“The Wedding Ringer” is a film about Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) who provides a service: he will be the best man in your wedding. It’s a service for guys who are a little socially challenged and don’t have anyone close enough to stand by them. Doug (Josh Gad) has got himself in a jam; he has fabricated not only his best man but also all seven of his groomsman. Now Jimmy must come to the rescue. I sat in on a roundtable interview with the producer of the film, Will Packer and actor Affion Crockett, who plays one of the fake groomsmen.
Well let’s get started. The script was in developmental hell for a long, having been written back in 2002. How did you get hold of the script?
Will Packer: Developmental hell!
Affion Crockett: That’s a strong term!
Will: But so painfully accurate. Yeah, Jeremy Garelick wrote the script back in 2002. I knew him on the periphery, because Hollywood is like that. He had co-written some projects. He brought it to Sony-Screen Gems, and the President of Screen Gems brought it to me. He thought it was something that I would be interested in producing and bringing Kevin in to star in it. There wasn’t anything in the script that brought Kevin Hart to mind, but I read it and thought that Kevin could do this. I thought he could do it well, and he could elevate it. That’s kind of how it came to me and how Kevin got involved.
Affion, you have done work on a number of platforms, the Internet, TV, movies. Is there one that you prefer over the others?
Affion: I love film. I absolutely love film. There is just a certain freedom to it. If you want to do ten takes you can or you can get it done in two and move on. There is more flexibility in film. There is a lot of freedom on the Internet, but the Internet is not as big a platform. You can’t substitute the experience of going to a theatre and seeing a movie on the big screen. It’s cool to have something on your phone and get it right now. But you can’t beat the film experience and I am a big fan of film.
Was it difficult to film with this many funny guys in one cast?
Affion: Will has been talking about this for the past couple of days. This was the funniest set I have been on. There was this great camaraderie between all the comedians will tell you first hand that there wasn’t a competition between the guys to outdo each other. The mission of the script to pull off a fake wedding and as actors, our goal was how do we make this believable. There wasn’t any counting of how many lines I have or how to do get on-screen more. There was none of that. The behind the scene hi-jinks don’t even compare to what was happening up on the screen.
Was Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting your first choice for the role of the bride?
Will: Oh yeah. At first we thought that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off because we shot this movie as her TV show was shooting. Obviously, she is such a big part of Big Bang Theory and on the TV all the time. You know that little show. Well, she really wanted to do a feature film, and she really wanted to do a film with Kevin. We worked with the producers of the show, and they were very accommodating. Her schedule was definitely the most challenging to work around. But we have so many talented people that were all in. There wasn’t that competition that you have on other sets. I think that everybody felt, Kevin included that this was an opportunity. Like, if we all worked together and the movie was a smash, it would be great. Kevin felt that this was something different for him. Josh Gad felt that this could be a breakout role for him. Everybody had something to prove, and we all felt that if we came together we might have something special.
It seems like it’s hard for black films to be made. Why do you think this is the case?
Will: It’s hard for any film to get made. A film that happens to have a black cast or a white cast or a Latino cast, it’s just tough to make a film. The economics have changed. It’s hard for any film to get made. There are definitely fewer films that have black lead actors or black themes. But the interesting thing is that I don’t see it as a black film. I mean I have produced films that have served primarily black audiences. But I don’t see this as a black film. I mean is it a black film because Kevin Hart’s black? How many black people does it take to make it a black film? 2, 4? Am I over the limit yet? I would argue that films like “No Good Deed” with Taraji Henson or even “Think Like a Man” are just two movies that happen to have black people in them. I think that the label can hold us as filmmakers back. It’s a challenge to get any film made. If it’s a film that can be seen as for a particular demo or niche, it can make it even more difficult to be made. You will see filmmakers like myself rail against the labels that Hollywood tries to put on its films.
We have a number of great black actors right now like Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba, Terrence Howard, how do feel about the resurgence of black actors in TV and film?
Affion: Honestly, I hate to hear a question like that. Because we are just as talented as any other actor, but there isn’t always the opportunity to display that. We need more Will Packers, not just one. We need 60 Will Packers to make a difference. I was attached to this film when the two leads were white. It’s the same script now as it was then. Just because I’m in it, and Kevin’s in it doesn’t make it a black movie. It’s just a funny movie with a bunch of actors of different races in it.
