn’t want to make a film that conformed to the typical look of a comedy, so I infused the film with style wherever I could. I like my movies to look big, beautiful and really pop on screen. I look to cinematographers for exposure and balance and how they light the frame and Julio’s exposures were phenomenal.”
Macat says he tries to make comedies that look gorgeous and have a richness to them. “In this film it’s high end weddings, so those scenes have to almost look like something out of The Great Gatsby,” he says. “Ever since I shot Home Alone, I’ve always believed just because the movie is a comedy, it doesn’t mean the lighting has to be brighter or flatter.”
For Dobkin, in order to keep the laughs coming, it was imperative to keep a loose and light atmosphere on set.
“Comedy should be fun to shoot,” says the director. “I like my actors to enjoy themselves as much as possible because when they are having fun on set it usually translates on screen. I didn’t want the actors to play it tight because they had to be willing to miss and miss big. I tried to provide them with a collaborative arena in which they felt comfortable taking those deep shots.”
The actors responded to the environment that Dobkin created.
“What I love about working with David Dobkin is that he is open to new ideas and gives you the confidence to try different things,” says Wilson. “As an actor, you don’t want to work in a creative environment that makes you doubt yourself or feel nervous that a bit may not work. Both Vince and I have worked with David before and feel very comfortable around him, which made it easy for us to come up with new material and ideas.”
Although there was a lot of improvisation and spur of the moment ideas on set, the production was still meticulously organized.
“David Dobkin is the most well-prepared director I’ve ever worked with,” says producer Peter Abrams. “He comes to the set and knows exactly what he wants – it is posted every day on his story boards so the cast and crew know exactly the work at hand and is prepared for the next shot.”
Andrew Panay adds, “This film has a large ensemble cast of actors with different personalities and processes and he was able to meld them all together into one cohesive unit. He also has a great film sensibility because we obviously wanted this movie to be funny, but we also wanted it to have heart. He did a great job balancing those two elements in the film.”
After 52 days of production that included location shoots in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and the Maryland Eastern Shore, principal photography wrapped on June 7th, 2004. For the filmmakers, cast, and crew, the experience was one that left them feeling like they had all shared in a magnificent comedic journey.
“The locations and my fellow actors have made this a really amazing experience for me,” says Rachel McAdams. “The Maryland Eastern Shore is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I felt guilty sometimes spending the day on the beach hanging out with Owen Wilson. I’ve always had a great appreciation for Owen, Vince, Chris Walken and so many of the other actors on the project. It’s been a thrill to be able to work with them and observe their processes. Owen and Vince are comedy gurus for the younger generation and it was really cool to be part of that dynamic.”
“NEVER LEAVE A FELLOW CRASHER BEHIND”
With production wrapped, Peter Abrams says he was thrilled with how the project ultimately turned out.
“You always hope that you find a title as good as Wedding Crashers because it says it all,” says Abrams. “I believe this film will attract a diverse audience because women will see Owen and Vince in tuxedos and pick up on the word ‘wedding’ and men will see Owen and Vince and pick up on the word ‘crashers.’”
For Owen Wilson, the title is even more simplistic. “Wedding Crashers – it’s not complicated, we go to weddings to pick up girls and my character breaks the biggest rule and falls for one of these girls and hijinks ensue from there,” he says.
Producer Andrew Panay concludes, “I think audiences are going to be a little surprised because they’re going to expect to see the fun and craziness of the wedding crashing, which is definitely there, but they are also going to get a big dose of heartfelt moments, watching these two bad boys getting caught up in the concept of love and commitment.”
In the end, the film even had an impact on director Dobkin’s view of weddings in general.
“I used to hate weddings because expectations are so high and everyone hopes their wedding is going to go perfect,” laughs Dobkin. “Inevitably, something always goes wrong and those are the memories that everyone remembers the most. After this film experience, I think I will enjoy weddings much more because I now have the inside track on making the most of the wedding experience.”