Was the football scenes fun to make or was it as miserable as it looked?
Affion: That’s the one scene we all hated to make. We are not football players. It’s one thing to watch Joe Namath, John Riggins, and Too Tall Jones playing football in the mud. But we were in the scene with them.
Was Too Tall as terrifying as he seems to be?
Affion: Yes. The dude didn’t say anything. Joe Namath was a man of the people, signing autographs and taking pictures with everyone. Too Tall Jones didn’t say anything. I tried to talk to him, and he didn’t say anything. He was just a quiet, mean looking, six foot nineteen mountain of a man. He was all real.
When you work with comedians, it is easier to just give the script and say “this is just sort of an outline” or do you want you director to be more controlling with the actors?
Will: A good director will allow his actors that are good at improv to do that, within the parameters. A good director will set a framework and let his talent play within that framework. Even though it was Jeremy Garelick first time directing, he did a really good job of doing just that. A lot of what you see on-screen was the guys being themselves. He allowed them to riff a bit, to bring their own personalities to these characters but still didn’t let the film get away from the narrative. It’s a balance that a director has to have. It’s something that actors appreciate when they are allowed to bring something to a part. Some directors are very controlling and feel that the script must be followed to the letter. I am of the belief that doesn’t make the best film. If we can be collaborative and Jerry’s got a vision, then I can put together the pieces in place, then if he allows the actors to bring it to life, we will have a better film.
What scene was the most fun to shoot, because it looked like you were having a lot of fun?
Affion: Every scene but the football scenes. The bachelor party scene was a lot of fun to shoot.
Will: I was wondering if you were going to be honest because if you weren’t I was going to call you out on in!
Affion: I was set up like a party, so it was so much fun. But every scene was like that. The Wedding set was like a real wedding, so we felt it. It was set up to let us feel like it was real but also cut up in.
What made you pick Josh Gad? Because he works really well with Kevin on-screen.
Will: I wish I could say we knew we had that chemistry between the two of them, but that wouldn’t be true. We all sat down and started to talk, and we saw that there was something there. Initially, it was about Josh’s talent and his skill set. We felt that he could be somebody that could come into this role and create the Doug character, which he does. The added bonus and the hidden gem was that he had such great chemistry with Kevin.
Affion: And there are both very generous. The chemistry they had with each other, they had with all of us. The chemistry that you see on-screen is even bigger off-screen because they are very funny and nice guys.
I heard you compare this movie to “Bridesmaids.” Would say this movie is for women just as much as men
Affion: Absolutely. It’s about a wedding, so both men and women can relate to it. There is something that everyone can get into. That is everyone that can get into an R rated movie.
Let’s talk a little about that. The film does have an R rating; in fact, you have called it a hard R. Talk about making that decision to make an R rated movie.
Will: You know what, over the past few years we have seen a resurgence of the R rated comedy. The industry works in cycles and does public interest. Right now it’s time for R rated comedies, especially ones that push the envelope. You know, now days, we have so much access to stuff on-line that doesn’t have to adhere to any reigns. I think the public consciousness is a lot more liberal. A movie like this takes some risks, is fun and a little subversive. It’s a little left of center but a lot of people like that. This movie is in the same vein as “Bridesmaids” and “The Wedding Crashers.”
Do you think there will be a sequel?”
Affion (Affion gets up and starts speaking directly into our audio recorders): Absolutely! When the box office numbers come in, there will absolutely be a sequel! In fact, there is a going to be a third film because you guys are going to support this film! But it’s up to you to go out and support this movie!
So Affion, how would you be as a wedding ringer?
Affion: I would be awesome at it. I can look at my mother and lie straight to her face and have her believe me. Since I was a kid, I had that ability. Plus, I have the puppy dog eyes and a goatee that is pretty on beat. So I’m good. And I have awesome dance moves that can distract you. I would be a great wedding ringer.
Thanks for talking with us today.
“The Wedding Ringer” starring Kevin Hart, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, and Josh Gad opens nationwide on Friday.